Early Career – Development Priorities

It’s that time of year for budget reviews and planning as a new year begins to take shape. And as companies consider priorities and corporate strategies, it’s a good time to also align individual’s growth and priorities.

Early Career Development Priorities is part 3 of our 3-part series focusing on trends, priorities, and insights to help align personal growth with business priorities for the year ahead.
Read Part 1 – Peak Career Development Priorities here.
Read Part 2 – Mid-Career Development Priorities here.


Today’s young professionals are setting a new way of working and shifting the thinking from work as a place we go, to work as a thing we do. This group of employees entered the workforce with savvy technical skills and solid educational backgrounds that seem destined for success. And the current labor shortage has given them more opportunities to choose from.

As the newest players in the workforce, they’re negotiating flexibility as well as compensation. They’re outspoken about where they want to work and how they want to work. And that’s exciting when you’re young and feel like you can set your own lifestyle and balance work alongside other interests. But there is another view of that flexibility that most early career employees don’t see.

They’ve traded off visibility for flexibility. And that may be a short-sighted advantage with long-term consequences. We’re seeing some early signs of that. Many companies saw phenomenal growth coming out of the pandemic, but it was not sustainable growth. And they’re resetting to a more modified growth track. That meant some workforce reduction that will continue as we head into 2023.

Reduction is never easy across teams, but it’s easier when we don’t really feel connected to an employee. If you joined a company and have worked virtually for the duration of employment, there’s not the same loyalty to you as others on the team. You haven’t had the visibility to leaders and therefore you don’t have the same support team when the tough decisions have to be made.

And if you allow flexibility to be the only motivation of your early career decisions, you may find that you’re stepping from one company to another without really moving up from one role to the next. The first decade is an important time to set a career path and make smart choices in order to leverage opportunities for more than a flexible schedule.

As we’ve worked with early career professionals and managers, we’ve focused on three priorities to strengthen their visibility and impact.

 

Career Runway

Jobs feel a little like window shopping right now. It’s fun to see so many choices, and the window dressing makes every opportunity look exciting. But buyer beware! Shop for more than the package wrapped up for you. Look at the company, the culture and the advancement opportunities. Are you considering the long-term as well as the short-term as you evaluate a role? Did you meet the co-workers and the hiring manager? Is this a good fit or just a good paycheck?

In addition to finding a role that meets the way you want to work, consider the role that will help you get to the next one. Resumes are shaped in the first decade of work. Hiring managers like to see that someone took an interest in you and helped you gain skills and additional responsibility. When the career path doesn’t show that, it’s a red flag.

We can help. Many data points prove out that early career employees will change jobs much more frequently than others which means framing up your experience more often. Our book, Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand & Your Career focuses on how to position yourself and your experience. It also links to your personal brand and impressions. We developed a course to support it and can help you prepare for an interview or an internal, introductory meeting to help others get to know you and your interests. It makes all the difference in finding the next opportunity and positioning yourself for it.

 

Brand Awareness

Your personal brand is how people think about you and talk about you when you’re not around. It’s a reflection of someone’s impressions of you that take shape over time.

The savvy professional takes note of impressions and makes choices about how to come across as confident and credible. Impressions of confidence are why certain people get heard when they speak up. Confidence isn’t just a skill for leaders; it’s a differentiator that strengthens any employee’s personal brand and impact in an organization.

But it’s rarely an instinctive skill. It’s more about awareness of how people see you and hear you and focus on what it takes to really connect with a group. And it’s harder if you aren’t in an office often to be seen and heard. Early career professionals need to think about impact and add intention to visibility moments and their opportunity to be visible and involved in key initiatives.

We can help. Our workshop, Strengthening Personal Brand & Impressions, is offered internally for working teams or quarterly as an open-enrollment workshop. The program raises awareness of brand impressions and guides the discovery of professional presence and a confident communication style.

 

Manager Exposure

Everybody needs a champion. And in today’s shifting work environment, most people are going to need more than one. A champion is someone who knows your work and is willing to speak up on your behalf. It may be your manager, but it could also be your manager’s peers or others that you’ve worked with on projects. Champions start the process of a network within a company, and they are critical to bigger opportunities and advancement.

We used to build relationships as we met people in the corporate gym or cafeteria. It was easier to evolve relationships over time because we saw people often and had informal interaction and a chance to get to know each other. That’s a consequence of hybrid and virtual work models. It isn’t happening by happenstance. It takes an intentional plan to meet with someone and plan for those interactions, and early career professionals are going to have to work harder to get these connections.

Companies are trying to help with development programs and opportunities to connect with managers. Take advantage of all of these opportunities. When your company hosts a lunch, be there. When they set up a volunteer opportunity, be there. It’s going to take intention to start a network, and managers notice who’s taking an interest in it and who’s not.

We can help. Both programs described above include an element of building champions. We can also help you think through your own plan in 1:1 coaching and map out a conversation to gain insights and input from a potential champion in your organization.

 

Flexibility is a wonderful addition to career paths, and it’s an advantage that seems to have taken hold. But don’t make it the only factor in your early career decisions. Leverage the current role you have to build your brand and find the managers who will champion your skills. While it may take a little more in-office time, it will be the difference in your career advancement in the long run.

As always, we’re here when you need us.

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Mid-Career – Development Priorities

It’s that time of year for budget reviews and planning as a new year begins to take shape. And as companies consider priorities and corporate strategies, it’s a good time to also align individual’s growth and priorities.

Mid-Career Development Priorities is part 2 of our 3-part series focusing on trends, priorities, and insights to help align personal growth with business priorities for the year ahead.
Read Part 1 – Peak Career Development Priorities here.
Read Part 3 – Early Career Development Priorities here.


For some time, I’ve referred to managers in their mid-career years as the Mighty Middle. And I can’t think of a time when the phrase has been better suited to middle managers than today. I’m just not sure if the significance is more about the Mighty or about being in the Middle…because both are true!

Middle managers have always been a mighty muscle and influencer in companies. In the last two years, we’ve strained that muscle by expanding their roles and asking them to manage everything from mental health to physical health and well-being. They were given very little training to do it, but they did it. And many developed a whole new skill set in the process.

Then, we began to reset work structures. And as hybrid models emerged, managers were stuck in the middle. They’ve been squeezed between top leaders who want some semblance of an office setting to return, and most employees who want to keep their blended style of working and managing life on a flexible schedule. The friction intensified with the great resignation, and most of these managers picked up the slack, shifted the work and altered the way their teams would function.

They are the unsung heroes of the last three years. But the looming question is whether the last few years were energizing or exhausting to them? Are they motivated to continue growing as people leaders or are they likely to step away to avoid additional pressure? Companies have leadership gaps, and there is great opportunity for advancement. But it doesn’t feel great to step up to something you don’t feel qualified to do.

When you ask middle managers how they think about it, they talk about skill sets and development. While they like increased responsibility, they want to feel as if they have the support and experience to step up to new challenges. And the last few years haven’t provided a lot of time for that to happen. Companies have the desire to do it, but many are still focused on reset steps and culture that we identified in last week’s newsletter.

Middle managers need to take ownership for their own development and ensure that they feel qualified for the opportunities that are sure to come their way.

There are three priorities where we encourage middle managers to invest their time. Here’s a look at each priority with thoughts on how we’re supporting them.

 

The first priority is Skills.

Every day, companies look at a manager and decide whether the manager has the skills they need in a role. They can decide to develop a manager to expand the skill set or they can bring in a candidate from the outside who already has the skills. It depends on the momentum and pace at which a company needs to move. The shortage of candidates worked in favor of the internal managers, but it is shifting a bit.

We talked about learning and development priorities in our fourth book, Disrupted: How to Reset Your Brand and Your Career. Those priorities haven’t changed. The L&D team focuses on training needed to deliver top goals within a company. If you’re tied to the top goals, you may be a top priority for development. But if you’re working on a goal that’s lower on the list, you may not be the focus of the year.

You can take ownership by asking for development. Pay attention to shifts in company direction. Pay attention to who is managing some of the projects and the skill sets they have. You can gain experience without being in a role, and you can develop skills without waiting for the company to tell you that you need them.

We can help. If your skill gap is less about technical skills and more about influence and team dynamics, we can help. Last year, we introduced a workshop called Manager to Leader to focus on the skill sets needed to manage a bigger team and a broader responsibility. It sets the right foundation to help a new leader feel confident quickly and creates coaching circles that give the manager some bandwidth for input as they settle into a new role.

And our foundational programs can build confidence around increased visibility by providing skills to Lead Executive Conversations and Master Executive Presence within an organization.

 

The second priority is Relationships.

One of the benefits of leadership development programs within a company is the relationships built with peers. Over the last few years, companies have tried to continue the programs virtually, and the relationship aspect suffered. It’s harder to get to know people when you don’t have the downtime and social interaction together. And many companies are resetting to an in-person format to bring the relationship opportunities back.

But it isn’t just the relationships with peers that middle managers need to focus on. It’s relationships across the company that will make the difference in new opportunities. And that’s harder than it’s ever been. Because while people are returning, it isn’t an everyday, consistent schedule that brings easy interaction.

Leaders, a key group for most middle managers to interact with, aren’t as willing to connect as they have been in the past. And that’s because they’ve developed their own habits. They’re not around as much, so it’s harder to find 15 minutes to stop by. Every interaction takes a set appointment, and that’s a bigger commitment that’s harder to manage.

Today, it takes a lot of intention to build a network. In fact, it takes a plan to think about champions within a company and find creative ways to build relationships if the hallway conversations are limited.

We can help. We can help middle managers build plans for networking and gaining visibility across a company. In fact, we often do this with small groups of managers to ensure the leaders feel the investment works. There’s impact in numbers and bringing small groups of colleagues together helps a leader see value in the touchpoint as well.

 

And that leads to the third priority…Coaching.

We’ve seen tremendous growth in our coaching business and a lot of that has to do with a company’s attitude towards coaching. Coaching has become a great retention tool, and it’s the fastest way to help a manager gain confidence and support while taking on expanded responsibilities. Visibility leads to liability, and middle managers want to feel that they have the right tools and support to be successful in an expanded role.

Coaching can also offer feedback on a brand and help a middle manager understand how they’re seen within a company today. As a new leader, a manager can leverage a new opportunity to strengthen a brand or reset misconceptions.

We can help. In fact, in the last few years, we’ve doubled our resources to meet the added demand. If you’re a middle manager expanding responsibilities quickly, ask for coaching. It builds confidence and provides confidentiality with an objective partner who can talk through decision-making and offer a support system to build new tools and skills. And with SW&A, it’s access to the tools we know you’ll need.

 

The opportunities for middle managers have never been greater. But so are the risks. Experiences haven’t prepared most managers for those opportunities, and those who are succeeding got a little help along the way. It’s an exciting time to be a future leader. Take advantage of the opportunity and ask for the support you’ll need to be successful.

As always, we’re here when you need us.

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Peak Career – Development Priorities

It’s that time of year for budget reviews and planning as a new year begins to take shape. And as companies consider priorities and corporate strategies, it’s a good time to also align individual’s growth and priorities.

Peak Career Development Priorities is part 1 of our 3-part series focusing on trends, priorities, and insights to help align personal growth with business priorities for the year ahead.

Read Part 2 – Mid-Career Development Priorities here.
Read Part 3 – Early Career Development Priorities here.


It’s hard to get a senior leader’s attention on their own personal development. They believe that the last two and a half years have put more demand on their skills than at any other point in their careers. And they’ve enriched their skills under fire and close scrutiny. Peak career leaders have dealt with more issues in the last two and a half years than they’ve probably seen over a 30+ year career span.

Many would say ‘if I’m still sitting here after all the tough spots and decisions, I should have the skills I need to weather almost anything.’ And to some degree, they’d be right. The last few years have developed and defined new expectations for leaders.

But the work isn’t done.

There are three burning priorities in front of senior leaders, and they will each take innovative thinking and a new approach to resolve. Here’s a look at what we’re hearing from leaders and how we’re supporting the priorities they see ahead of them.

 

The first priority is Culture.

Companies are still all over the board trying to reset the company culture within a new way of working. Many are still testing out the new working model from fully virtual to some form of a hybrid model. And regardless of where it lands on that spectrum, leaders know it will impact the culture. It already has.

The office environment is part of culture. From the physical space to amenities in the space, many companies illustrated their intent with employees through their location. And they created situations that drew people together to feel a part of the culture.

Virtual interaction is not the same as in-person interaction. Leaders have seen it in the last year and often talk about losing the connective tissue of an organization because people aren’t together. The environment contributes to the illustration of values, and it makes it harder when people are rarely together for the culture to take hold organically.

The great debate on senior leadership teams is: who sets the culture?

Do we define it at the top of the organization or do we build it from the bottom of the organization?

It’s both.

Culture starts with intention from the top. Leaders have to buy into the culture and agree on what to create and how to lead it. Then, the employee base will reinforce it as they make it their own.

In our current work setting, even the best of cultures feel as if they’re losing a bit of their identity. Leaders see some of their best employees walk out the door because they’re not as connected as they once were. And they see bad behaviors gain momentum in ways they never have before.

Leaders say it’s harder to reinforce culture when they can’t walk the halls and find a personal connection to employees. There’s more pressure on a few moments rather than every moment. And it’s going to take an intentional plan to rethink how employees experience culture going forward.

We can help. Over the last year, we’ve worked with leadership teams to consider a new way of embedding culture into companies. It’s a shift from culture showing up in every little thing to making sure it’s integrated into the big things as well. Managers can own the little things, but leaders have to rethink how culture and values are reinforced in everything they say and do. We’re involved because it takes a communication plan that can integrate culture elements into town halls, strategy reveals and company goals.

 

The second priority is Communication.

Communication will be essential to reset the culture and almost everything else ahead for senior leaders. A new way of working has created fragmented visibility. Leaders are running town halls, but they don’t have full participation or focus as employees dial-in to view it or listen to a recording a few days after it

Every situation counts. Communication is the skill and the tool that helps you bring clarity and conviction to the direction of the company. Employees aren’t engaged in the same way as they consider work more a thing they do vs. a place they go. Live, in-person energy and connection has returned to most parts of our lives, and that’s what a company leader is competing with.

Leaders need to find ways to breakthrough with messaging. They can’t push it on employees. Instead, they’re going to have to be intentional about how they draw employees in. Many leaders developed bad habits during their own virtual work. They felt virtual required less preparation, so they relied on notes and a more casual way of talking to employees. It has to get focused again. It’s going to take conviction and connection to get employees’ attention and drive actions from ideas.

Leaders are resetting their own barometers to speak a little less about what’s happening in the world and a little more about the direction of their companies. Communication has to shift back to big vision, and for leaders that means a reset on messaging, a reset on skills and higher expectations for impact.

We can help. Developing compelling communicators is our passion. And with senior leaders, we’re helping rethink the brand and impact needed within an organization. Often, we combine the culture work with communication coaching to make sure they align and work together.

The input we give every leader is this: From board members to customers and employees, your key audiences haven’t changed. And the way they assess your style and impact hasn’t changed either. It all matters, and if you haven’t refreshed and reset your communication skills, it may be the most important thing you do in the year ahead.

 

The third priority is Succession.

I’ve talked to many leaders about how their teams have fared over the last few years. I get a mixed report on who’s retained direct reports and who’s swapped them out. But I get a consistent report about future leaders and succession.

All say the development of leaders behind the current team has stalled. One reason is the senior leaders themselves love hybrid work models. It’s given them the flexibility they never expected to see until retirement, and they’ve built a pretty strong case for why they don’t need to be in the office all the time. They have all the tools and connections they need to do their job well anywhere.

But the consequence is they don’t spend as much informal time with future leaders. They don’t realize that building visibility for future leaders isn’t happening organically, and it’s even a little awkward when it happens with intention. Planning for lunch or coffee together takes a fair amount of coordination just to run into each other on the same day.

Senior leaders see it as they begin talent review meetings. They notice in these conversations that they know people less than they once did. And they aren’t hearing the cross-functional support for future leaders the way they used to in these discussions. Those are red flags to a company that wants bench strength.

Senior teams need to get actively involved in future leader development. It’s more fragmented than it once was, and companies need to get innovative in how they reinvent it. Learning teams can sharpen the skills, but they can’t impose the relationship component that is equally important.

We can help. As we’ve heard companies talk about this trend, we’ve responded with programming built to transition someone from a manager to a leader, and coaching circles that can add exposure and guidance for senior leaders. We’ve also led discussions with senior teams to rethink the way they support future leaders and to find better ways to accelerate visibility, responsibility and trust.

 

The demands on peak career leaders haven’t subsided. Every company has to get out of reset mode and reimagine how people fit together. The priorities of culture, communication and succession should be top of mind, and those who excel at it will redefine what leadership really means.

And we’ll ensure that you’re one of those leaders.

As always, we’re here when you need us.

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Slack Me Your Brand

As a new way of working has settled in for companies, Slack, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Viber, Lark and dozens of instant messaging (IM) channels have taken hold as an easy and efficient way of communicating with each other throughout the day. And that’s why we’re often asked:

Can your personal brand take shape on an IM channel?

The simple answer is yes, and I think it’s happened over and over again as managers have become more dependent on the channels.

  • Similar to meetings, people who monopolize a channel can seem like “know it all’s” and come across as arrogant.
  • Similar to meetings, people who don’t contribute and remain silent can come across as uninvolved or unsure.

People who offer guidance seem helpful. People who are long-winded seem scattered. There’s a lot of similarity between in-person impressions and IM impressions.

If you’ve doubled your use of it, then you’ve probably also raised your awareness of what people like in this format and what they don’t. Cut and pasting information vs a link is frowned upon because it takes up a lot of space. Short sound bites are valued, keeping the chat informal and to the point.

But the flow of communication is more transactional. It’s tied to task and inputs and less to connection and touch points. As we’ve asked people about their experiences with IM channels, some say that they notice wit and humor in co-workers’ personalities as they add a little levity to a stream of inputs. And in many cases, it‘s a few personalities that come through an uneven representation of all personalities in the chat.

And that’s when the question should really become: Are IM channels enough of an impression? And that answer is probably not. Chat and short form conversations are best used as a supplement to live conversations, not a replacement for them.

Here’s why.

True connection requires a response from someone. People have found some connections with each other on IM channels, but they tend to align with people who think just like them or agree with them, rather than a different perspective or different approach.

It’s harder to work through differences without true connection and non-verbal signals from each other. Engagement is still about give and take and that means a live conversation with a view of the other person.

And when engagement hasn’t really occurred, we don’t get as vested in each other. And that may mean we don’t promote each other as much as we could. We’re not as likely to call out someone’s effort or even fully notice it. And we’re already seeing some consequences from the limited communication channel.

The biggest consequence is employees and managers don’t know each other very well. Future opportunities come from expanded conversations and a more relaxed connection with a manager.

An employee can become somewhat invisible if they don’t have a regular cadence of face-to-face connections. When relationships are limited, trust can’t develop as it has in the past.

So, what do you do to strengthen your brand in this new way of working?

If you’re trying to establish your brand in a company, make sure that you encourage face-to-face communication at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be in-person; it can be over a virtual network. But make sure that you become a visible presence with your manager. To succeed in a company, you’re going to need a champion. Opportunities are created by people, and managers recommend people that they know and trust. You need to make sure you’re building a relationship with a manager, more than one is even better, and not just a transactional conversation.

If you’re managing people in a virtual setting, remember that people tend to stay at organizations because of their connection to other people. If you allow a team to work too independently, they never truly engage with co-workers and they seek connection somewhere else. Impose the face-to-face interaction among the team. If they never get together in the same location, you’ll have to work harder to initiate relationships across the group. You can do this with small group projects, pairing team members together for new ideas or solutions, and adding intention to discussions and virtual meetings so that everyone gets heard across your team.

Impressions take shape in all formats, so your brand does take shape across IM channels. But it’s not enough to build relationships that will lead to opportunities.

There’s a reason that leaders at most companies are saying “come back in the office” and “we miss seeing you around here.” They know that those virtual impressions only take connection so far. And as we’re all working to find the right balance of virtual, in-person and hybrid working, it will take a little more intention on the connection side to make sure that trust continues to grow with managers and teams.

If you’re trying to strengthen the connection and value within your team, we can help. Through team building experiences or work on personal brands, we’ve helped many groups reset and rethink how they work together. And we’d welcome the opportunity to explore what your team might need.

As always, call us when you need us.

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Disrupted! A Talent Acquisition Perspective

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Listen to the Stories Behind a Purpose with CeCe Morken - Sally Williamson & Associates on Apple Podcasts Listen to the Stories Behind a Purpose with CeCe Morken - Sally Williamson & Associates on Spotify Listen to the Stories Behind a Purpose with CeCe Morken - Sally Williamson & Associates on iHeartRadio

Disruption happens every day across the corporate world. As employees, we experience reorgs, layoffs and acquisitions, and as disrupters ourselves we move cross country, chase ideas and challenge norms. But amidst all the disruption we all experience, some of us seem to thrive in times of turmoil.

These are the communicators who have mastered the two secret arts hidden within corporate disruption: learning how to establish a compelling brand and build an intriguing career narrative. They are skills that take time to perfect, but they’re the differentiator factors between those who are cast adrift from disruption and those who prosper from it.

We believe in this strongly…and it’s why we wrote our latest book: Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand & Your Career.

But don’t just take our word for it. On this episode, Hurst Williamson is joined by 2 Talent Acquisition specialists to share their perspectives on the trends they see every day and what makes a job candidate successful…or forgettable.

More About the Guests

Elisa Abner-Taschwer is the Talent Acquisition Manager at FORUM Credit Union in Fishers, Indiana. She has over 30 years of HR experience, primarily in Talent Acquisition. Elisa lives with her husband of 27 years and their Mini Golden Doodle, Max.

Lauren Baksh, M.Ed. is the Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Graphic Packaging International. She has over ten years of talent management experience in the manufacturing industry and currently supports her team with the design and execution of holistic recruiting experiences for US salaried positions. Lauren lives in Atlanta with her husband, two daughters, and two fur babies.

Show Notes

  • Careers are no longer on a straight and narrow path.
    • People will change their job/career 7-10 times throughout their career.
    • Interview determines if there will be a next change in a person’s career.
  • What does it take to make a job a candidate memorable or forgettable?
  • What percentage of people are good at interviewing?
    • Less than 5%
    • Not as many people are good at interviewing that think they are good at interviewing.
    • Those that think they are good at interviewing usually lack authenticity.
  • What goes wrong in an interview?
    • Lack of prep – didn’t know much about the company or the interviewer.
    • Lacked confidence – unaware of body language.
    • Lacked impact – didn’t understand their experiences well.
    • Prospective employee must be interviewing the company as well as being interviewed by the company.
    • Preparation will help a candidate seal the deal.
    • Good story tellers have better impact in an interview.
  • Virtual vs. In-Person Interviews
    • Same challenges exist in a virtual interview as an in person interview.
    • Candidates see virtual as more informal and have a low awareness of their setting and background.
    • Fewer people ghost virtual interviews.
  • When prepping for a virtual interview, consider it the same as if you are going to meet with someone – dress professionally
  • Potential employers encourage prospective employees to ask questions about the attire and the platform being used to the interview
  • How many resumes for a potential position are reviewed?
    • Far too many
    • 20-30+ resumes for an open position
    • 30-50 resumes
  • What really makes a candidate stand out?
    • Individuals who understand the organization and the culture
    • Candidates with confidence in themselves and the ability to have a good vision as to what they want in their new position
    • Candidates must be a good cultural fit
    • Candidates must ask questions in the interview and understand the opportunity
  • The most critical skills for a top candidate:
    • Problem solving and thinking
    • Collaboration and cooperation
    • Communication and influence
  • Advice to stand-out in interviews:
    • Translate the experience you had with the job you want to do. Think about things that you’ve done that have given you that experience
    • Update your resume annually and add accomplishments from the previous years.
    • Highlight how you work on a team
  • Candidates approach an interview very reactively
    • Understand the resume is a list – make sure to drive the interview and conversation
    • Have a reactive and proactive interview
    • Be prepared to  highlight your key aspects
    • Be able to shape your narrative and asked questions about the company while staying authentic
    • Come with questions to make it a conversation.
  • Employers are looking for people that want to work for the company not the job
  • Is there a war for talent? It’s a very favorable market for talent right now
  • Companies are trying to be the company that people want to join and understand that not all candidates are going to have 100% of the skills that are being looked for in a candidate.
  • Candidates must show up as their authentic self.
  • Employees own their development and the company and their manager are there to support the individual. Take a risk and it might change!

 

Order Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand & Your Career today here or on Amazon.

 

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!

Disrupted! A Talent Development Perspective

Subscribe to the podcast!

Listen to the Stories Behind a Purpose with CeCe Morken - Sally Williamson & Associates on Apple Podcasts Listen to the Stories Behind a Purpose with CeCe Morken - Sally Williamson & Associates on Spotify Listen to the Stories Behind a Purpose with CeCe Morken - Sally Williamson & Associates on iHeartRadio

Disruption happens every day across the corporate world. As employees, we experience reorgs, layoffs and acquisitions, and as disrupters ourselves we move cross country, chase ideas and challenge norms. But amidst all the disruption we all experience, some of us seem to thrive in times of turmoil.

These are the communicators who have mastered the two secret arts hidden within corporate disruption: learning how to establish a compelling brand and build an intriguing career narrative. They are skills that take time to perfect, but they’re the differentiator factors between those who are cast adrift from disruption and those who prosper from it.

We believe in this strongly…and it’s why we wrote our latest book: Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand & Your Career.

But don’t just take our word for it. On this episode, Hurst Williamson is joined by 3 Talent Development specialists to share their perspectives on what makes an employee a high-potential candidate and what traits they look for in tomorrow’s leaders.

More About the Guests

Alexandra Daily-Diamond is the Northwest Regional Talent Development Manager at Gensler, a design and architecture firm. In her role, she identifies people-focused solutions to HR challenges. She focuses on organizational and employee development and engagement, talent management, coaching, and HR strategies that promote wellbeing.

Hilda Curry is the Enterprise Learning Management Systems Administrator for Methodist Health System, a non-profit healthcare organization located in Dallas, Texas. Hilda has over 25 years of experience in corporate & healthcare learning and talent development, and has held a series of progressive positions in the training and development field.

Megan Breiseth is the Senior Director of Learning and Development at InsideTrack. Megan has worked in employee development since 2006. At InsideTrack, she coached online adult learners and eventually moved into Learning and Development leadership. During her career, Megan has built and managed learning programs that unlock the potential in coaches, managers, and support staff.

Show Notes

    • Disruption is happening across the board in companies and for employees. Employees no longer have a mapped-out career path.
    • Seek opportunities to expand your skills and repackage your potential.
    • What do companies think about talent development?
    • What percentage of the workforce has needed to do some kind of rest in 2020?
      • 100% of the team had a reset in priorities, personal goals, and how they do the work.
      • All training was converted to virtual learning, 10% of corporate employees shifted to work from home.
      • 100% of people’s jobs changed and circumstances changed. Staff neededg to focus on what is most essential for students and institutions to meet their basic needs. Prioritize safety, wellness, and how to set up systems to support employees so they could show up.
    • Pandemic aside – What other things would be examples of organization disruptions?
      • Integrating separate systems into one
      • Transition from for profit to nonprofit business
      • Change roles to be more scalable and sustainable
      • More efficiency changes in the workplace
      • Pandemic heightened changes that would have happened otherwise but pandemic made it more urgent.
      • Economy is a general factor in disruption. – Global company and global economic impact.
      • Companies are shifting to have a clear focus to elevate the human experience.
    • What is the organization’s responsibility in an employee’s development and what is the employee’s responsibility in that?
      • Company being intentional to listen and empower.
      • Employees seek out feedback on what the individual could do better.
      • Ask the questions that are going to get employees thinking deeply.
      • Empower employees to own their career and see themselves.
      • Have a specific program for leaders.
      • Offer employees training or tuition reimbursement.
      • Encourage them to play a visible role in committees.
      • Offer the opportunity to get input from coworkers and managers.
    • What happens when an individual hits a wall where they don’t have the skills they didn’t know they needed to advance but were still good at their current job?
      • Push employees to get the skill – many companies will work with employees to get them to develop the skills they need to continue.
      • Encourage employees to have a conversation with managers to get the skills they need.
      • Library of competency to get measured on.
      • The goal is to look within the company but they will be open to hire outside the company if a specific skill is needed quickly.
      • In times like this, a person would lose the job for somebody who has that skill if the employee has not done anything to grow.
    • When a person is having their potential assessed, being great at what they can do isn’t always a great indicator that they can stretch when a skill is needed.
    • Examples of employees that were hired from other industries to do a new job:
      • Head chef- great head of customer service
      • DJ as a sales person
      • Zookeeper as a head of operations
    • 3 key attributes that talent development looks for in any position
      1. Ability to communicate and influence others
      2. Agility during changes or times of uncertainty
      3. Problem solving and critical thinking
    • Debunking of the rumor of “There’s never enough “top talent”
    • Personal brand and feedback
    • The book goes over the importance of hitting the reset to create your brand you must make yourself visible.
      • Participate in programs.
      • Volunteer for outside organizations.
      • Champion specific projects.
      • Use talent and skills on a broad perspective.
    • Personal brand is how people think about and talk about you when you aren’t around.
      • Asking for feedback removes the barrier and opens it up for an honest conversation.
      • If you dread feedback, work on your mindset around feedback, your mindset will share your reality. We can’t grow unless we get negative feedback. Seek feedback and control the narrative.
      • Participate in a performance review for yourself and from your manager. Feedback should be given on a day-to-day basis.
      • Not all feedback is useful but it’s important to put yourself out there. Seek feedback from individuals that make you nervous.
    • You can’t grow without stress or change – everyone deserves to love what they do. Always seek to grow and chase meaning and purpose.

 

Order Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand & Your Career today here or on Amazon.

 

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Disrupted! A Podcast with the Creators: Why We Wrote It and What We Learned

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Disruption happens a lot across the corporate world. Sometimes, from a company’s perspective through realigning functions. And sometimes by employees themselves as they make choices to try different things. But whether disruption is caused by a company or an individual, it’s occurring more frequently.

And from our vantage point, we see individuals who aren’t ready for it…and aren’t good at resetting around a challenge or an opportunity that disruption causes. The book sets out to help individuals understand why disruption occurs and how to plan for resets.

This episode of What’s Your Story has guest host, Lia, who interviews Sally, Hurst, and LaKesha about book insights, highlights and maybe a few tips from the latest book, Disrupted! How to Reset your Brand and Your Career.

More about The Creators

Sally Williamson is the founder of SW&A and an expert in all things related to spoken communication. Sally brings more than three decades of experience, insights and a general love of connection to empower more than 15,000 leaders and managers to influence and impact any group. Disrupted! is her fourth book.

Hurst Williamson is the ultimate utility player who can uncover client needs, lead a workshop or weave an incredible tale. He owns every room and brings genuine engagement to communication. He is the heart of the career journey and a proud member of the generation most disrupted. But he sees it as an opportunity to tell your story and own your journey. And he’s helping many of our clients do just that. Hurst co-authored Disrupted! and it is his second book.

LaKesha Edwards is a life-long learner who loves research, insights and discovery. With a Ph.D. added to her own career journey, she questions what we’re learning and how we’re solving it. And with SW&A, she creates the steps to continue a development experience by thinking through what we learn, what we teach and how we coach. And quite frankly, she keeps us all on our toes. She led the research behind Disrupted!

Show Notes

  • Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand and Your Career
    • Disruption happens all over the world and it’s occurring more frequently.
    • This book sets out to help individuals understand why disruption occurs and how to plan for resets.
  • Why Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand and Your Career was written:
    • It felt like the right time for the topic and they had the tools to sell it.
    • As a communications firm they have a broad view of business change.
    • SW&A wanted to support individuals and how they deal with disruption.
    • This time, around wanted to include two new minds in the process to have fresh perspective about a topic that will directly affect their generation.
    • The timing of COVID-19 offered the space, insight, and necessity for this book.
    • This book has blended all their different talents together.
  • What was Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand and Your Career trying to uncover and discover?
    • Focus on developing the skills of current employees.
    • Noting talent strategies have shifted with business beliefs.
    • Talent acquisition is trying to bring in the needed talent to solve for gaps.
  • Where does that create insight for a reader or an individual who’s thinking through their own career path and development?
    • Talent Leaders have encouraged employees to take ownership of their own career path.
    • Training for employees to directly support company goals is 82%.
    •  8% of their time is focused on development outside of company goals.
    • If your interest does not align with the company’s goals, it will not be a priority.
  • Talent development is in charge of supplying the people to let that growth happen. Goals get narrow fast – if an individual doesn’t fit in the scope, they will fall behind.
    • Employees must take ownership to develop their skills to make sure they stand out.
    • Employees must not rely on somebody watching out for them- they must own their career.
    • There is not a master database of employee’s development, skills, and career goals.
  • How to stay competitive?
    • Feedback – is the best indication of what an employee’s file at a company is. Seek feedback to control personal brand. Seek feedback from individuals that make you nervous.
    • Personal brand is how people think about you and talk about you when you’re not around.
  • What are the critical skills needed today?
    • Communication and influence.
    • Problem solving and critical thinking.
    • Agility during times of change and uncertainty.
  • To be a better strategic thinker is to be a better strategic communicator.
  • Talent recruiters will look for talent outside an organization if specific skills are needed quickly.
  • How are disruption and reset related?
  • Disruption is what everyone feels.
    • It happens to everybody and at any time. Not always handled well.
  • The rest are the people who take control of disruption.
    • How they pivot.
    • The art of how you take disruption and turn it into insight.
  • What does reset look like?
    • Everybody will have to reset at some time in their career.
    • An individual will change jobs 7-10 times in their career.
    • Reset comes down to the interview.
    • In the Talent Acquisition podcast they were asked how many people are good at interviewing? Less than 5 percent.
  • Talent acquisition is competing for top talent. Many people don’t understand how to explain their skills through storytelling. Acquiring skills that fit a specific job is not always through traditional experiences.
  • In the book they look at different career levels early, mid, and peak career.
  • People are successful in reset if they have a compelling brand and a compelling career narrative.
    • 1st half of Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand and Your Career is about personal brand and coaching around feedback. It’s broken down between early, mid-career and peak career.
    • 2nd half pivots into a career narrative. How to think about organizing all your experience together. Mindset shifts on how you think and talk about yourself.

Order Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand & Your Career today here or on Amazon.

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!

Helping Tech to Talk Exec with Mac Smith

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From a distance, you could assume that product creation and innovation is easy because it seems to happen quickly. But you’d be wrong. It actually requires an army of technologists and engineers to keep innovation moving and to deliver products in a speedy fashion. And they aren’t alone. Long before a product reaches a build phase, there are multiple steps to analyze a market, identify a need and propose a product against a market opportunity.

Sometimes there can be a communication conflict between senior leaders and technical teams, and often, the outcome is a lack of understanding and buy-in. It’s why one of the key development needs amongst technology teams is learning to communicate with an executive audience.

On this episode of What’s Your Story, Sally is joined by Mac Smith, who leads Cross Portfolio Research for Search & Assistant, at Google. And he’s going to share his experience with why communication conflicts happen, and how they can be improved.

More about Mac Smith

Mac is the Head of Cross Portfolio Research for Search & Assistant at Google. He leads a 25 researcher organization on research programs that bridge Google Search & Assistant product lines. The team combines product support with cross portfolio programs and processes that increase the overall speed and quality of a 100 person research organization. Before this role, he was the Head of User Research for the Core Search Product, and has also previously led four other research teams for  companies such as Microsoft. 

Show Notes

  • Is there a struggle between executive teams and tech teams?
    • Much of the content struggles to connect at the right altitude to connect with the executive teams.
    • For tech teams who are thinking about how a particular product would work, much of the content in the area of comfort lies around their expertise:
      • The how
      • Data
      • Risks
      • Blockers – etc
  • Try starting with the main point instead of throwing details.
    • The experts struggle envisioning not having all the details to make a decision.
  • The challenge has always been there are repeats on different scales. What has changed as they increase scale is the amount of time the execs have, as well as the complexity they are dealing with has grown exponentially.
    • Perspective difference hasn’t changed – as the organizations have grown, the amount of time you have to make that decision has changed.
    • In smaller scale companies, you have more of an opportunity to work with those decision makers. As the company grows, it becomes more structured and you have fewer opportunities to make those connections.
    • Most of the leadership has spent a considerable amount of time as product engineers prior to becoming executives in tech.
    • It’s important to understand the complexity of systems that run your business so you can make decisions that bridge business, experience and technology.
  • The challenge is many of the engineers have never been in the executive position.
    • From the executive perspective: the aperture of their view, the connection, and the time have all changed – that is the biggest perspective.
    • Executive teams need to come in the door and think about what decision they will make that day.
    • Leaders connect dots. Looking at something a moment in time vs something over time.
  • For researchers there are two parts to the job:
    • 1. The craft of collecting information.
    • 2. The role of being an advisor and a steward of that information.
    • If you are advising or influencing a leader your job does not stop upon delivery of the information, you also need to help/guide that person (the executive) to make a decision.
  • The need for people to have effective communication in their roles has gotten greater.
    • Growth makes communication more challenging.
    • In the early stages of a company, you see more expert to expert conversation.
    • When the audience grows you are no longer having those expert-to-expert conversations. Growth requires you to evaluate how you communicate.
  • How does your expertise connect to the bigger picture, and can you understand the perspective of that executive to help them make that decision or fill in a gap for them?
    • What is the consequence of not being understood?
      • You don’t get what you want. You need to connect it to what the executive wants. If you give me this, you will get this.
  • What is the biggest consequence for not being an effective communicator?
    • Most executives see the company as one large team and they want that team to be successful.
    • If they don’t feel the idea is effectively being communicated, they will send people away and tell them to come back with more research.
    • The communicator must understand what is needed by the executive.
    • Time loss is the biggest challenge.
  • What are the common mistakes that happen over and over again?
    • Presenter starts the conversation from their perspective and misses context completely.
    • The takeaway is buried at the end of the conversation.
    • Presenter is not prepared for the drill down by the executives. Presenter must realize the executives want them to be successful and ask questions attempting to help. They are essentially asking the presenter to give them a reason to change or do something. In this scenario, tech experts miss an opportunity to connect with exec staff because they feel tested.
  • Most technologists want to be better communicators and the biggest challenge they face include being anxious or unsure about effective communication.
    • Tech groups are phenomenal learners, they work hard to make it fit and make it work.
  • How to improve skills as an effective communicator:
    • Start at the end, not from your perspective. Start with the end goal for the audience.
    • Encourage people to prototype their results that they need to get to and show to others. Modify based on their feedback to show the end that you’re going to hit.
  • Do stories have a place in technology?
    • Facts and data are not memorable – add a layer of storytelling to that data. It helps others to understand what you are trying to accomplish and connect to broader business perspective.
    • Set out the board context and framework – here is the what and how of this story, and then illustrate that with concrete stories. When you marry those two together- it takes a complex space with conflicting information and makes it very concrete and relatable.
  • If you learn to communicate well, the chances of you becoming one of the executives becomes significantly higher in terms of probability and speed at getting there.

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The Stories Behind a Purpose with CeCe Morken

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These days, we’re all exhausted. And it’s not just the physical tiredness of managing kids, virtual schooling, shifting work locations in a house, or balancing disruptions as our personal lives and workspace converge. It’s a mental tiredness and fatigue, and the effects are pretty dramatic.

It’s a good thing that companies were already working on body and mind wellness. Wellness support and training has become an integral part of many company’s benefit plans and training initiatives. The added stress and uncertainty of the pandemic has intensified the conversations about mindfulness, meditation, and a company called Headspace.

On this episode of What’s Your Story, Sally’s guest is CeCe Morken, President and CEO of Headspace, and she’s here to share The Stories Behind a Purpose, her experience with how she found herself in this role, and how to manage, inspire, and support a team virtually.

More about CeCe Morken

CeCe Morken serves as President and Chief Operating Officer of Headspace. She is a highly accomplished technology industry executive with 35 years of experience building and growing organizations, from start-ups to global, publicly traded companies.

CeCe joined Headspace after 13 years at Intuit, where she led multiple business units. She served as Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Strategic Partner Group, responsible for the accountant, financial institution, and enterprise platform business generating $700M in annual revenue — in addition to leading both the Corporate/Government Affairs and Corporate Responsibility functions for the company. Morken was also responsible for building strategic partnerships between Intuit and financial institutions, government and educational entities, and enterprise platforms, and also responsible for expanding global engagements, which doubled the velocity of contracts in the target countries of the UK, Australia, Canada, and France.

Before serving in this capacity, Morken led Intuit Financials Services (IFS). She led this business through a technology and business model transformation that moved the business to the number one ranking in share and product design across online and mobile platforms, leading the industry in open platform designs. Subsequently, CeCe led the strategic decision to divest the business and close the sale to the private equity firm Thoma Bravo in August of 2013.

Morken is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with majors in Economics and Business Administration, and attended the University of Chicago Booth’s executive development program. Morken currently serves on the Boards of GENPACT and NDSU College of Business.

Morken has also been recognized as one of The Most Powerful Women in Accounting (2017), National Diversity and Leadership Most Powerful Women in Technology (2017 and 2019), and has received the Intuit CEO Leadership Award in 2011, 2014, and 2017, and the Bill Campbell Coaches Award in 2018.

Show Notes

  • Headspace: Improve health and wellness of the world. This organization helps people build healthy routines through mindfulness in an app.
    • 46% of people over the age of 18 will have a diagnosable mental health issue
    • 60% of those are untreated
  • Purpose of Headspace: Corporate social responsibility and working in service for the greater good.
    • What is the impact of mindfulness thinking?
    • How mindfulness has changed the workplace
  • Study by Headspace:
    • 65% of employees report that most of the stress they feel is from work
    • 42% state that work/life balance is the greatest source of stress
    • 45% of those lose 2 hours a day because of stress
  • There has been an increase of CEO’s listing mental health and mindfulness as a priority in the workplace. With the emphasis on this from other companies there are positive results and improvement.
    • Employers need to enable people to bring their whole selves to work. Virtual environment has mad that difficult
  • The Headspace work environment is one to model. They offer the following:
    • Meeting breaks
    • No meeting days
    • Every other Friday off
  • Headspace offers support programs for companies and shares their best practices with their employees
    • Offer flexibility for the caregivers in the family to prevent losing women in the workplace
  • Mindfulness isn’t about taking more time, it’s about being present. It’s not about time, it’s about frequency. Being purposeful with your time.
  • Headspace got big names like Sesame Street, John Legend, and other celebrities involved.
  • Headspace Outreach
    • Working with Governor Cuomo’s office giving all New Yorkers access to their app for free
    • Worked with other states hit hard, early on, by the pandemic
    • Made their app free to every unemployed person, all health care providers, and educators
  • Headspace provides content like: music, stories, sleep casts, etc. All offerings are backed by science and clinical studies.
  • Headspace worked with Sesame Street with the goal of helping young minds develop healthy habits.
  • Hundreds of thousands have taken advantage of their app.
  • CeCe shared a Storytelling meditation clip from the Headspace app on Wisdom: Mind, Body, Speech
    • The clip covered intention, mindfulness, voice and body of speech.
  • How to manage, inspire and support a team virtually:
    • Best practices for management:
      • Don’t just ask “how are you?” ask “really…how are you?”
      • Start the conversation with their development, not just the business outcome
      • Be a good role model – take breaks, set up healthy boundaries
      • Ensure that you’ve got clarity of common purpose and do “less” better
      • Remind people why you are there and what you are focused on.
      • Speed – don’t wait for normal – make a difference and take advantage of the situation and lean in more.
      • How you spend your time is important, pick your career for the right reason.
      • Find purpose in your work.
      • Do something that makes your heart beat faster every day.

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The Spirited Leader – Passion vs Intensity

The last six months have been different, and the next six months may continue the trend. And our response to that is beginning to show up in language and communication.

We’ve said a lot about blurred lines between workspace and personal space, worktime and down time. But we’re also hearing some blurred lines between appropriate and inappropriate language and experiences.

Most of us are stressed with uncertainty and have felt a little frayed along the way. It’s a very confusing picture when some companies and individuals are overworked, and some are out of work. Some managers are pushing to make quotas and others are pushing to deliver products and services faster than they ever have before. And both extremes seem to bring out bad behavior.

Here’s what we hear:

“He just snapped on our sales call. He yelled at me and called me an idiot who would be lucky to still have a job on Monday.”

“She glared at me and told me I was the dumbest product manager she’d ever had to work with. She just didn’t think she could put up with me through the conversion.”

 “He called me out in front of all my peers.  He said his ten-year-old could have done a better job than me. And I was so upset that I burst into tears on the call. Then, I was mortified.”

 

And while the tense times may bring out the worst in some, the spirited leader wasn’t born out of the pandemic. And the language above isn’t passion; it’s intensity. It’s lashing out with the intent to make someone feel badly. And it’s wrong.

If you’ve been on the receiving end of intensity, you know how it makes you feel. We’ve all had our feelings hurt by a personal friend who’s a little too honest or a little too direct. But, when your boss takes a shot, it’s different. It’s someone in a position of power and influence who makes you feel belittled.

We meet a lot of leaders who are intense. And we sometimes meet leaders who need a little help recovering from outbursts similar to those above. In most cases, I don’t think they mean to belittle anyone.

Their roles are stressful. If an employee feels pressure, you can assume the pressure only intensifies when you talk to their manager or the manager’s boss. That’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation for what happens.

The spirited leader is someone who blends thoughts with emotions and expresses them in a tangled outburst. For a moment, emotion gets the better of them and they say things they shouldn’t say.

Through coaching, we can help someone recognize that emotion and thought have been smashed together. As a leader, you have to be intentional about what you say. And sometimes, you have to be careful about revealing how you feel. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have emotional reactions to people or situations. You are a spirited leader, and that spirit or passion may have gotten you where you are today.

But you can’t release that on someone else. You have to stay intentional about what you mean to say, and you have to own how you make someone else feel based on what you say. By separating your emotion from your thought, you can talk through what you’re thinking without always sharing what you’re feeling. You can also share what you’re feeling and then put it aside before you share the thought of what you want an employee to do.

Here are coaching thoughts for the leaders who shared the emotions above:

“He just snapped on our sales call. He yelled at me and called me an idiot who would be  lucky to still have a job on Monday.”

“John, I’m very frustrated right now, and I don’t want that frustration to be the only thing you hear.  So, let me put that aside and tell you this. (Breathe!) You aren’t delivering on our agreed upon expectations.  You had three things to accomplish this week, and they have not been accomplished. So, you need to figure out how to get out of a rut in order to stay in your role.”

“She glared at me and told me I was the dumbest product manager she’d ever had to work with. She just didn’t think she could put up with me through the conversion.”

(Breathe and exhale as you relax your face. Don’t send emotion forward through nonverbals.)

“I am feeling very defeated by our mistakes on this conversion. And I’m not sure how to improve things. Do you have better insight on why we’re struggling to work well together?”

“He called me out in front of all my peers.  He said his ten-year-old could have done a better job than me.  And I was so upset that I burst into tears on the call. Then, I was mortified.”

It doesn’t take a spirited leader to get this one wrong. Good leaders give positive feedback in front of a peer group and give constructive feedback only one on one.

We have blended workspace and personal space and work time with down time. But intensity has to stay out of the work conversations. In personal relationships, unleased emotion may hurt someone’s feelings. In a work relationship, it could cost you your job.

If you’re a spirited leader, try the concept above. Recognize what’s happening and manage through it by talking about emotions and thoughts separately. And if you work for a spirited leader, see if you can get this newsletter in front of them.

Maybe they’ll call us when they need us.

Sally Williamson

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