Moving Content to a New Blog Site…

cant change the direction of the wind

Thanks to all who have followed and read my posts over the years. I hope the advice and suggestions on this blog have been helpful to your professional and maybe even personal life. But a slightly different wind is filling my sails and I’m making the necessary adjustments to take me into new (and maybe deeper) waters.

Here’s the story.

Last fall, I became a client of master marketing expert, David Newman (www.doitmarketing.com). Learning from David is like trying to drink from a fire hose. He offers so much marketing knowledge and wisdom, especially for speakers, seminar leaders, coaches, consultants, and the like. Working along with David is speaker coach extraordinaire, Theresa French, who focuses on helping current speakers fine-tune their message and marketing.  She’s a genius. While reviewing my content and speaking topics, Theresa said:

“What you offer is more along the lines of leadership engagement, positioning and influence, not just career strategies, though that’s a small part of it. You’re going to have to aim much higher if you want meeting professionals to bring you in for keynotes and seminars, and getting big gigs in corporations….Focus your website content on association meeting professionals and corporate meeting professionals, and focus your blog content on association members and corporate employees.”

It occurred to me instantly that I hadn’t been targeting the right demographic in my target audience. I didn’t see the forest because of the trees. My nearly 30 years experience in leadership and management positions with Fortune 100 companies, the federal government, and in academia have given me a unique perspective and insight into the subtle qualities that differentiate stellar leaders from those who just have impressive titles. That same perspective and insight also serves fast-track professionals with C-Suite aspirations. That’s what you’ll find going forward over at the new blog.

In the majority of posts on this blog, I’ve wrapped engagement, positioning, influence, and “converting” strategies with a “career advice” wrapper. Too many people worry about the correct wording of cover letters, résumés, and interview replies and consider that career advice. That is SO NOT THE ISSUE. Those are all secondary tactics that must be subordinate to the overarching strategy that takes you a much higher goal.

So, if you’re looking for paradigm-shifting, jaw-dropping ideas and strategies to take you far beyond where you are today, go on over to the new leadership blog at leadershipbuiliding.wordpress.com. See you there very soon!!

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5 Reasons Why “We Don’t Hire Outside Speakers” is Bad Policy for Your Members and Association

same old thinking same old results

It’s a mantra heard (or read in email) regularly by speaking professionals: “We don’t hire outside speakers for our conference.” That justification is totally understandable for many small conferences that must rely largely on the efforts of volunteers responsible for nearly everything, from selecting a meeting site to food menus. Regardless of the association conference size and scope, continued professional development remains a top priority for attendees.

The 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report (Marketing General Incorporated) received responses from 870 executives and 1,005 unique associations that revealed the top four reasons members join professional associations and attend conferences:

  • Networking with others in the field
  • Continuing education
  • Access to specialized and/or current information
  • Learning best practices in their profession

Given (1) the above member priorities and (2) associations struggling with gaining new members, retaining existing members, and engaging all members as mentioned in the above-referenced report, the elephant in the room seems to be ignored in the conversation.

A Problem with Using Only Members as Conference Presenters

Three of those four top responses (I would say all) involve breakout sessions, keynote addresses, panel discussions, Q & A sessions, pre- and post-conference seminars and workshops. And what happens at most conferences? Many of the speaking slots are filled with the same association member presenters, some (perhaps many, depending on the conference) of whom aren’t interesting. Why aren’t they interesting? Because their content-only, busy Powerpoint slides distance and disconnect them from the audience who expects to be informed, educated, and enlightened in a manner that is also interesting. It’s never the audience’s fault for being bored; it’s the speaker’s fault for not being interesting.

These presenters often aren’t aware of their communication blind spots that affect the way they connect (i.e., being interesting) with larger audiences they are trying to inform, educate, and enlighten because such experts often excel in conversations, not presentations. In fact, the most important element to be built in to conference presentations is enhancing the experience of the listening audience. Wrap those facts and numbers in a story or anecdote, and they have a better chance of being embedded in audience memory. Show a Powerpoint slide with tables and charts, and that information is forgotten as soon as the next slide appears on the screen.

Many of these member presenters simply don’t know how to tell stories to make the facts interesting, memorable, and pertinent.

Bringing in Outside Speaking Experts

It’s no surprise that meeting and conference professionals hold one of the most stressful jobs today. I have several friends who are meeting professionals and have personally witnessed how hard they work when it’s showtime for them (I’ve also worked on conference committees for national conferences). Having to juggle a variety of tasks involved with large-scale meetings and conferences (not to mention doing it all with fewer resources) is today a Herculean effort that demands patience, comfortable shoes, a knack for balancing necessary expenditures with return on investment (ROI).

A critical factor for such large conferences is outside speaker selection; someone who can set the opening tone and tenor for the meeting, provide seminars/workshops with a perspective or insight external to the group collective wisdom, or bottle up the excitement and energy from the conference to finish the closing ceremony on a high note. That’s a tall order for a speaking professional, but that’s why they get hired: to shift paradigms, motivate audiences to action and, as a by-product, promote association value and the value of membership in that association.

I recently heard of a conference that stated it doesn’t pay outside speakers or expenses, but would provide a discount on conference registration. There would be 3,000 attendees paying $1800 for a three-day conference, bringing in $5.4 million just in registration fees alone. Other lesser sources of income might be realized from selling exhibit hall space, bookstore sales, subscriptions for streaming conference sessions for those unable to attend, etc.

“Discount on registration fee” might be OK for people presenting breakout or poster sessions, or serving on a panel because (1) their employer is likely covering expenses and registration; and (2) speaking at conferences is an infrequent and minor responsibility. But what self-employed business owners or consultants who want to present and have great ideas to share with attendees? Registration fee discounts may not amount to much incentive for them.

Coffee and Bagels Cost More Than a Top-Notch Speaker

A top-notch, non-celebrity speaking professional’s fee will fall between 0.002% and 0.004% of that $5.4 million registration revenue. That’s it! I’ve done the math: The conference organizers will spend more on one morning’s coffee, bagels, and pastries for 2,000 or 3,000 attendees than for a great speaker who can take the audience to the next level of their personal or professional lives. In fact, they’ll spend a lot more if the conference is held in a “tier 1” conference location such as New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, or Los Angeles. If you’re stressing about whether attendees prefer blueberry or cinnamon bagels, you (and your organization) are missing the value of what’s really going to feed attendees well beyond breakfast.

So, where’s the problem seeing the value difference here? Seems to be a disconnect between the parties “owning” the conference and those implementing the task-heavy responsibilities to pull everything off without any hitches. All too often the person delivering the “we don’t hire outside speakers” news is a hard-working conference committee volunteer who is just following handed-down protocol from previous years.

But not always.

After inquiring about a main-stage speaking opportunity for a large national association conference, last week a board member serving as conference chair responded to me with an email that included a link to the “speaker abstract submission form.” Most professional speaker/experts don’t fill out such forms since the decision to hire them for the specific function they will serve is usually much higher up in the organization.

I replied back to this board member with: “Is there a different process for selecting main-stage speakers? I’m sure that if Tony Robbins, Oprah, or former GE CEO Jack Welsh were interested in addressing your conference, a different process would be involved…” Her succinct reply: “ALL soliciting presenters must submit an abstract…”

Well, there you go. Can you picture Oprah filling in that form? That was either a clueless response or I was getting the brush-off from this board member, which is too bad for all potential speaker experts outside this association who have something of value to share with attendees.

“We don’t pay outside speakers, but you’ll get so much exposure…”

That’s a typical justification given for paying your own travel expenses, registration, and speaking for free. A non-compensated speaking gig can work in a target-rich environment, such as a conference hall full of meeting professionals or CEOs, but for the most part, the promise of “so much exposure” reminds me of a cold-weather warning: “Exposure kills people.” (One speaking expert I know when promised “more exposure” told a conference organizer: “I don’t need exposure…after all, you called me…”). You can’t deposit “exposure” in the bank, either.

So, lets look at five reasons why a “we don’t hire outside speakers” policy is a bad one for members and associations.

1.            It smacks of the “IKEA effect”

The “IKEA effect” (named after the Swedish furniture manufacturer that requires purchasers to assemble their purchased furniture with a few simple household tools) is a cognitive bias where consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. It’s a variation of the “Not Invented Here” syndrome. Behavioral economics researchers found out that people become smitten with their IKEA creations. Even when parts are missing and the items are assembled incorrectly, customers in the IKEA study still loved the fruits of their labors, Frankenstein creations notwithstanding.

The research conducted by Yale University and Harvard Business School also discovered such a condition is widespread in business. Organizations have this propensity to fall in love with what they create, often bypassing the step in the creativity/self-assessment process that asks: “Are we really that good? What can we do better or different this time?” (“Do we really need that extra nut and bolt to put this bookcase together? Nah…”) All too often they seek counsel from their own internal wisdom, which just seems to affirm their “awesomeness.”

When that attitude is adopted, it starts the downward spiral into becoming a…

2.            Closed-loop information and idea exchange

When a policy of not hiring outside speaker experts for conferences is in place year after year, the conference is at risk for degenerating into a closed-loop information and idea exchange; same breakout speakers, same panelists, which leads to…

3.            Idea inbreeding

When people’s ideas become more similar with little diversity within a community, a type of “inbreeding” of ideas happens whereby committee, board, and team decisions become impoverished, leading to “group think.” Such a phenomenon is well documented in organizational psychology. Because we all adapt to the environment in which we find ourselves, without the stimulus of conscious external intervention – something to punctuate the association or conference equilibrium – we all adjust to the newfound surroundings. We reach a new level of stasis (stability), which is a state of “same old, same old.”

Without the interjection of outside thinking, tangential ideas, or total paradigm shifts, the closed community will soon suffer from…

4.            Member value degradation

Remove those paradigm-shifting ideas, strategies, and approaches offered by speaker experts outside the association that challenge attendee and member assumptions (and stasis), and members will likely start to: (1) question the value of their (or their employer’s) investment in membership in that association; and (2) forego attending future conferences if the real and perceived value is lacking or absent.

And when members perceive little or no value to membership in the organization, then what’s left is…

 

 

 

5.            Association value degradation

And when members ― the lifeblood of any association ― start heading for the life boats, it’s difficult to stave off the looming titanic disaster.

Given these previous considerations…

What Impact Does Such a Policy NOW Have on Your Conference Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Event (ROE)?

The answer is obvious.

But it’s not easy breaking out of an association comfort zone; some associations are comfortable with the status quo. But, how else does the oyster cultivate the pearl without a single grain of sand (the intervention by something external) to act as an irritant? ROI provides some level of quantitative feedback on the financial investment for the conference, but what about ROE? ROE is the pearl to be cultivated: Your outside speaker expert is the grain of sand needed ― the necessary external intervention ― for your conference and association to cultivate its own pearl.

Not many meeting professionals have heard of ROE. Ira Kerns, Managing Director of GuideStar Research and Meeting Metrics, described the term “Return on Event” in 1991 to explain the perceived benefits expected before a conference or meeting with post-event results from various measurements and attendee feedback.

I use the term “extended ROE” or eROE in short form to better explain what happens. Extended ROE is the value conference attendees take with them (and even more so when a speaking expert provides post-conference followup) when they return to their work environments. When they begin implementing those mind-shifting strategies, jaw-dropping ideas, and insightful solutions presented by outside speaker experts that YOU brought in for your conference, YOU look the hero. And in turn, so does the association sponsoring the conference.

A strong eROE usually indicates the conference event has a long tail; in other words, its value remains high as measured over time after the event through what’s termed the “extended chain of impact.” Are attendees still implementing ideas they got during the conference and through any speaker expert followup three or six months later? If so, that’s HUGE eROE. (You can read more in my white paper entitled, “How Return on Event (ROE) Boosts Member Value, Member Retention Rates, and Member Engagement” on the Member’s Page at my website.)

And Finally: It’s Not a “Speaking Fee”

Associations don’t hire outside speaker experts just to dole out information; Google will feed everyone with free information forever and a day. Associations that do hire external speaker experts do so for their pattern-breaking insights that make them agents for change. If you continue to view the “speaking fee” as an expense item, then you have a misconception of what it truly represents: It’s an investment in moving your audience to the next level of their personal or professional potential while also bringing more value to membership and your organization. The old expression “you get what you pay for” is rings true for conference speakers; free could just turn out to be the most expensive choice you can make for many reasons.

Next time, skip the blueberry bagels for one morning and put that money into hiring a speaking expert who can provide insightful breakthroughs to success for attendees. There’s no time like the present to start cultivating that pearl for your next conference.

 

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© 2018. Donn LeVie Jr. STRATEGIES. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint and distribute is freely given so long as the information remains complete and unchanged in its current form and the following information (with links) is included.

Speaker, success expeditor, positioning/influence strategist, and award-winning author Donn LeVie Jr., has nearly three decades in management and leadership positions for Fortune 100 companies (Phillips 66, Motorola, Intel Corp.), academia (University of Houston Downtown College), government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA), and is the author of two award-winning professional success strategy books. 

Donn LeVie Jr is the speaking expert you want to help elevate your conference ROI and extend the Return on Event for enhancing association value and member value. His E.P.I.C. RESULTS™: The Power of Leadership Presence program teaches new and up-and-coming leaders the Four Pillars of Leadership Presence: Engagement, Positioning, Influence, and Conversion that help them turn any and all decision makers into advocates, allies, champions, clients, or customers.

Donn is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) where he holds the “Certified Fraud Examiner” designation. Donn holds certifications from George Washington University in “Managing Projects in Organizations” and “Project Risk Assessment.”

Additional Resources

  • Gluten-free positioning and influence strategies for the hungry on Donn’s blog.
  • Get cool micro-ideas on Twitter to accelerate your business/professional goals.
  • Tap into Donn’s 500+ LinkedIn
  • Download “7 Reasons Why You Should Hire Donn for Your Next Event.”
  • Download Donn’s Speaker One-Sheet

Want to have a short conversation with Donn on how he can help make your next event a huge hit with attendees? Schedule a call with Donn today!

Conference Professionals as Social Justice Warriors: THE FINAL CHAPTER (Part 2 of 2)

justice league2

There’s a Better Way to “Screen” Conference Presenters than with Inclusion/Social Identity Check Boxes

(Be sure to read “Conference Professionals as Social Justice Warriors: Is This a Good Thing?” first.)

Not long ago, if you were a female musician who wanted to audition for an open orchestra position, you were at a distinct disadvantage, especially if it was for any of the more renowned European orchestras. In 1970, fewer than 5% of orchestras had any female musicians, largely due to strong gender bias exhibited by old-school male orchestra conductors. In the early 1980s, auditions behind screens were becoming more common. These “blind auditions” focused attention on the music performance, and not on visual first impressions that would color the entire audition, often well before the musician removed the instrument from its case.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell details the story of classical musician Abbie Conant (see photo). After applying for eleven trombone vacancies in orchestras across Europe, she heard only from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, who invited her to audition. As luck would have it, the auditions were held in a Munich museum because construction had not been completed on the orchestra’s cultural center. A blind audition was used for the first round of auditions because another applicant was the son of a standing Munich Philharmonic member.

Of the the 33 applicants selected, Abbie was number sixteen. Long story short: When it was her turn to audition, she nailed it so well that the committee sent the remaining 17 applicants home without hearing them. The conductor, Sergiu Celibidache was ecstatic, until Abbie appeared from behind the screen to accept the congratulations, Maestro Celibidache was mildly apoplectic. He believed that a woman could not play the trombone; however, the Munich Philharmonic had two women (a violinist and oboist) only because those were “feminine” instruments. The trombone is considered a “masculine” instrument thanks to the imagery associated with military marching bands of Old Europe.

Abbie passed two additional rounds of auditions, and was hired, but faced continue bias from Celibidache (probationary periods for no reason, demotion to second trombone despite her excellent performances, false claims of unprofessionalism). She eventually had to take him and the Munich Philharmonic to court, where she prevailed on every count. Eight years later, she was reinstated to first trombone.

Here’s the point: Maestro Celibidache, her chief complainer, had listened to her play some of the most difficult trombone repertoire ever written, and “under conditions of perfect objectivity and in that unbiased moment, he had said, ‘That’s who we want!’ and sent the remaining trombonists packing,” writes Gladwell.

But when Celibidache and the committee got their first look at Abbie after that first-round audition, all those age-old prejudices and biases reared their ugly heads, and began to shove aside the amazing audible first impression of her performance. Now, imagine if Abbie had to audition without a screen and in full view of Celibidache and the committee: What chance do you think she would have had moving on being a female auditioning on a “masculine” instrument? What if she had to check the “gender” box or the “audition instrument” box first before anyone heard her perform?

The (average) percentage of female orchestra musicians has risen from less than 5% in 1970 to more than 50% in the country’s top 250 orchestras. The blind audition has demonstrated its viability not only for orchestras, but also for blind reviews of journal submission articles. Articles are judged solely on the merit of content, not on celebrity, reputation, author familiarity, gender, race, social identity or other checked boxes.

Many companies use blind résumé reviews (no candidate names) as a first-impression strategy to combat conscious or unconscious bias a decision maker displays if a candidate’s name reveals gender and/or racial or ethnic origin. Read Blink to learn how pervasive bias is, even when we think we believe we hold inclusive, unbiased perspectives.

You Can’t Escape Human Bias

There are certain inherent biases present in all human interactions, from auditions and job interviews, to first dates and even the field of work (or musical instrument) to which one drawn. These intrinsic assumptions are blind spots that can mask meaningful perceptions that can have significance or contribute to something greater. Harvard University social psychologist Mahzarin Banaji affirms the struggle with inherent bias:

Even the most well-intentioned person unwittingly allows unconscious thoughts and feelings to influence apparently objective decisions.

Academia is another place where bias often runs rampant. A Swedish study discovered female candidates applying for post-doctoral fellowships needed substantially more publications than male candidates to achieve the same rating, unless they were acquainted with a panel member (source: “Nepotism and Sexism in Peer Review,” Nature, 387, 341-343).

Blind Screenings for Conference Presenters Can Provide Objective Evaluation of Presentation Proposals

In an attempt to be more inclusive of members/conference presenters in certain demographics, the article entitled, “Other/Wise” in the October-November issue of CONVENE magazine proposes several ideas that claim to promote diversity and inclusion. However, as has been demonstrated in research and real life, those ideas mistakenly would create additional bias and exclusion because of the segmented categorization such check-box approaches (and mentalities) create.

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Donn LeVie Jr., CFE, is a keynote speaker, seminar presenter, and career/business positioning strategist who shows audiences how to engage, position, influence, and convert decision makers into clients and customers. Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), which was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for Careers. He also wrote Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award.

Donn is a member of the National Speakers Association, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the American Society of Association Executives. www.donnleviejrstrategies.com; donnleviejr@gmail.com.

Conference Professionals As Social Justice Warriors: Is This a Good Thing? (Part 1 of 2 Posts)

justice league

On a recent flight back to Austin from Philadelphia, I happened across an article in the October 2017 issue of CONVENE, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), entitled, “Other/Wise: You Might be Making Some People Feel Like They Don’t Belong at Your Meeting – Without Even Realizing It.

convene cover

The piece, penned by contributing editor Sarah Beauchamp from what seems to be a not-so-hidden perspective, points a finger at conference professionals for conference attendees who feel “otherized” (the author’s term). It falls on conference professionals, therefore, when the speaker/presenter/panelist lineup fails to include a particular demographic, when marketing collateral uses politically incorrect pronouns (and speakers do the same in their PowerPoint presentations), or when the choice of venue city doesn’t consider whether attendees will feel welcome and safe there.

It’s All YOUR Fault!

According to Beauchamp and those quoted in the article:

  • It’s possible that it’s YOUR fault presenters/panelists are too white and too male for some sessions, even though you may not have received any proposals from non-white, non-male individuals. (Some industries, such as microprocessor design and manufacturing, are dominated by males. From that population, a certain percentage of submitted conference proposals is accepted, and it’s likely those selected for presentation will be from males.)
  • It’s possible that it’s YOUR fault your marketing collateral uses the universal “he” a little too often.
  • It’s possible that it’s YOUR fault that conference chairs are too wide/narrow or have/don’t have side arms to accommodate different body types.
  • It’s possible that it’s YOUR fault the venue city was selected not because it had enough hotel rooms to accommodate registered attendees, a sufficiently large convention center, easy airport access, or lots of great nearby restaurants and attractions – yes, it’s YOUR fault you didn’t select another venue city where some attendees would feel welcome or safe there.
  • Even though YOUR conference registration process includes special needs requests (interpreter for hearing-impaired attendees; ramps for those who are wheelchair bound; special religious/other dietary restrictions; etc.), it’s possible that it’s YOUR fault if some black swan situation arises with someone because you didn’t anticipate the 100-year corner case.

The irony strikes early in the article as the lead-in paragraph ends with “Here’s how to open your program to your entire community” but in truth, the advice peppered throughout creates obstacles to that end.

Does Checking the “Right” Boxes Now Serve as a Filter for Presenter Selection?

Here’s my concern: Beauchamp’s piece proposes more “check the box” diversity and social justice considerations for speakers, panelists, exhibitors, and others participating in conference events. Does this suggest that the top 3 reasons people attend conferences be relegated to a secondary consideration? Attendees want to learn best practices, network with others in their industry or profession, and continue their education in breakout sessions and seminars (source: 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report).

As a keynote speaker and seminar leader who works with associations, I know they want to see and hear the very best ideas from the best available presenters who can add value to the conference and to membership in an association. For most attendees, that consideration is likely the most important – regardless of the obvious or self-identity characteristics of the presenter.

Who or what is served by requiring presenters and panelists to self-identify their gender, race, or sexual identity? Social justice criteria would seem to serve as additional filters, potentially removing from consideration an expert speaker with a trending topic or expertise that would be of interest to attendees because: (1) the speaker is male; (2) the speaker is white; (3) the speaker is something else on the “least favored” list. What we don’t want to hear is something like, “Sorry….we did not select Tony Robbins as a speaker because we already have too many white males presenting on the main stage…”

If conferences pursue that direction, do ROI, Return on Event (ROE), and other success measures become consigned to lesser importance in favor of check-box analytics? I wholeheartedly agree that ROI and ROE are “directly affected by a diverse and welcoming event,” but will social/self-identity filters end up promoting segregation rather than integration? How do you assign ROI to a check-box self-identity options?

Diversity has many different definitions based on who you ask but one thing underlies all perspectives: diversity does not automatically imply an integrated community – in the workplace, in the conference hall or breakout room, or even in large cities. Brown University’s “American Communities” Project shows that the most diverse cities in fact have the most segregated neighborhoods. Most American cities fail in balancing diversity with integration.

“…To open your program to your entire community” as stated in the lead-in paragraph means everyone enters through the same portal. But Beauchamp’s position seems to paint a different picture: one of separate and preferred lanes (filters or check boxes) set up to funnel people into the community ahead of/ or in place of others.

The Failure of Mandated Diversity Programs is Well Documented

The July-August 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review was dedicated to the topic of diversity and why most workplace diversity programs don’t work. The primary reason for failure: Force-fitting people into compliance and categories actually activates bias rather than diminishes it. Bias is part of the human being operating system; you can’t avoid it. Box checking is a type of control tactic; interestingly, the diversity approaches that were successful in the article were those not deemed “diversity initiatives.” Instead, mentoring, self-managed teams, targeted recruiting of women and minorities, and cross-training naturally and without mandated compliance brought diverse individuals together for common goals and better results. This topic is just too large to fully address in this short article but it’s clear most diversity training labeled as such doesn’t work. Harvard Kennedy School professor of public policy Iris Bohnet talks about what is working—and what is not—when it comes to building a more equitable workplace. Harvard Kennedy School professor of public policy Iris Bohnet talks about what is working—and what is not—when it comes to building a more equitable workplace in this brief video.

The successful approaches mentioned previously removed the box-checking control tactics because they used bridging social capital (across different groups), which is associated with both diversity and higher levels of innovation, whereas bonding social capital (within a homogeneous group) leads to self-segregation, and is negatively associated with diversity and innovation. Calling for “Diversity and Inclusion” criteria on presenter proposal forms (such as, “all fields must be completed” = mandatory compliance) may have the opposite effect, as has been demonstrated countless times and referenced in the HBR issue.

Leave the community portal open so that knowledge, wisdom, and experience can be made available to everyone by anyone with value to add. No labels. No mandates. No self-identity filters. Just everyone working together with bridging social capital for the benefit of all conference attendees and the organization.

(Be sure to read the followup post: Conference Professionals as Social Justice Warriors: THE FINAL CHAPTER)

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Donn LeVie Jr., CFE, is a keynote speaker, seminar presenter, and career/business positioning strategist who shows audiences how to engage, position, influence, and convert decision makers into clients and customers. Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), which was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for Careers. He also wrote Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award.

Donn is a member of the National Speakers Association, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the American Society of Association Executives.  www.donnleviejrstrategies.com; donnleviejr@gmail.com.

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For a good concise history of diversity initiatives, see The Houston Lawyer.

5 Reasons Diversity and Inclusion Fails (Forbes article).

No, You CAN’T Pick My Brain!

pick-your-brain

Like many other consultants and strategists, I’m constantly asked by friends and strangers if they can “pick my brain over lunch” or just flat out email me for my advice on a business strategy matter after reading one of my books, LinkedIn articles, or articles in a number of other publications. This subject has been addressed in many forums by many different authors and experts. In fact, there’s a book with the title, No, You Can’t Pick My Brain: It Costs Too Much! Love it…

How to Avoid Being the Smartest Consultant in the Poor House

I provide free valuable information through several channels and that information has helped lots of others. Most people would never think of asking their attorney or CPA for a brain-picking session camouflaged as a pretense for “doing lunch.” But those who don’t want to invest the time or money for expert advice, but want to get it from me for free – need to be educated or at least made aware of their bonehead requests.

One of my best friends is a realtor, and in one of our real estate investment deals, we worked through the motivated seller’s broker with an all-cash offer. My friend offered to represent our interests at no charge (he wasn’t going to get a commission because of how the deal was set up), but we insisted on paying him the standard commission anyway. We needed his expertise, and we gladly paid for it. Professional courtesy all the way around.

When conference coordinators and meeting planners hire me to provide a keynote, a seminar, or even breakout sessions, I’m always available to answer questions, sit down with an attendee to address some business issue –  I even give away many copies of my books wherever I speak. If I’m being paid for speaking over several days, those same freebies apply.

Think about this: If brain pickers already knew the answers to their questions or the solutions to their problems, they wouldn’t be engaging you. Likewise, if they didn’t have to open their wallets to get a solution to that problem, why would they need any help in the first place!

Whenever I find a brain-picking request in my in-box or on voice mail from someone local, I usually respond with a question: “Are you interested in becoming a client, or do you just want to have lunch?” For all others, I’ll ask only if they are interested in becoming a client. If not, I point them to my books, this blog, my website with free articles and downloads, my Twitter feed, etc. That usually separates the professionals from the amateurs (or, as one of my marketing/speaking coaches calls them, “broke-ass losers”).

Solving their particular problems or challenges requires an investment on their part for the expert’s wisdom, experience, and knowledge. To paraphrase the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, there’s a time for charity, and a time for business. You have to decide where to draw that line for your own purposes.

Many years ago, I agreed to meet a former co-worker for coffee to discuss a business issue he was wrestling with. An hour later, I walked away thinking: “That cup of coffee just cost me $300.00…I have to stop doing this.” And I did, but I changed the rule to make it work for me.

I can’t claim original ownership to this approach, but I agreed to exchange some of my time only if the person requesting free advice would provide a video testimonial about the ease with which I solved their problem and the value of my solution. Such video testimonials become another example of social proof of your expertise that you can leverage and distribute in many channels.

As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.”

Nuff said.

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Speaker, positioning/engagement strategist, and former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award and RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award for Careers), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award and WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). 

His next book, The Mindworm Contagion, addresses strategies for consultants and business owners for pre-engaging decision makers using social media. It is slated for Spring 2018 release. 

 

 

“Résumés? We don’t need no stinkin’ résumés!”

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“I’m too busy to be updating my résumé…” “I think résumés are a waste of time when I can use social media to promote my expertise…” “Who needs résumés today when we all have LinkedIn profiles?” (Recent comments from LinkedIn posts.)

Who needs résumés today? Recruiters and hiring managers, to start with. Regardless of your opinion about résumés, they are still the de facto document for most professional positions in most industries and fields. Look at all the posts from career coaches and résumé writers on LinkedIn if you have any doubt about the importance of an achievement-focused résumé. Not the “duties and responsibilities” kind that testify to your being just another employee, because hiring managers have too many employees just doing their assigned tasks and duties.

An achievement-focused résumé takes planning and more than a few drafts to get it right. Hiring managers (and recruiters screening résumés for hiring managers) want game changers, solutions providers, and problem solvers who can demonstrate or prove a track record of accomplishment (usually backed up quantitative evidence). If you write in a cover letter, “I have a track record of proven accomplishment” or some other similar cliché, you’d better be able to back it up on a résumé with revenues generated, costs avoided, percent efficiency improvement, or some other objective measure instead of lightweight, subjective verbiage.

The question of the value of résumés is a moot one because it doesn’t matter at all what you think, believe, or feel about their worth. For now, and into the foreseeable future, résumés are what hiring managers and recruiters want to see from candidates. Even if résumés were no longer required, they still are another weapon in your arsenal that attest to your value, brand, and expertise to others having a need for it.

The same goes for cover letters. It doesn’t matter what you think about who reads them; The cover letter is another arrow in your expert quiver that testifies to your ability as the hiring manager’s problem solving, go-to professional. The cover letter is not a summary of your résumé. Omit them at your own peril.

As for LinkedIn profiles, I used to use them as a confirmation tool that the candidate presented as a professional on a résumé likewise did the same on LinkedIn. Social media can be a double-edged sword, where some hiring managers eliminate potential candidates by what they find on social media sites.

I imagine the people bemoaning the need for updated résumés have either been unemployed or underemployed for some time; it might be a result of having a poor attitude — or a poor résumé.

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Donn LeVie Jr. has nearly 30 years in various hiring manager positions for Fortune 500 companies in the earth/space sciences, software development, and microprocessor design support. He is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 and Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, both Global eBook Award and International Book Award winners. Today, he is a keynote speaker and seminar leader on positioning and engagement strategies for professionals seeking greater career and business trajectories.

Are There Really Generational Differences in the Workplace?

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We keep reading about soft skill generational differences among Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millenials and whether these real and perceived differences should be accommodated by employers. The truth is that each generation arrives in the workplace strongly influenced by whatever technology drivers are current for them as well as the influence of pop culture.

As a career strategist and former Fortune 500 hiring manager, I personally never bought into the idea of a business or company accommodating a particular generation’s work ethic (“soft skills”, however, are a different animal) over those of other generations. To me, that’s the tail wagging the dog. It contributes to vertical silo social/organization structures rather than horizontal structures.

Instead, what I have found to be more effective for accommodating the workforce generational difference and the bottom line is a combination of several factors, primarily aligning/re-aligning people across generations based on their particular work styles and perspectives.

Deloitte created a system called Business Chemistry that identifies four primary work styles (Drivers, Guardians, Pioneers, and Integrators), and related strategies for accomplishing shared goals. Existing personality tests aren’t tailored to the workplace and rely too much on personal introspection. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and other personality assessments put people in one category or another, but the brain isn’t wired like that and even the Myers-Briggs Foundation cautions against integrating results with hiring decisions. The Business Chemistry process, which is based on neural chemistry, pulls diverse work styles together – regardless of generation. These four primary work styles are found across all generations, not just within one age group.

According to the research, organizations that emphasize cognitive diversity rather than generational or even racial diversity can harvest the catalytic benefits such organizing work styles offer. In it’s search for effective value-driven diversity in the workplace, could neuro-diversity base on cognitive assortment be The Answer?

Want to know if you’re a Driver, Guardian, Pioneer, or Integrator? Email me and I’ll send you the Business Chemistry self-assessment worksheet as found in the Harvard Business Review March/April 2017 edition.

So, what about those soft skills?

Here’s a scary statistic: Only 23% of employers measure quality of hire, a metric that has been shown to be critical to understanding the effectiveness of an organization’s hiring process (source: SHRM Research, 2016). When employers complain about bad hires, it’s sounding more like the echo of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t at least look for soft skills proficiency, well…you get what you pay for.

The higher up one advances in the organization, the greater the need for soft skills execution (see my previous post for more of soft skills). While some assessments can provide a window into a candidate’s soft skills inventory and application, most companies will have to select those soft skills that do the best job reinforcing their particular business process. HR and hiring managers will have to work together to determine which soft skills to look for and assess.

Work environments must establish an atmosphere that provides opportunities for people to succeed with hard and soft skills. While a person’s core personality core can’t be changed, they can learn strategies for engagement and influence to better manage the daily interactions with peers and upper management.

YOUR TURN: what are you strategies and tactics for addressing generational work style differences in the workplace? Are they working, or are you looking for something else? 

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Donn LeVie Jr. is  a former Fortune 500 hiring manager (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corp), award-winning author (Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 – Second Edition and Strategic Career Engagement), keynote speaker/seminar leader, and strategist. Over a 30-year career, he has reviewed thousands of résumés and cover letters, interviewed hundreds of candidates, and hired countless technical, marketing, and communications professionals in the earth and space sciences, software development support, and microprocessor design support. 

Today Donn speaks on career engagement strategies; positioning and influence strategies; and personal breakthrough strategies as well as providing 8-week Elite Small Group Mentoring/Strategist programs. Follow him on Twitter or contact him directly at donnleviejr@gmail.com.

Cultural Fitness: Are You in the Right Shape to Get Hired?

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In today’s ever-morphing hiring landscape, employers are devoting more energy for determining if a candidate is a good cultural fit. Beyond just assessing whether a potential employee will be a squeaky wheel, cultural fit is an important element for succession planning as more Baby Boomers exit the workforce.

What is “cultural fit” anyway? Cultural fit addresses ideas of shared assumptions in a workplace environment, such as how to treat others, how time is managed, how work gets done, how to communicate, how to dress, which behavior isn’t tolerated, how resources are allocated, etc. When hiring managers or decision makers ask themselves, “Do I like you?”, that question encompasses all the above-mentioned criteria.

Soft Skills

Cultural fit includes the possession of such “soft skills” as collaboration, creativity, curiosity, problem solving, communication, conflict management, strong work ethic, adaptability, social awareness, empathy, emotional intelligence, clear and concise self-presentation. These soft skills apply to not only the day-to-day job, but to cultural fit because they represent core values and drive the business agenda.

But these skills are difficult to teach and can be very challenging to screen for in just one or two interviews. An Adecco Staffing survey found that 44% of executives said a lack of soft skills was the biggest proficiency gap in the U.S. workforce. Another survey by the International Association of Administrative Professionals, Office Team, and HR.com discovered that HR managers said they would hire someone with strong soft skills even if the technical skills were lacking because you can always teach technical skills. The mantra today is “Hire for attitude; train for aptitude.”

There’s no simple across-the-board answer that can apply to all jobs in all industries or professions. Multiple interviews and engaging discussions, as well as observed behaviors, help employers measure how well these factors match the organization’s core beliefs.

Here are some other approaches to cultural fit and the cost of the wrong hire.

http://www.jobscience.com/blog/avoiding-bad-hires-with-cultural-fit-assessments/

http://essencerecruitment.ca/testing-cultural-fit/

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Donn LeVie Jr. is  a former Fortune 500 hiring manager (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corp), award-winning author (Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 – Second Edition and Strategic Career Engagement), keynote speaker/seminar leader, and strategist. Over a 30-year career, he has reviewed thousands of résumés and cover letters, interviewed hundreds of candidates, and hired countless technical, marketing, and communications professionals in the earth and space sciences, software development support, and microprocessor design support. 

Today Donn speaks on career engagement strategies; positioning and influence strategies; and personal breakthrough strategies as well as providing 8-week Elite Small Group Mentoring programs. Follow him on Twitter or contact him directly at donnleviejr@gmail.com.

Millennial Job Interview FAIL: TBH, It’s the Fault of the Pre-Frontal Cortex…I Can’t Even…

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If you’ve seen the YouTube video, “Sh!t Millennials Say…in the Workplace” (http://bit.ly/2hMajbM) you know you laughed at the banal facial and verbal expressions (betraying misfires in social cognitive factors) because we’ve all seen them and heard them in the workplace. We’ve been told in recent publications that the whole Millennial characterization craze is simply another episode of how different generations approach work, and it’s alot of noise about nothing. In fact, the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute reviewed 18 years worth of data from 115,000 employees and discovered that “individual characteristics, such as personality traits, job autonomy, and manager relationships accounted for 98 to 99 percent of the differences across employees, whereas generation accounts for just 0 to 2 percent.” (http://ibm.co/2hMeCnA)

Not buying it….completely anyway.

Remember “relationship marketing“?  That’s still a viable approach to courting clients and customers because, if I like you, I’m inclined to do business with you. However, the term “cognitive-focused marketing strategies” is being touted as the next level of market research because of how different generations process information. For example, marketers should target messages for the still-developing millennial brain – specifically, the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making and moderating social behavior. That may explain why many decisions by younger millennials have to first be run through their social network for approval/acceptance/validation. That’s decision making by consensus, not critical thinking – something companies want in new hires.

But the “moderating social behavior” function of the pre-frontal cortex often misfires, thus creating fodder for such aforementioned YouTube videos on millennials in the workplace. While I mostly chalk up Millennial workplace characterizations to generational differences and try to set aside stereotypes, I sometimes pause to reconsider that position when clients relate stories of job interviews with millennials. Such as….

  • While interviewing a young Millennial applicant for a writer position, the interviewer asked, “What writing accomplishment do you consider your greatest success?” The applicant responded with, “Writing masters theses and doctoral dissertations for students…” The applicant was completely unaware of the ethical issue with such an endeavor. Oh…did I mention that she was interviewing for a position with a global anti-fraud organization that is BIG on ethics and compliance?
  • Candidate asked the interviewer is she could use some of the hand lotion that was on the interviewer’s desk. “Sure,” the interviewer replied. The candidate then pumped out a palm full of hand lotion, hiked up her skirt, and applied the lotion to the inside of her thighs. How do you continued an interview after that?
  • A young attractive Millennial was hired for a front desk/receptionist position. After several weeks on the job, she requested a move to a different position because “the front desk activity interferes with my online shopping.”

What’s worrisome is that such awkward or inappropriate social behavior often is not recognized as such by these individuals. Inappropriate responses to social situations are legitimate causes of concern to hiring managers and employers who may feel that such candidates, if hired, may inflict injury to the company brand or reputation, or at worse, be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

MILLENIALS WANT MEANINGFUL PROJECT WORK: EMPLOYERS WANT MEANINGFUL RESULTS

While Millennials are eager to contribute to meaningful project work, they are just as eager to be rewarded for those contributions. Millennials often seek that reward by job hopping, which is then perceived as an absence of loyalty to an employer. Employer loyalty isn’t what it once was, but what offers more significant upward mobility for any employee is the development and application of new and needed skills lead to meaningful contributions to project work.

But “meaningful contribution” is something above and beyond daily task completions and duties/responsibilties. Your reward for those “contributions” is your paycheck (most of the time).  It’s not a one- or two-time event, because even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then. Doesn’t mean we can crown him “The Acorn Hunter.”  Meaningful contribution from the company perspective (the company, after all, is who provides the paycheck and sets the rules) can be thought of as a track record of demonstrated accomplishment that significantly contributes to the strategic objectives of the organization; it is a history of solving problems and providing resolutions to issues that impact the revenue or mission goals of the organization consistently over time.

The Society for Human Resource Management (https://www.SHRM.org) performed a study in 2016 that showed Millennials over Boomers preferring job-specific training (95% to 83%), career development (88% to 76%), and career advancement opportunities (89% to 73%). Those results are not surprising given they represent the demographic endpoints of the workforce. In those respects, Millennials are like other generations in the workforce; But if I’m a Boomer (and I am), I’m looking forward to golfing at Doral, fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, or cruising down the Danube River on any weekday afternoon.

THE WORKPLACE IS A HETEROGENEOUS DEMOGRAPHIC ENVIRONMENT

The workplace environment is a community of multi-generational workers, not segregated tribes of Millennials, Gen Y people, or Boomers. A company’s hiring, training, and operations policy must balance the needs of a heterogeneous workforce with the financial or missional goals of the organization. Any top-to-bottom corporate-wide re-architecting to accommodate the needs of a particular generation is “wagging the dog” and such an action would not find favor on Wall Street (or shareholders).

Millennials entering the workforce or changing jobs must understand that getting hired isn’t about them; it’s about what the hiring manager needs; it’s about speaking that hiring manager’s language and not in memes, acronyms, emojis, or GIFs; it’s communicating and promoting the future benefits of your expertise and less so the features of your past experience.

So long as the hiring process involves interactions with people, hiring decisions will be strongly influenced by (1) the candidate’s use of impression management language in cover letters, résumés, and interviews; and history of accomplishments (when available); and (2) the hiring manager’s bias (aka “positive prejudice”), “gut reaction” (intuition) about a candidate’s potential for future success, and who best fits in with an existing smooth-running team.

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Donn LeVie Jr. helps meeting managers, conference coordinators, and professional development managers reach SuperStar status. Donn is a keynote speaker, career strategies seminar leader, and award-winning author. He has nearly 30 years experience in various hiring manager positions for such Fortune 500 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others. In addition, Donn has worked for the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA) and taught at the University of Houston Downtown College (Dept. of Natural Science and Mathematics).

Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), which was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for (Business:Employment). He is also the author of Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award (Business:Employment).

Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






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Calling BS on Some Career Coach “Advice”

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It’s time again for me to post another episode of “Squirrelly Career Advice” as offered by some career professionals. Whenever I spot banal platitudes that offer zero value for those desperate for some tidbit of wisdom to help them move forward with a new job or career, I will call BS on it here.

In this installment, I highlight the completely useless utterings by several career coaches in a recent post at a theundercoverrecruiter.com, which usually has great content. Here is a sample of the career advice they gave:

  • “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
  • “Ensure you get credit for any good work that you do.”
  • “You can’t afford to take your eye off the ball…always ensure you have options.”
  • “What you achieve is up to you.”
  • “Follow your passion.”
  • “Join relevant industry organizations and get to know people.”
  • “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

How’s that for getting you to the next step in your job search or career? I half expected to see, “No matter where you go, there you are” listed as advice. I certainly hope clients aren’t paying for such Poor Richard’s Alamanac-type witty quips because they devalue time-tested expertise provided by all career professionals. The truly top career strategists noticeably move the needle for their clients in all media channels at all times. They have social proof of their ability to effect positive change forward for people who come to them for their wisdom, insight, and experience.

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Donn LeVie Jr. helps meeting managers, conference coordinators, and professional development managers reach SuperStar status. Donn is a keynote speaker, career strategies seminar leader, and award-winning author. He has nearly 30 years experience in various hiring manager positions for such Fortune 500 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others. In addition, Donn has worked for the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA) and taught at the University of Houston Downtown College (Dept. of Natural Science and Mathematics).

Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), which was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for (Business:Employment). He is also the author of Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award (Business:Employment).

Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






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