The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

First, Get Their Attention; Then, Play Your Strong Suit

As we wind down the year 2007, there are many holiday videos proliferating the Web. The one I found most interesting was being passed around on Facebook and had a comment attached. The comment said something to the effect that had classical music been presented to him in this manner, he would have taken a much more avid interest in it.

Many genres of music have their roots in what we term classical styling. For example, did you know that classical music and jazz are nearly first cousins? And that a person well versed on jazz will be in the know about classical? However, music per se is not what I want to talk to you about today. Today's topic has more to do with marketing your consulting service. And that is to get the potential customer's attention. In the past, I've likened job search and interviewing to dating; each party has to wait their turn for the appropriate overture before they can take the next step. So it goes with marketing your service. You want to make it appealing. You want to get the potential customer's attention and interested in learning more. Once their interest is whetted, they'll be more likely to stay for whatever lucid explanation or sample you provide and be more receptive to asking for more.

So I watched the classical video and saw the analogies to marketing. The video was full of wonderful stagings with rich colors. There were some dancers (of ballet). But the predominant fabric was the music of a four-piece string ensemble made up of four young, lithe women with flowing hair of all colors. All of them had faces quite easy to look upon. All of them wore black lace -- and not too much else under their costumes -- as they stood and played their instruments.

The piece they played consisted of approximately 16 bars that were repeated. It was like hearing that section of "Carmina Barona" where the horseman bears down on the scene vowing to overtake and plunder. But here, the women played the bars to the single phrase as they slowly stepped their way closer to the bib of the stage, their bows being drawn across the strings to produce fortissimo volume and periodically bounced off the bridge of the strings to produce an emphasized percussive in the music. The progression from the back of the stage to the front is slow. One step at a time as the bars are played repeatedly.

Something struck me as the musicians progressed to mid-stage. When we finally gained a view of them at the beginning of the piece, we had a full view of them and full appreciation of their costumes. It is not lost upon us that the gleaming smiles attest to the fact that these young women love the work they do, playing music, and they will do whatever is necessary (within reason) to make it appealing to a broader audience. The air gusts blown across the stage cause their hair to splay in many directions, causing an even more alluring scene. The dancers at the stage bib progress further up the stairs that the women are descending and we become more aware of the dance that is being performed. Simultaneously, we begin to lose sight of the full view of the musicians.

The initial jolt of the attention is accomplished. To remain focused on the costumes would cause loss of the more important message being conveyed -- the music and the musicianship. But the waist-high shots of the players progressing closer and closer to the audience keep us aware that the women are mastering the playing of the music as they also physically move the cello and bass fiddle forward and down the stairs. They are their own stage hands as they are the hands that play the most important thing of the reason for the attention -- the music.

The musicians are essentially steps away from the border of the stage. The dancers are fully engaged in their performance. Since they are background, we are not as aware of their performance. And, again, it is the marketing of the women musicians that is paramount and where our attention should be focused. And that is exactly where the focus ends. By the last four to five repetitions of the theme, we no longer see a full view of the musicians in their lacy costumes. Instead, we are fully focused on the musicianship. Why? Because the camera shot is a bust shot of each musician and then the quartet.

I'm certain had the women had chairs put beneath them in that very instant, they could have sat and played a full gothic piece and no one in the audience would have objected. In fact, it's a certainty that the musicians had not only by then caught the attention of their audience but also convinced them that whatever notes flowed from the isntruments was worth their time and attention. They played their strong suit in order to induce the potential market to ask for more. Does it always have to be fortissimo? No. Just as effective is starting in pianissimo, allowing the piece to gradually crescendo, interplay various colors and tones, and then fade away in pianissimo. This will leave a haunting effect that will tend to linger for even longer than a more forceful piece. But it all depends on the ultimate message you want to leave with the customer.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How Do You Do It?

Recently, people have been emailing me and commenting on the phenomenal "things" I'm doing. They vow they will at some point have an opportunity to meet me and attest that they admire people who know their subject matter so well. They never actually point to anything specific. Given the feedback that comes to me from industry colleagues, I'm mystified but also flattered.

Last night I talked with a colleague. We laughed a little at the fact that we seem to be moving in tandem with one another. What precipitated the actual phone conversation was my accepting one request for a connection on a networking site. With accepting the one request, I was provided a river of other requests for connecting and networking opportunities. I shared this experience with the colleague. He confirmed that people have been waiting to connect with me because they admire what I've been doing and how I've been doing it.

The first step is learn everything possible about your industry. Learn the knowledge, the principles, the practices, the players. It's important to get to a point where you see relationships to what you're doing in everyday occurrences and can adequately articulate those connections.

Then, like going into a good dress store, start trying on the various suits and look at how they drape your form as it relates to the foundations that brought you to the recruiting industry. Not everyone does the same thing (thank God) and not everyone has the same specialty. Not everyone has the same interests or strengths. So get to know who you are in the spectrum of things. It's fine to start broad and then start narrowing. Most tailors do this in order to get the best fit.

The next important thing is to focus on the business side of things. Personality conflicts and competition have no room for life in this industry but they seem to be the mainstays of a large percentage of the industry. Focus on what you need to do and what you do. Produce commendable content and results. Charge a reasonable price for what you do.

With all of the factors surrounding your feet, it's time to start picking up the right things in order to create the correct suit for you and then wear and market it. As you go, you will meet streams of people. People, especially in the recruiting industry, are extremely important. They learn who you are, they talk about what you can do, they refer you or recommend you, the ask that you be assigned to work on a project. Thus, people are worth being more than a name in the rolodex, excuse me, contact list. It's important to build relationships with people.

Those who could be competitors can also be alliances, collaborators, who recommend you or help you complete an assignment because it cannot be done by one person. Sort out who is trustworthy and ethical. Form a good bond with them. Return the favor and courtesies.

There's probably more. That will have to come at a later date. This is sufficient for now.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Gardening and Growing a Business

I'm trying to grow a few things right now. Sometimes there are growth spurts and sometimes there is drop off. I'm not happy with the results I'm getting. But as I contemplate the many efforts and their results, I remember the many times I started a garden. Then I remember the lessons of my Zen days and realize everything in this Life is akin to Nature and if we think in terms of how Nature deals with circumstances, we're certain to come up with natural solutions and success.

In the case of the garden, whether seeds or seedlings, there was the planting period after preparing the soil. After the planting was watering in order to help the new babies take to their new environment. Proper sunlight was needed as well as the correct temperature. And the most important element of all was the proper amount of attention.

Too much water would drown my babies. Likewise, too little water and they quickly turned into crispy crinkles for the dumpster. Watching them too closely amounted to wasting time. But I tried to tell myself that they were benefitting from the carbon dioxide I was breathing on them. My rational mind said that was a fallacy But leaving them unattended for too long was just about the same as forgetting to water.

During my Zen period, someone gave me three tomato plants. The donor insisted that we feed the plants as soon as they went into the ground so they would have a solid start. In order to keep peace and appease the person's ego, I acquiesced. The plants never got fed again. They got a weekly watering along with the other herbs and that was that. But the tomatoes grew to 2.5 times the size of a tennis ball. The vines looped over themselves three times. And I had tomatoes by the bushel. You might say their conditions were super optimized. They were larger than the neighbor who was a prize tomato grower. They were larger than the ones produced by the donor. It was obvious as you looked at their faces that they tried in vain to find something to say about the size of those tomatoes and their volume to cast a pall on their quality. There was no denying the quality in any regard.

On the other hand, I kept attempting to start impatiens in the edges of the rose garden. I used 4-inch pots. I used 10-inch pots. I used rooted cuttings. Healthy mounds were given to me in half-gallon pots. Nothing worked. It wasn't from lack of conditions. The gardener would hoe the rose garden even when I asked him not to do so and he would then chop up the impatien starts. I would show him where the starts were located and ask him to hoe around them. It did no good. I put notes on the plants and pinned them to the leaves with straight pins. It did no good. Sometimes you have people who are receiving instructions from two sources and one overrides the other. Nevertheless, the impatiens received too much attention with conflicting purposes.

As a consultant, there will be projects that seem to jettison themselves into outrageous success with the least amount of effort. Just some occasional attention is fine; the initial elements were properly prepared to allow their acceptance and growth. Those will be the cash cows. Be thankful for them.

There will be other projects that are like the impatiens. No matter what you do to protect and nurture them, they will be destroyed. Then it's time to examine which parties are involved with the project both internally and externally. Get rid of the external interference as quickly as possible. Be polite; be firm; stop the destruction. As for the internal party(ies), tell them you've decided to put the project exclusively into the hands of one person and no one else will have access. You may want to embellish a bit by letting them know they'll be considered for other projects in the future. However, your main focus is regaining control of the environment and keeping your product safe from destructive designs.

As for that one person who will be in control of the project, you're now wondering who that should be. Who do you trust most, more than anyone else. Yes, that's the person who'll be in control of the project.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More About Women Leaders

Women and the Leadership Q (2001)
Shoya Zichy
ISBN 0071352163 - Hardcopy

Having read another book on women business leaders, it was a little disappointing to find The Leadership Q did nothing innovative in profiling and discussing the 38 women in this book.

What is good is that author Shoya Zichy was able to get interviews of 38 women leaders compared with the five who were profiled in the other book I read. Another thing that is good about it is that the women who are presented are about as diverse as you could imagine in terms of background, ethnicity, focuses and professions. Another commendable part of the book is the leadership test presented at the beginning of the book. Since the copy I used was from the library, I didn't dare take the test by marking the book. There was a thought about copying the pages in order to have my own, personal inventory. Maybe I'll do that another day.

The resources appendix is exquisite. I'd love to keep those pages as well and then develop some program to update the information.

But as I leafed through the profiles of each of the women, what I found was a flattering look at her individual style and a bit of her history. There was no unifying study of which personalities were very similar or alike, which demonstrate this type of trait described in the personality test compared with another, which style predominates among the 38 women studied.

Perhaps that was because the author realized that each personality is unique and cannot be easily compared with any other. Women leaders cannot be catalogued and categorized, just as men leaders cannot. Each has their own style and that style adapts with the audience and setting and circumstances that are present at any moment in time in addition to the action that demands to be taken (or withheld) in that instance. It just depends on what's going on at the moment that you encounter the person.

While this would have been a wonderful resource for my article about finding women management and executive candidates, it didn't supply the meat needed. While I wanted it to be useful for my webinar on finding women board members and senior management candidates, it proved to not be so. Why? Because there simply is nothing in it that tells you what to expect of a woman leader. Why? Because that depends on what the woman brings to the table in terms of past development and experience as well as the dominant parts of her personality.

So when you're looking for the model woman leader, first ask yourself what you need. Then start looking for candidates who display those attributes. You'll have developed a slate of winners.

Would I put this book on my bookshelf? No. But, as I said earlier, there are two sections I'd definitely like to have in PDF form for quick and easy reference.

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Books on Career and Executive Recruiting Advice

How to Ace a Personality Test

Ace the Corporate Personality Test (2001)
by Edward Hoffman, Ph.D.
ISBN 0071359125 - Hardcopy

While the premise of the book's title sounds too good to be true, this book is more for the business side of the hiring desk instead of the applicant/candidate side. What is useful to both is the history and science of assessment tests, the philosophies of psychological experts through the ages, and the analysis of these things. After that, you may as well close the book and say you learned some things that were useful.

It's well written and engaging. But the passage on page 10 (of a 95-page book) was the one that stopped me in my tracks and stopped any further reading of the book. The passage says, "In short, psychologists strongly agree that our personality remains stable throughout life and resists major change." In other words, there is nothing we can do to change our personality.

We can consciously decide to work at being a better, more attentive, higher evolved individual. But our personality is the product of many internal and external impacts from the womb to the present. While we may be able to create the most desirable person ever on paper, as day-to-day interactions evolve, the true person will be revealed.

The natural propensity to lie, steal, cheat, subvert, feel inadequate will always be there, no matter how many personality tests say we are otherwise. Conversely, the propensity to seek harmony, more meaningful answers, a more complete fulfillment of a project will push forth through a determination to be hard-nosed. If these are part of the natural personality, they will always be there.

Dr. Hoffman goes through the remainder of his book by showing us various aspects of the personality test in order to explain what some answers indicate and why. Here, his presentation is most beneficial to hiring managers and interviewers because he talks about, for example, conscientiousness and integrity and what aspects of answers to certain strategically phrased questions will reveal those traits.

The end of the book provides a sample personality test. If you're into taking tests in order to know what to expect, then this section is for you.

Would I put this book on my bookshelf? If there were some way that the first 20 to 25 pages could be condensed and put into nugget form, I'd do it in order to have the explanations available at my finger tips. It's very useful. Otherwise, I'll let someone else try to ace the personality test that presents the false image.

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Books on Career and Executive Recruiting Advice

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Challenged to Grow

Disability accommodation work can be isolated to one type of disability or span a range of needs. One area of accommodation in particular maps as an almost identical pattern in several categories of impairments yet it is successfully handled with nearly the same techniques. This disability can also be one of the most draining (in all ways) so that the burn-out factor occurs in a short time. The particular issue we examine today is the niche of learning disability.

A learning disability can be mild and not really surface until it becomes a barrier to some type of performance never attempted before. Minor adaptations can be worked out in order to compensate for the small issues. However, there are other learning disabilities that are more complex and profound. They interfere with interpretation of information; they can also interfere with communicating information; and they become impediments to accomplishing tasks and goals.

Other conditions that look very much like a learning disability are those where the person has issues with substance abuse, abusive personality, some psychotic personality disorders (in severe cases), and those suffering from one degree or another of ADD or ADHD. People with poor education or no education also easily fit into this classification, as well as those with little to no training and therefore do not know how to be independent and autonomous.

One of the signs of this type of learning disabiilty, that can be overlooked in a discussion of the signs and symptoms is the unfortunate habit of saying things that are quite obtuse and inappropriate. The person's words can be insulting or demeaning, a bit like spitting in one's face. In the alternative, these people will develop a completely incorrect interpretation of the information they heard or seen and swear that they are correct. Sufferers will even make excuses for what they have said or heard in order to justify its impropriety; they will argue for the correctness of their interpretation. Many times their passionate self defense will convince a few that they somehow did not understand and that they one with the impairment is quite correct in their interpretation. Some bullies demonstrate these propensities.

How to Handle

In its mild form, a learning disability is not easily detected. Being easily distracted can sometimes stem from fatigue, stress, or mere work/life balance issues. In this case, merely taking a break is the solution. All of us are affected by this and it is not indicia of some type of pathology. In fact, sometimes all it takes is turning away from the foot traffic that passes by a desk. At other times, the remedy can be as simple as sitting in an area with a large window in order to collect as much sunlight as possible. In the alternative, turning away from the window in order to avoid being distracted by the many scenes that fade in and out through the window.

Other ways of dealing with the condition may be to work for a particular time period and then take a brief break. Again, this is an excellent technique for very mild forms of learning differences. Many of us thrive on learning in a type of total immersion in our subject but doing it in intervals of 15 to 20 minutes or so.

ADD can compound itself very quickly as we increase the levels of new ramifications of the impairment. In fact, it is not quickly identifiable when you're dealing with a person with learning differences. But it's when a series of situations, taken together, start showing a problem that the issue becomes larger, more severe. Communication begins to be threatened. We need to be very careful about what we're saying and use every means possible to make certain we are being interpreted correctly.

This may mean we give instructions in increments. Or we give instructions (or information) and then have the person restate what we told them in order to insure that the correct message got through and was heard. Repeating the message confirms there was no straying in regard to interpretation of the information. If there was splintering of the information, this is the time to repeat and listen. If there is a misinterpretation, immediately stop their speaking and correct what it is that's incorrect. Have the statement repeated but in the client's terms. Continue doing this until their interpretation of the message is correct.

Coachable Moments

If there are terms the person with ADD is misusing, this is also the time to correct their definition. Make certain they understand that they were misusing the term, why the interpretation is incorrect, and what the correct interpretation is. This is a training moment. Use it. Use it in a non-threatening manner. This is not a time to be argumentative, although your "candidate" will object and say that you are. Just keep letting them know that they have not reached the same definition of terms; you're there to help. It's at this time that the conversation can become trying, even exhausting. Old habits die hard. It's times such as these that being professional and patient are the keys to keeping your candidate and winning this particular battle with the impairment.

These times can be difficult and draining. They will make you wonder why you're going through it. However, these are times of growth for both the accommodation provider as well as the client.

The client benefits because they gain new skills for coping as well as an appreciation of why the skills they acquire are valid. But the accommodation provider, the one who was just about to pull their hair out, also gains.

Getting through working with the client grows the ability to have patience. As you listen to the client, you learn more about different ways of communicating. You gain strength in listening to what others have to say and how they say it. You gain an ability to listen to various forms of logic and better understand them. You learn how to talk to people from all walks of life without judging them. If you are the type of person who has a laissez faire personality and just let things pass as not worth the effort, accommodation work with those who have moderate to profound issues will develop your ability to "push back" or cut the exchangement at the appropriate time.

Just working through these types of communications will enable you to grow a thick skin and will not back down as easily when you understand what's happening. It will help you see through bluster so that you can deal with the hidden feelings of inadequacy. You will also see past the shamed excuses for bullying that attempt to guilt you into accepting that type of communication, making you feel you must have misunderstood. You develop keener critical thinking skills.

Finally, you learn when correcting and clarifying are futile and end up being counter-productive. You benefit because you are challenged to grow in your being able to deal with all people of all walks of life.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hospital Recommendations Upheld

The impact of the announcement left a humming chill in the air that resonated for several minutes. It made the listener want to stop and wait for the next sounds, the syllables that would unfold the remainder of the story, reveal the inevitable. Then the realization came that the suspense would have to wait until July 31 or later.

It was the morning of July 23. Radio news announced that U.S. inspectors had just arrived at King-Drew Hospital for a surprise evaluation visit. The hospital has a long history of troubles, poor performance by the workers, lack of discretion, and a nickname that sends shudders down the spine -- Killer King.

Earlier this week, the outcome of the inspection was announced. The hospital will be closed. In fact, one reporter stood in front of the empty building yesterday and spoke of the falling action of this drama. No emergency patients were being accepted. Ambulances were being redirected to other hospitals. Existing patients in the various specialty wings were transferred throughout this week to other facilities.

It was not the equipment that failed. It was not the integrity of the building that lacked. It was not 100 percent of the staff. But there were too many who were charged with the welfare of individuals who could not perform their duties. One reporter cited the fact that a worker could not accurately calculate the dosage that was to be dispensed to a patient. Another could not read the indicators provided by their equipment. Another left things unattended and problems arose.

This does not account for the tales of people being summarily lumped together as stereotypical entities rather than unique individuals. This does not include condescending statements that belittled the patients, making them feel less than human. And the fact that the hospital personnel would provide directions to one part of the hospital campus to another that on any occasion could be accurate or not is also not in the measures of credibility.

This last issue is important because if a person is seeking treatment for a health condition, it is highly likely that navigating two or more blocks to go from one part of the plant to the outlying bungalows on the campus may not be an easy task. Although there was a shuttle, it was difficult to actually catch it because it did not show up at the intervals that were supposed to be its rounds.

It was the screening and testing of personnel that caused the fall. The measures that were too low. The lack of taking charge of a situation that was not acceptable and letting it "slide" because the person in question needed a break. But a hospital, the health and welfare of people striving to live and care for theirselves, is not a place where people should let things slide. An individual's integrity at that point is one of the most critical issues and of paramount importance.

Let this second failure and ultimate closure be a lesson to Human Resource and recruiting professionals. Let this be a lesson to schools and universities. In preparing the people who will work in these environs, there should be care to make certain that their grades accurately reflect ability. Attention to detail is premium and should be part of the main concerns of the candidates. A first mistake can be forgiven but it needs to be attended with remediation. A second mistake needs more drastic measures.

In a previous post, there was an observation that some of the personnel showed signs of being heavily medicated on anti-depressants. Yet they were still on full duty in critical areas and managing records and documents. We will not speculate on whether the records always got into the correct files or not. The sins of the overall facility make that thought to terrifying to consider. But again, management and Human Resources should have worked together to find some means of providing time off until the reason for the medication was resolved and then return the worker to their position.

But that brings me to yet another observation about the personnel. So much reliance on using pills to cure anything and everything, from the least to the greatest. Again, there was no screening with regard to whether that medication was appropriate. In fact, some medications that have been found to be contra-indicated for use were still being prescribed. Other medications created physical dependency on the drugs (not addiction) that cause the condition to worsen and require higher doses. But the patient was still seen as the stereotype who would be suseptible to the family of related maladies. Indeed, the medications being prescribed would become the precipitants of the related conditions and add to the number of issues with which the patient contended rather than actually healing and freeing them from dependence on artificial remedies. Perhaps this last indictment is a failing of the training rather than the practice or the hospital. I will invalidate it -- for now.

We say in the recruiting industry that we are in pursuit of the "qualified talent." King-Drew shows us where things can go when we do not hold our standards as high as possible and settle for less than qualified. But King-Drew's Personnel department, no doubt, was attempting to give these "D" and "F" performers (according to Yaroslavsky) another chance at making it in a reputable facility. Unfortunately, they were given the chance to make it but not the support and supervision necessary to actualize it.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Consultant's Duties

One of the reasons a company (or an individual) seeks the services of a consultant is because there's so much on their plate that work is becoming counter-productive. Eventually, the realization manifests itself that someone with expertise in a unique area is needed in order to do the special project while the more routine things are kept on track in the normal flow of operations.

Being a consultant is a role that has many contradictions. While it involves being a person who cares very much about taking care of the needs of others, one needs to be discrete about allocating their energies. It is entirely possible to work on several projects simultaneously or have some at different stages while developing the next. But giving equal attention to every phone call, drop-in visitor, or shriek for help is not possible. The internal, as well as the public task master, needs to discriminate with regard to their time in order to stay focused and be the expert.

It is then the consultant's responsibility to take control of things and lead the client through each step of the process, from the initial consultation, parsing out the needs, determining whether there is a relationship, bringing forth the contract, developing the parts of the project, and generally keeping the client's life livable and under control. Actually, taking the reins puts sanity into the lives of everyone involved.

Call for Assistance

The ball starts rolling with the call for assistance. It's basically a conversation to determine whether you have the right players for the project. This the time when the consultant will be looking for answers to questions. What questions? Things like what is it you do? What do you do best? How do you go about doing this? What do you want to accomplish and why do you need me to help you do it? What have you done in the past? How did that work out?

Screening and Assessing the Needs

These questions serve several purposes both for the client and the consultant. This is a time when the consultant listens very carefully to what's being said and what's not being said. And in regard to the silence on certain topics, there's something being said by implication as to what's really going on and needs attention. The consultant serves as the independent observer who sees more of the picture because they are not part of the picture.

Asking for the Contract

Once the consultant has an idea of what's needed, it's time for them to take control by first outlining what can be done by this specialist. Milestones are worked out. And it's important for the consultant to speak up when the timing is not realistic or the materials too scant. Then the consultant asks the client for the contract that memorializes the terms and a retainer to start the work.

Taking Control

Because of the initial conversations and screening process, everyone has an idea of where they're going in order to reach the recommended solution. But the most important element here is that the consultant takes control of the situation and manages it from the very beginning of the discussions. It's one of the reasons the client reached out for assistance -- because there's so much going on that they've become distracted and have difficulty managing the priorities.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Consultant's Talent Management Challenge

A recent email announced that a white paper is available from Taleo. It describes how you can take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies to improve your hiring process, Career Site 2.0: Taking the Lead in the War for Talent. A white paper! More information in order to stay informed and aware and upon which to base recommendations and opinions. The time was ripe to download yet another white paper for a projected review.

As with most downloads, there are data accumulation questions to screen for various demographics. However, one of the questions allowed a narrative response, "Please tell us what issues you are facing in talent management:" This was a most delightful request to fulfill.

  • Keeping job seekers aware of where and how to find the right situation and be engaging enough to not only be invited to interview but also be offered the job;

  • Keeping employers and recruiters aware of what job seekers desire in order to attract, recognize, and hire the right talent;

  • Keeping those who desire to advance in their careers aware of what is necessary to make hiring authorities aware of their talents so that they may continue to grow their skills and knowledge as well as their company'S ROI.

During these past eight years, I've had a few opportunities to interact with the Taleo interface. I was impressed. It is definitely intuitive. The password system is painless. Once the resume is uploaded, an applicant can move through the various fields with speed. From what I recall, there is some fudge room for adding highlights to the information already enumerated on the resume.

I can only speak from one type of user experience with the Taleo platform and look forward to learning more about the recruiter as well as the employer experiences. I don't doubt that if the ease of access is as comfortable as it is for the candidate, the other two views will earn high marks.

Meanwhile, the download is emailed to the address with which you registered with the site. Since there are some longstanding email difficulties I'm having, it would have been better to be offered a chance to download the white paper from the site. But the emailed version is probably another layer of data collection and a type of email confirmation. This is also probably an accommodation to those visitors who cannot receive attachments over a particular megabyte size. Either way, my copy didn't arrive. It was necessary to register again with a Yahoo! address.

One other thing that's particularly good about getting this download is where the destination page leads the visitor. Instead of a mere confirmation page devoid of any additional information except the standard site navigation links and the words "Your download is complete; thank you for your interest in XYZ's free download," the visitor is taken to a page that offers additional information, research, the site's blog. It offers stickiness and a reason to keep the visitor engaged and informed. Very well planned and executed.

If you read the white paper and have comments about it or your thoughts about Taleo's product before a review is produced here, please share those thoughts and comments.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The New Jobster Model

Ray van den Bel is not only the founder of Online Networkers but he is also a really neat guy. And he's a recruiter to boot!

It seems my "To Do" list has gotten so long that it's slipping into public view. There's a longstanding invitation to review the new Jobster model that I accepted. The difficulty is there's not been a lot of time to do it. (Okay, I'll stop making excuses. But I am definitely not whining!) Ray must have discovered that commitment. Great guy and astute businessman that he is (who knows how to build alliances), he picked up the slack.

Yesterday I discovered he not only joined the new venue of my Entrances networking site but he also wrote a review of Jobster's new model.

What is really good about his observations is that he had the time to look at the site first from the job seeker experience, from the networker experience, and included a few tips about completing one's profile compared with posting the resume. He also shared his observations about the recruiter's side of the site, the cost efficiencies, the tools, the conveniences.

He wraps up his analysis with observations about the viability of this new model and makes a couple of projections.

It's good to develop new relationships, especially when they prove to be collaborations.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


April was an eventful time on ERE Media. In terms of drama, it reached the height of one of the dramatic crises. Some outrageous public statements were published by no less than David Manaster, statements that were untrue, unfounded, uninvestigated, and based on hearsay.

Ethics in Recruiting
Members of the Ethics in Recruiting Group,

Over the weekend, the staff members of ERE received a number of complaints from group members regarding the group's leadership and facilitation. These are not the first complaints we have received in this regard, but they have been the most egregious, including several inappropriate bannings of group members by the group leader.

It is my responsibility, and that of the ERE staff, to make sure that the environment on and all of the discussion groups is one that is conducive to professional discourse in the recruiting profession. Due to the recent abuse, I have made the decision to revoke the authority of the group leader in this group, effective immediately.

This decision will be welcomed by many and controversial for a few, but it is important to restore a professional networking environment and consistent leadership to this group, and after agonizing over the decision, I have come to the conclusion that this is the only way to do it. I welcome feedback from the group members on this decision, and as always, I will read every email that I get.

The leadership role for these groups will be temporarily transferred to an ERE staff member, Brendan Shields, until we can find a new permanent leader to take her place. If you have any suggestions or would like to volunteer for the responsibility (and at times it can be a time-consuming one), please email me.

I can be reached via the ERE Network or at david(at)

Given the nature of the representations, it seemed these words were an invitation to respond. As the founder and leader of the Ethics in Recruiting group, I did on April 22, 2007 at 5:44 PM, so by saying:
Three people have been banned from the group. All but one have had the reason explained. In some manner, they have continued they conduct remotely in regard to encouraging diruptive behavior or discouraging professionalism. The three:

Karen Mattonen - July 30, 2005: A short summary of the matter is unethical behavior in many aspects in addition to disruptive conduct in other parts of the Network and encouraging others to behave in like manner both in this group and in other parts of the Network.

Dave Mendoza - April 29, 2006: The URLs that finalized the determination to eject Dave are below. In addition to the inflammatory and essentially mutinous public remarks, there was outright unethical conduct on his part in many instances, as well as harassment that continued until this past Summer.


Maureen Sharib - February 20, 2007: The explanation I gave to Maureen reads as follows:

"Last May I removed you from the L.A. Metro group. That action was taken because of the stance I interpreted you had taken with regard to the flaming that was being directed at me by Mendoza, Sunil, and Karen. The response you gave was, "I know they're a pain but somebody's gotta tell 'em like it is."

"As I said, my action was taken through my interpretation of those words. My interpretation was that you supported their flaming and encourage it.

"You've also said publicly that you do not discourage that type of behavior in your groups either on ERE, Yahoo! Groups, or anywhere else. I cannot keep someone in my groups who condones and encourages such behavior. My interpretation of your words is that you are fixed on your path."

Manaster's post goes on to say:

"It is my responsibility, and that of the ERE staff, to make sure that the environment on and all of the discussion groups is one that is conducive to professional discourse in the recruiting profession. Due to the recent abuse, I have made the decision to revoke the authority of the group leader in this group, effective immediately."

It is interesting that his post was made almost immediately above mine that read "A Gentle Reminder." It was one of two similar stand-alone posts. Those stand-alone posts did not include the numerous others wherein I asked for discussion, not arguments; professionalism, not bullying.

Sorry, I do not have time to go through each line of each discussion thread. But the stand-alone posts can be found at:



Given the representations that were made in Manaster's post, it appears there was very little investigation into this matter and the determination was based on mere hearsay. As I've said on numerous occasions as private coaching as well as public recommendation and group admonition, we need to conform to discussing the issues as theoretical matters and not personal testimony; we need to be professionals and discuss. Shouting and bullying, attempts a being the "last word" or always right are not appropriate for this group. Further, I endeavor to *open* discussion, not shut it down because of deflating statements.

We should be using this forum to discuss, explore, learn, develop.

Apparently, there is very little room for discussion and plain view of the truth in that venue. Not only was the response removed, but in retaliation, I was banned from the network.

Being on ERE's network was a bit like being one of the characters in a Shakespearean play. And all it takes is being silent for a time and observing to realize the identity of the puppeteers in the drama. It is quite interesting to hear the same people toss in a name and a remark that challenges action in order to avoid being proved wrong. You have to consider why the name and the challenge are even part of the conversation as they have no relation to the real, underlying focus. And that is when the sham becomes plain, as well as the identity of some of the players. That is also when the realization occurs that gossip keeps the flames of dissention alive. That is when to focus on where your footsteps should not fall lest you find yourself nested in the trap that was laid.

Los Angeles Metro Recruiter Networking

The identical announcement was posted to the L.A. Metro group either a few minutes before or a few minutes after the Ethics notice. Again, I am the founder and was the group leader of the group. Again, in light of the same allegations and representations that were published without investigation, discussion, or regard for the truth, I had the impression there was a request for a public refutation and statement from me. To that end, I responded on April 22, 2007 at 6:52 PM as follows:
There have been 5 who have been banned from this group. Two were fake IDs and there is still one other that is suspicious and has been deleted from the Network, "Kimchi Chow." The two that were verified were

Cheese Wizzer 2/16/2007
whore wrh 10/5/2006

The other three ejected members are:

Karen Mattonen - July 30, 2005: A short summary of the matter is unethical behavior in many aspects in addition to disruptive conduct in other parts of the Network and encouraging others to behave in like manner both in this group and in other parts of the Network.

Maureen Sharib - May 18, 2006: Given the freshness of the events in May 2006, it did not appear an explanation was necessary. However, in February of this year, I discovered Maureen was also a member of the Ethics group. The explanation applied to both groups and on February 20, 2007 reads as follows:

"Last May I removed you from the L.A. Metro group. That action was taken because of the stance I interpreted you had taken with regard to the flaming that was being directed at me by Mendoza, Sunil, and Karen. The response you gave was, "I know they're a pain but somebody's gotta tell 'em like it is."

"As I said, my action was taken through my interpretation of those words. My interpretation was that you supported their flaming and encourage it.

"You've also said publicly that you do not discourage that type of behavior in your groups either on ERE, Yahoo! Groups, or anywhere else. I cannot keep someone in my groups who condones and encourages such behavior. My interpretation of your words is that you are fixed on your path.

"It was not until you began posting in the Ethics group that I realized (or remembered) that you were also in
that group. I determined that it would be prudent to be watchful of the posts and take action if it was
warranted. I asked the ERE back office to put you on "Inactive" status so that I could monitor what was
happening. They refused. I was left with no other alternative since group leaders do not have moderation

"I felt you deserved an explanation. With removal of you from the group, there is no means of measuring the
quality of the participation. The situation at present is either black or white and no grey.

"The two posts you have made have quality and good discussions have flowed from them. Perhaps this
situation will encourage ERE folk to develop some moderation tools so that we are not faced with only two choices."

Sarah White - April 6, 2007:

insulting and inflammatory post here
then cross-posted for effect here
along with additional defamatory remarks posted here

after an email exchange where I had the impression the matter and insults were resolved. It was not; it continued.

Manaster has also said in relation to this group:

"It is my responsibility, and that of the ERE staff, to make sure that the environment on and all of the discussion groups is one that is conducive to professional discourse in the recruiting profession. Due to the recent abuse, I have made the decision to revoke the authority of the group leader in this group, effective immediately."

As with the Ethics group, this announcement was posted almost immediately above a stand-alone reminder about decorum and protocol. That one was labelled

Some Miscellany{1C021688-2530-4D09-AEAE-FF13A1360254}
on March 29, 2007

The Better to Serve{348A7D24-9F01-4BB0-8E14-BB3F81AD8E47}
March 19, 2007

May 4, 2006

June 18, 2005

Again, I simply do not have the time to go through each line of every thread for the group. Suffice it to say that there have been reminders about protocol and encouragement to use it throughout the history of this group.

Given the representations that were made in Manaster's post, it appears there was very little investigation into this matter and the determination was based on mere hearsay. As I've said on numerous occasions as private coaching as well as public recommendation and group admonition, we need to conform to discussing the issues as theoretical matters and not personal testimony; we need to be professionals and discuss. Shouting and bullying, attempts a being the "last word" or always right are not appropriate for this group. Further, I endeavor to *open* discussion, not shut it down because of deflating statements.

But the outlandish remarks died away. Replacing them were offlist requests that I post all manner of things on the board in the stead of others. How curious it was to receive job postings that many people wanted, expected, me to rewrite, publicize, and perform a search for. I would also appreciate knowing who put out that mis-information?

I would appreciate knowing why there was an impression that I am the only one who may post to the board. The impression could not have come from me because there have been quite a number of times I have publicly asked group members to feel free to talk with one another, to post on their own behalf, and requested feedback on various issues. Encouragement of networking is part and parcel of our live and online networking meetings. And I have had time to counsel many offline as well as provide support that it doesn't appear other group leaders provide (based on lack of response from others).

Again, it appears that impression was incorrect. Not only was the post removed, I received an incendiary email regarding the post and again notifying me that I was ejected from the network.

In light of the long-standing, unabated interference with both groups and the lack of higher leadership support, I had in September 2006 determined it was time to move both groups to a new venue where the noise, jealousy, and concommitant confusion were lessened and a professional atmosphere could be restored.

I have established the new venues for both groups. As far as i am concerned, the founding venue for these groups has dissolved them and they are invalid there. It is gratifying that my pitiful part in the play revved up Manaster's site numbers to 50,000. Unfortunately, the personal and unwilling cost was greater than the benefit as there was none for me.

New Group Homes

The monthly networking meetings for the L.A. Metro group will continue both online and in person. They will continue to offer informational or educational content of or higher than that of the past. It is necessary to contact me in order to join.

The Ethics in Recruiting group has resituated itself and is striving to grow in the direction and purpose to which it was originally established. It has the appearance of suffering some malingering ailments of its past which I am striving to eradicate. Those who can walk in consonance with its purpose are invited to join and add to the discussions and goals.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Consultant's Recommendations for the Health of All

There are many instances when an Organizational Development Consultant's input is vital to the health of an organization, its constituents, and its employees. With our airwaves, from coast to coast and border to border, being bombarded with news of the horrors of King-Drew Harbor General Hospital, it became mandatory that the knowledge I have regarding the facility, through experience and observation, be delivered to those responsible for its governance. On the last Tuesday of the month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Hearing is open to public comment and testimony (during debate on agenda items) for the Board's consideration before taking a vote on the measure before them. It was time for me to address the body and, during public comment, deliver the information I have.

The Supervisors' concerns focused on having a community emergency care facility in the community. More importantly and especially in light of the shocking story of Edith Isabel Rodriguez, who was allowed the die in the triage area, a safe and competent emergency care facility. To close the facility would cause multiple, grievous hardships on the population and drive up numerous infrastructure costs as well as costs to human lives.

The Supervisors asked many questions of their experts and counsels. They examined numerous documents while in chambers and drafted motions to address the issues and needs before them during session. They acted as a team, as a collective body focused on a single mission. Among the considerations were the alternatives that would be available should the hospital's license be suspended compared with revoked. Also among the considerations were the impact on nearby emergency room facilities, ambulance service, waiting time and so on, should the license be suspended, revoked, or the facility closed. The only view was with regard to multiple failures in the emergency area.

Public comment came after more than two hours of Board deliberations. The sister and brother of Ms. Rodriguez were allowed to address the body. Ms. Rodriguez's siblings emphasized the need for those who need to use the facility in the future know that they will be treated with human consideration and not disregard.

Many others spoke before my name was called. They had very relevant words to add to the picture and things to be considered in regard to emergency care. Some offered their services as resources for evaluating and replacing existing staff. Some had prepared statements as written in briefs that were left for later review but accompanied verbal testimony or comment.

I spoke, not as an emergency care recipient but as a person sent to the facility for routine testing and evaluation and as an independent observer of the conditions at the facility. Those observations showed that the problems with the facility are not isolated to the emergency care. Instead, the issues are systemic.

The Board spoke of having gone through the facility some years ago and discovered they had people who simply did not know their jobs, They were the "F performers," as Yaroslovsky put it, but they didn't get rid of the ones doing D- work. Apparently he spoke of emergency room performers. In my interface with the facility, I discovered staff people who could not tell a constituent where a department or room was located or in which wing of the building they should go to reach it. A technician who saw a patient on one day and injected them with imaging dye did not, on the next day, remember that they had injected that same patient. They then wondered aloud at the puncture wound. Yet the workload was not so high to have caused that level of forgetfulness. And one department had three out of four attendants who appeared to be on heavy anti-depressant medication yet all seemed to be equally responsible for patient management, records, and dispensing of instructions. They did not appear to be in a condition to do these functions unsupervised.

A hospital is a building, nothing more. The things that differentiate it from any other building are the equipment, the personnel, and the type of business it does, and how it does that business. Every part of the facility that I saw was immaculate as far as cleanliness. All of the equipment and machinery that I experienced was in good working order. This relates to the general facility. I did not experience the emergency room nor that area.

While the emergency room at Harbor General is in dire condition, the issues that impact the hospital are more profound. It is the hospital staff in general, the people who work there, who need the evaluation. This is the job of the Human Resources department -- the place where the recruiting, testing, screening, hiring, training, retention, and promotion activities take place. The Human Resources department is also the place where determinations about who needs to be given leave of absence until fit to return to work and perform in a reliable manner, how long that leave should be, that does this type of review. Yet it appears the Human Resources department is not capable of fulfilling those responsibilities.

It also appears the recruiters who are part of the Human Resources department are not capable of finding the qualified talent that can deliver on the promises to the community -- safe and competent care provided by qualified talent at all levels. This is something very important to Supervisor Molina. She wants to know that if she takes her mother to that facility, that her mother will receive competent care and that her mother will be safe.

The Rodriguez siblings made an excellent point during their opportunities to speak. People who use the facility are treated as though they are fungible entities, not human individuals entitled to human rights and dignity. For the most part, it appears the treatment is because people who seek treatment at that hospital are viewed as the poor and indigent because their either have no health insurance or are extremely under-insured. Compounding these indignities, it is apparent in many instances that the constituents are also viewed as being the stereotypical representative of their perceived race and therefore treated as the lowest common denominator of life.

Although one-on-one conversations with facility personnel had polite and humane sounds, there were many subtle suggestions in the way things were said or the terminology used, that the individual held the belief that the constituent was merely another of those in the baseline population. The condescensions were ignored in deference to learning more about the primary issue.

So in my capacity as an Organizational Development Consultant, it was possible to deliver information and testimony to the Board of Supervisors that was sorely needed in order to make a more informed decision about whether to close King-Drew Harbor General Hospital or keep it open. It was possible to bolster their findings in order to also help them determine which alternative is the more advantageous, license revocation or voluntary suspension. And with that bolstered information, they will be able to make deliberate in anticipation of a vote that is in the best interests of handling the issues of the hospital, the community it serves, as well as the impact on surrounding communities and populations.

It was good to once again work with a long-time professional friend. It's always good to be immediately recognized and acknowledged even after nearly a decade of absence in association. Finally, it was good to return to my indigenous state in doing public speaking and address in order to inform, educate, and persuade.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Moderation Challenges

Back on April 16 (2007), the previous Ethics in Recruiting group had surpassed rowdy, outrageous, and embarrassing. The "rusing" discussion post had wound itself up to more than 60 responses. There was shouting. There were insults and name calling. There was boasting and being bombastic. Those who were not too embarrassed (or frightened) to speak merely passed by to see what else had occurred. Attempts at moderation were futile. Compounding that was the fact that each time a moderation post was made, it was deleted by a back office person. But the members of the group (especially those who dared not speak) were wondering why there was no moderation happening and also wondering what the outcome of the riot would be.

Questions were asked of the moderator. But the answers did not come. Why? Because they kept being deleted. The explanation was that the words were deemed "messages that are distracting and of no relevance to others in the community." In a final attempt to close the hottest issue for recruiters discussion, acknowledge the efforts of those who summarized our understandings, congratulate those who participated in an online mediation, and just generally bring us to closure in order to move to a new subject, the following words were posted to the group. None of the group members are aware of these words. Perhaps they will come here and read this case study on moderation and thereby learn what happened, why there was total silence.

While sanity and professionalism was restored, they were short-lived. Order cannot survive when it is constantly subverted and support for restoring orderliness does not exist. Ask any administrator, instructor, manager, or any other person who leads a group. If there is no support from the top for positive initiatives, no matter how valiant they are, they are doomed and chaos will reign.

When management fails to support bringing order and maintaining it, the question that needs to be asked and answered is "Why do you want disorder and support it?" So this is a case study of how to bring failure to one small part of an organization. When this happens, the remainder of the structure will slowly but surely follow. But this is part of the missing conversation and closure of the "rusing" thread:

Posted April 16 at approximately 9:00 PM

Now that my blood pressure is down, I've been able to read the new posts to the "rusing" thread. It was good that a more careful reading was done before speaking aloud.

Yes, we did go silent for a time. That was the time when I privately asked Laura to do a summary of the new elements that came out of the discussion and to start a new thread where those concepts could reside. But Laura has a day job and it takes precedence over an ERE discussion board. But I did put the group on notice that the summary was coming.

What also happened during that lull was Tony, Steve, Letourneau and Albucker and I had a private conversation. In striving to protect privacy of all the parties, only three of the men were included in the lengthy exchanges that occurred, as Albucker pointed out. I asked these men to do a summary of what had been concluded but forgot to assign a specific person to do so.

It looks like when the four men had time, three of them not only did an excellent job of summarizing but also openly expressed their ability to see the others' perspectives and to come to conciliation on many levels.

For all of this I am very glad. What needed to happen was to allow people to express theirselves without the extras we were initially getting. It appears we all have grown from this experience and are on good ground for having talks.

Tony points a finger and says I revived the rusing thread. It seems he forgot about the various conversations and the requests for summaries. I do not have access to the moderation tools; Brendan [a back office employee] does.

At the moment, perhaps that's a good thing because when I saw all the posts being made after I requested that the thread be closed, I would have deleted without reading. There would have been a loss, as I now see after having an opportunity to read the words. But perhaps the tools need to be returned to me because it seems Brendan already has quite a bit on his hands.

The requested summaries were done. They were excellent. The expressions of conciliation were made publicly and accepted. We achieved harmony and camaraderie (maybe that's a bit much, but we all agreed to work together). That was healthy. Thank you.

Now. About those phoney resumes. Let's deal with those another day and in another thread.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Survey: Diverse Candidate Selection

I would appreciate your help in gathering information about attitudes toward women candidates for senior executive positions and seats on Boards of Directors, and a sampling of factors that impede their attaining those positions.

To that end, I've created a poll that consists of 6 questions and one narrative input. Your completing this short survey would be greatly appreciated. It requires you to choosing between two women candidates for a senior-level executive position and another two women being considered for a seat on the Board of Directors.

The survey should take about 5 minutes and expires on June 20. Please click here to take survey.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

EEOC News - Work-Life Issues; Minimum Wage

A couple of hours ago, the folks at Starbucks wondered why I stood on top of a table and cheered. (Well, I wasn't quite that demonstrative!) Yes, I had my very own personal celebration. It's because I've been a feminist since the 1960s. I've been an affirmative activist since the '60s. And I'm on record as being in favor of an increase in the minimum wage so that it returns to being a livable wage.

And a few hours ago I read the news from today's Employer Advisor E-Alert. That service announced that EEOC has made a ruling in regard to discrimination that touches on work/life balance when it comes to FMLA, caregiving responsibilities on either side of the age gap, acknowledgement (I said acknowledgement) of the fact that women are indeed discriminated against when it comes to caregiving responsibilities and career advancement opportunities, protection of women from being passed over for wage increases and promotion, recognition of discriminatory issues related to men and women of color.

And (oh yes) the Federal minimum wage will increase to $7.25 over the next 26 months. Yes, that is definitely a long time and the cost of living will have skyrocketed again so that the net increase will be a decrease. But at least there is some type of increase instead of stagnation.

That's a mouthful! That's a whale of a lot of progress. That's so much that I won't even attempt to summarize the news. I'll simply allow the news blurb to speak for itself: Workplace Bias: EEOC Spotlights Work/Family Balance in New Guidance.

Employer Advisor will have a full report on these matters in an upcoming issue of the California Employer Advisor. I'll be more than glad to keep you apprised. I might even dance on top of the tables at Starbucks next time!

EDITOR'S NOTE, August 3, 2007:
The Managing Editor at ERI contacted me today to advise that the treatment of the news blurb was use of copyrighted material. Today's edit will allow you to read the article via the link to the public content on ERI's website.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Enforcement of Employment Standards

One of the considerations in Organizational Development is examining employee behavior as it could and does affect corporate image. Many elements are part of the company brand. I've spoken of and identified several of them several times in the past. There's attire, speech, socialization skills, emotional maturity, creativity, problem solving, and leadership, to name a few. And while it's important to allow willing workers to earn a living through gainful employment, whether they have an impairment or not, there is a time to draw the line.

The courts have drawn that line in recent months in regard to business employees. As yet, they are silent with regard to treatment of personnel in an industry that is self governed and where the individuals are self employed.

There have been several rulings on ADA mental illness cases where the plaintiffs said they should have been given more leeway than others because of the unique health condition from which they suffer -- paranoid schizophrenia in one case and bi-polar disorder in another. The plaintiffs argued that they should be protected from punishment because they suffer from a disease just as an alcoholic or drug user suffers from a disease.

In the cases of Sista v. CDC IXIS, So. District of NY. No. 02-Civ. 3740 (2/15/05) and Mammone v. Harvard College, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, 446 Mass. 657 (5/12/06), the courts were consistent in their rulings. Egregious misconduct is no excuse under any circumstances and the person should be terminated. A recent criminal case, People v. Reynolds considered the death penalty as punishment for the defendant where the situation was very similar. In Reynolds, the defendant also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and admitted that he knew he had done horrid wrongs for which he deserved punishment. The judge agreed and sentenced him to death because Reynolds was very congizant of the gravity and reality of his acts.

Employment Industry Code of Ethics

This is leading us to look at the codes of ethics that are promulgated by our various employment industry organizations. There are words that talk about how the member will adhere to the rules. However, in none of the codes that I have reviewed do I see any language about what should be done if the rules are violated. So it appears there are no consequences except loss of membership, which is not really a grave loss if you play out the thought process a bit. Membership can be volulntarily discontinued by a member at any time and for any reason. And if the person is not already a member of the organization (or any of the several in the industry), then the attitude will be a very flippant "So what?"

Additionally, there does not seem to be anything that talks about what to do when a non-member performs an act that is unethical and/or harms some member of the unsuspecting consuming public, be it a candidate or a business of any size. What should be done in a situation like this goes unanswered. Who holds this representative of the employment industry accountable for their malfeasance is a matter that goes silently into the dark of night.

Using Mammone as a Barometer

With many interruptions, I've been reading the Mammone case where the court performs its analysis by discussing one case on which plaintiff heavily relied in arguing that he should not have been fired, Garrity. The court says of Garrity, ". . . we conclude that Garrity applies to all employment discrimination cases brought . . ., regardless of the type of handicap underlying the workplace misconduct . . ."

The court looked very carefully at Garrity and discussed the circumstances that brought that case under judicial review. It seems Mammone should not have chosen Garrity as his key argument. Although the reading of the above cite seems to support the argument that a person with a handicap is protected, it reasoned in just the opposite manner. The description was:

Garrity suffered from alcoholism. As part of her employment, she was asked to distribute "chits" to passengers, which could be exchanged for free drinks during flight. When some passengers declined the chits, Garrity, irresistibly compelled by her disease, kept them for herself. After her shift, she boarded a United Airlines flight, paying a significantly reduced employee fare. On the flight, Garrity exchanged the chits for free drinks, "became intoxicated and began drawing attention to herself and to the fact that she was a United Airlines employee." . . . Garrity "demanded excessive service and attention" and complained to and in front of passengers "about how United 'screws us.'" . . . United Airlines terminated Garrity for "violating company policies by accepting 'drink chits' from customers, using those chits while flying on a United pass . . . and for becoming intoxicated" while on the flight.

The court spoke of right to terminate in a situation where there is workplace misconduct (emphasis supplied) and said in one of its citations,

("'[A]n employer . . . must be permitted to terminate its employee on account of egregious misconduct, irrespective of whether the employee is handicapped.' . . . [A] handicapped employee who engages in conduct significantly inimical to the interests of his employer and in violation of the employer's rules . . . is not a 'qualified handicapped person' within the meaning of G. L. c. 151B").

What Manner of Enforcement Where There Is No Employer

In the Garrity case, as with Mammone and Sista, there was an employer, a business, that had in place a code of conduct and could enforce the letter of the employee handbook by terminating the employee for going against the rules. However, a solo practitioner has no such rule book. And if they are not a member of any of the various employment industry associations, they have nothing except their conscience to hold them to any standard of good conduct. In a situation where there is misconduct -- of any type -- who should enforce the rules of conduct?

A Possible Model

The Direct Selling Association has a Code of Ethics that is quite comprehensive. It includes a definition of how to file a complaint for misconduct and the procedure to be used in that instance. If there are any other Codes that have similar provisions, I'd like to know of them. But that's the Direct Selling Association and not any of the employment (or recruiting and staffing) organizations. Still, sales has such a common denominator in regard to recruiting, it makes one wonder why the DSA's code was not used as a model by any of SHRM, NAPS, CPS, or ASA.

Online Conduct and Representation of Industry

Additionally, there is online life. The sole practitioner has a unique space in the employment industry. They are a representative of their own self. Simultaneously, they are a representative of the industry. Although there are times when it seems as though we are simply a lone individual sitting quietly with our thoughts, of one sort or another, in front of a computer, that is not really the case. It may seem we can say and do whatever we want. It is very easy to forget that although we keyboard our words in the solitude of our home office at our computer, the words are going out to the Web where however we conduct ourselves is a matter of public knowledge and scrutiny. We are our own representative, creating our own brand and reputation. And where that repesentation is harmful to the standards of the industry, who steps in and enforces its rules?

But that question presumes that there is an industry standard, a norm, a bar that is held at a certain elevation and everyone in the industry is aware of it, is trained about it, is held to that standard in their doing all manner of business, and completely understand that standard and course of doing business.

Perhaps we should just avert our eyes when one in the employment industry deviates from what is our personal standard of conduct. Unfortunately, that act is a form of tacit confirmation of behavior. It's feeding and rewarding misconduct. But then, if we reward and commend egregious behavior, are we then changing the standards by which industry "professionals" should be held? After all, leading by example is a very real management concept that is used in all forms of life.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

When the Teens Grow Up

I just found a link to a site called Delete Cyberbullying. It's related to McGruff, the take a bite out of crime dog. The discussion relates to cyberbullying as a teen phenomenon. Okay. I'll allow that cyberbullying has a higher incidence among the teen population by virtue that they are online more than adults and are in chat rooms and using IM far more frequently than adults.

But the age of majority throughout the United States is 18 years. In some states, it's lower. In many states, it should be much higher. Oh, I guess that relates to Emotional Intelligence, which is an entirely different subject and concept altogether. The point is, eventually those teens reach the age of majority and venture into the workforce. As time passes, somehow these former teen bullies manage to stumble and finesse their ways into management positions. However, their bullying habits have traveled with them and been visited on many along the path to today's point in time. Some are now discussion board bullies (whether they want to believe it or not) and some are abusive managers.

Too bad McGruff doesn't have any suggestions about what adults can do to control the destructive patterns of adult bullies. However, they do have a white paper that highlights findings of a Harris Poll study and is called Cyberbullying Executive Summary-2007. That's a good first step. And the full report (Teens and Cyberbullying) is something that will require extrapolation and analogy (of which all we adult professionals are capable) but is well defined and lends us additional explanation of what can be done about our bullies of whatever age.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Drawing on a Point

Earlier this month, I talked about the major resistance that the recruiting population expressed at seeing analogies in politics compared with corporate and recruiting matters. There was one small voice among the shouters, amid the threats and bullying, that acknowledged that politics do have an impact on the direction in which our economy is headed and their impact on job market numbers. One voice out of nearly 50 is such a pitiful showing. (I weary myself with those musings.)

There's an article on today's AOL that seems to drive home, in exquisite form, why the Bush press conference has so much significance in regard to jobs and employment, especially in relation to the direction in which the economy is headed.

American Optimism at New Low, Poll Finds talks about the matter that is affecting men and women, blacks (actually, minorities of all colors) and whites. The survey indicators continue to plummet. One of the reasons why is because people are seeing that their financial security, job opportunities, and other things related to offshore spending rather than reinvesting in America are shortchanging everyone's viability.

The other thing people are seeing is that too much time is being spent on a situation (Iraq) that is not a domestic issue. Still another and even more compelling fault cited is poor leadership.

The reason women and minorities express concern and disdain for current policies, according to the AP article, is "numbers for women and minorities result largely because both groups tend to be more Democratic, less supportive of the war and more vulnerable to economic downturns, analysts say."

The latter is the essential reason. The article does an excellent job of fair reporting by virtue of the fact that interviewees who were cited are from both major parties, one even noted as being a conservative Republican, but still expressing the same dissatisfaction.

Unfortunately, this month's survey was of a scant 1,000 respondents over a three-day period. While 300 people per day is a good number, it is difficult for 1,000 to be a truly accurate sampling of a few billion in national population. Still, this survey has been running since 2003. The statisticians are using a good margin for error number and the results are steady. The numbers compare and contrast to others used in similar surveys. Thus, I would say even though the sampling is small, it is reliable, realistic and deserves our attention to the issues called into question.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bending the Rules

That Mullins case, where the fellow lost three jobs for essentially the same sins -- cheating on expense resports and forging chits in order to get reimbursed. It was found that he cost the state and taxpayers more than $6,000 in false expenses.

Now it could be argued that $6,000 is a paltry sum, especially when governments are spending millions and billions in dollars. Why would they bother with something as small as $6,000? Because it adds up, is one reason. Because this fellow was chronic at it is another reason. Because he admitted to having lost two previous jobs for the same types of acts. Because eventually the public absorbs these frauds in the form of higher prices of goods and services while wages stagnate.

Additionally, Mullins brings up so much in the area of ethical practices. It brings to mind several case studies that will be touched upon in this writing. Eventually, they'll be drawn out a bit more. But today I want to consider some of the tangents to Mullins and consider whether the rules should be bent in some situations. We need to think about whether rules are written in stone or whether their interpretation is governed by the extenuating circumstances.

Padding the Account

First, Mullins admitted to padding his expense account and cheating on expenses. He made long trips outside of his district that appeared to be not related to his work at all, yet he charged the mileage and associated costs to his expense account.

How many have used the trip to the conference as an excuse to have a family visit and charged all of the costs back to the company, without making an effort to parse out which was actually business and which was social? I remember having a very long conversation with a friend some 25 years ago who bundled all of the costs and thought nothing of charging the company for the entire package. Her thinking was it would be dumb not to do so. Why should she incur the cost when she was already there and probably would not have gone except for the company business. So she just stayed a little longer and had the company pay for the extra time.

But this also brings up a comment in an article I read recently. It encouraged managers to go out of their way to increase morale by buying some special treat for the entire department and then charging the cost to miscellaneous expenses or the stationery budget. Pizza for the department isn't two packages of paper. Dinner at the Thai restaurant isn't toner for the copier. Maybe there should be an office morale or a discretionary spending allowance.

In thinking about that advice, I remembered the Executive Manager of a nonprofit who started off very well. But as time passed, the monthly financials received by the Board started showing strange charges to expenses that were out of proportion. Unfortunately, the Board ratified (not unanimously) having one of the Directors also serve as the Treasurer as well as the organization's accountant. He, for some reason, did not see the strange charges. As it turned out, the EM was pulling money from the organization. After a huge scandal and a very long and thorough investigation by the City Council, the EM was asked to resign.

But the Treasurer and the other Directors should have seen those monthly expenses and asked more questions. And after the second month of questionable expenses, it seems the Treasurer/Accountant/Director should have resigned from two positions.

Hotel Stays

Mullins stayed overnight in cities and forged hotel receipts but he actually slept in his car and incurred no hotel expenses whatsoever.

Would this still be considered unethical if instead of Mullins it was a friend of his who had lost his apartment and needed a place to stay for a short time until he could get his bearings? Would Mullins have needed to get authorization to help out his friend? It was a benevolence. Should we leave a friend to the wolves because we can't fudge on the expense account?

Another Example

There was a case of a woman who was suffering domestic abuse. She siphoned funds out of the company expense account in order to help herself manage. When she was discovered, the matter was shushed up. She was hired as a manager at another high profile company but not put in charge of finances. When there's domestic abuse or some extraordinary circumstance, should an exception be made?

About the Rules

Rules and standards are made for a reason. Should they be bent under certain circumstances? How compelling should the situation be if the answer is "Yes" or is the answer always a resolute "No?"

Business Background Checks

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Evaluating the Evaluator

There are times when we need to either evaluate a candidate before extending an offer or do a reference check on them in order to learn what others who have experience in working or interacting with them have determined about the person's character and personality. These are people whose observations have validity. Were this not the case, they would not hold the positions that they do or they would not have been offered as a reference. Some positions are so sensitive, have so much public interaction and focus that a psychological evaluation may even be appropriate. So we send the candidate to take a psychological assessment and rely on the clinical results.

Sometimes we get feedback from these experts that is unexpected. We're startled when we learn from a previous manager that the candidate seemed lazy and unreliable, had a propensity to speak in unbridled terms. Or an associate tells of incidents wherein the candidate seems to have an over-inflated sense of self. And the psychologist reports that the candidate has strange, repressed ideations.

Given the events of Virginia Tech, it's wise to take these evaluations seriously. But it is also wise to take the words with a grain of salt and question assessments that are 180 degrees in opposition to what was observed during the several in-person interview sessions. It is entirely possible that the evaluator is the one who is flawed, not the candidate.

In providing this counsel, it is given with quite a number of experiences and reliable references. But let us do this examination in a disciplined manner. Dr. Sam Vaknin is an expert on narcissism and in psychology. He discusses the lack of reliability of mental health evaluations that are offered by those who are essentially not qualified to dispense them but nevertheless do so. Says, Dr. Sam, "Mental health professionals are human. Many of them suffer from mental disorders. Many of them chose their profession simply in order to to be able to cope with their own deficiencies and problems."

Dr. Splash

Indeed, there was one psychiatrist (who we will call "Dr. Splash") suffered from various deficiencies and regularly inflicted them on patients, staff, and contractors. In order to live up to Doctor's expectations and gain his approval, the staff would adopt his flair for saying work was done in slipshod fashion and he should not be required to pay full price. Or that the work was not delivered on time, therefore, he should not be required to pay expedited processing fees.

As time passed, the truth of the matter became clear. Doctor sent out work done in a sloppy manner that required three to four times as much effort as usual. Doctor's evaluations were questionable but his position caused staff to second guess theirselves and fall back on bad decisions that resulted in costly mistakes, delays, or needless duplication of effort. Doctor would intentionally phrase things in such a fashion that would cast a negative pall on the person being evaluated.

The question of patient impropriety arose. Doctor's association with the truth began to be questioned. Professional colleagues would affirm that they knew him but would thereafter become silent.

Of this sort of mental health professional, Dr. Sam says, "Unfortunately, some of them are not sufficiently conscientious. They engage in the delicate art of therapy long before they overcome their own problems.

"They bring their problematic, even sick, selves into the therapeutic setting and, in doing so, they aggravate the patient's issues."

In fact in the example of Dr. Splash, exacerbating his own problems as well as those of his patients was routine. Since he operated his own practice, there was no one to actually supervise his work. His habits created profound insecurities in nearly everyone associated with him. Although I am unaware of the end of Dr. Splash's story, it seems his practices became so widespread that he eventually drove himself out of business. His record became very obvious and people learned to hold him to firm quality standards that had no room for equivocation.

Again, let me refer this examination to the explanations of Dr. Sam wherein he says, "Analysts are supposed to work to solve their own problems prior to practicing. Therapists are supposed to work under supervision and to refer and defer to these supervisors. An outside perspective is often very helpful to them. But not all therapists and psychiatrists adopt these professional standards and work methods." In the case of Dr. Splash, he had the professional backup of those associated with Medi-Cal and Medi-Care as well as other industry and professional associations. It was the state and federal agencies that began to see the flaws in his practice.

Dr. Splish

Dr. Splish is also a noted psychologist. His specialty is in personality assessments and he has published some very interesting pronouncements. It was interesting to review some of the tests and assessments he has prepared. A casual reading revealed nothing outrageous. In fact, everything seemed to fall into a very reasonable sequence. But that was the problem. Without doing any critical reading of the assessments, the fact that the questions were skewed and structured in such a way that they actually exhibited bias in many instances that tended to disqualify candidates of color.

The other interesting thing about Dr. Splish is his propensity to perform unsolicited psychological and psychiatric evaluations of people over the phone. It has been indicated that he shares these evaluations with others who have relied on the information to make business decisions about associations with the individuals who were unsuspectingly evaluated.

As with Dr. Splash, Dr. Splish suffers from a number of unresolved insecurities. They are revealed in small snippets of rueful statements splattered here and there during conversation. It sometimes seems as though he uses his negative evaluations as a tool to lash out at those who he perceives to be outdistancing him and thereby compensate for what Dr. Sam has called "insecurities." With this revelation, you have to wonder whether it is actually safe to come in contact with Dr. Splish at all, much less rely on his evaluations. It is safe, but only in small doses and for a limited amount of time. The heart of dealing with him effectively is to draw a standard that must be met and not equivocate on the bar. Remind him that there is a standard. Acknowledge expertise and valid insight when appropriate and thank him.

How to Handle the Evaluation

What we should learn from the examples of Dr. Splash and Dr. Splish is that not all psychologists or psychiatrists, even those with long lists of letters and professional associations after (or associated with) their names should be looked to as ones who dispense gospel. There is one example of a sound psychological / psychiatric professional I have found. Noted for his work as the foresic psychiatrist in the "Son of Sam" case, Dr. Jay Ziskin's words stand the test of critical evaluation. He is incisive and has no axe to grind. He deals with the facts and disciplined principles and uses them to provide an accurate assessment.

What this means for us as we look to mental health experts for information relating to hiring decisions is we need to listen carefully to what is being said. We need to ask questions when the evaluation does not match what we have already seen. We should not be enamored with the person's credentials. Rather we should also be evaluating the one who is speaking in order to determine whether they have some type of bias, whether they are capable of making an impartial determination based on proven standards. We should make an attempt to ascertain whether the person who has performed the evaluation had authorization to do so. Finally, it is very important that we determine whether the evaluator comes to us with a solid foundation and has used reliable industry resources to validate their work. We should not be afraid to seek a second opinion.

Human Resource Library: Administration & Policies