Monthly Archives: December 2011

Hearing Evident Truths

The firm I work for has recently received numerous requests from clients to assist them with employee surveys.  My experience is that the difficulty with employee surveys is not conducting them, but truly listening to the results — a truth that was reinforced to me while watching the classic holiday program, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Linus Speaks Up

Towards the end of the program, ever-beleaguered Charlie Brown — despairing over the commercialization of Christmas — asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”  His wise friend, Linus, steps forward calmly and confidently and gives an answer for the ages (click here):

It strikes me that Linus’ answer, like so many organizational truths, was known to all — but unspoken but by a few.  It took someone willing to ask the question … and someone willing to say what everyone was thinking … for the answer to come forth.

Missing the “Ah-Ha” Moment

A company I worked for used to conduct an employee survey every year about this time.  For several years, they received consistent answers to a number of questions surrounding “What can we do to improve the company?” Responses were invariably to the effect of, “Communication between managers and employees is very poor,” “The company doesn’t seem to have a clear direction,” “I personally like my manager, but people don’t have a lot of confidence in the management team in general,” and the like.

Unfortunately, rather than trying to solve the communication and confidence issues that the employees identified, the management team — hurt and perplexed by the perennially negative results — decided to discontinue the survey.  (Yes — a heavy sigh, indeed.  They did have a penchant for learning the wrong lesson, I‘m afraid).

A Hopeful Ending

The story above — albeit all too common, I’m afraid — isn’t the only possible conclusion to these issues, of course.  To end where we began, the closing scene of A Charlie Brown Christmas offers a dose of hope that groups that wish to learn from evident truths can do so.  After Linus’ heartfelt proclamation, the Peanuts gang has a chance to reflect of what he’s said and, one by one, they reconsider their views on a symbolically important issue — the beauty of Charlie Brown’s scraggly but noble tree.  In the end, the tree is given tender loving care and it “grows” into a true thing of beauty as the group gathers around it for a heartwarming hymn.

Once spoken out loud, Linus’ wisdom was taken to heart and behaviors changed. Here’s wishing that each of us can help our leadership teams to seek out, embrace, and act on the evident truths in our organizations in the coming year.  Happy New Year to all!

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A Time of Gifts and Miracles

In my faith tradition and others, the holiday season is a time of great anticipation and preparation; a time of hope and of hopes fulfilled; a time of gifts, and a time of miracles.  These are my wishes for each of us …

… that we may prepare diligently for the tasks that are before us, and that we might look forward with great eagerness and anticipation to new adventures large and small in the new year

… that we never lose heart, always keeping hope and wonder alive, and that our fondest wishes might come to fulfillment in ways we could never expect

… that we share our gifts freely with those around us; and that we might recognize, encourage, and cherish the gifts others share with us

… that we experience a world of miracles that transform us into our better selves, always.

These are my hopes and wishes for us – both professionally and personally – this holiday season.  May peace and contentment be yours.

Recruiting: A Plea for Courtesy

George Costanza was the world's worst employee by almost every measure -- but even he deserved courtesy when interviewing for a new position

Having been on both sides of the interviewing desk many times over the years, I can appreciate the stress the recruiting process creates for both parties – the over-worked-and-under-appreciated recruiter  and the on-pins-and-needles-am-I-going-to-get-this-job candidate.  I’m moved today, though, to advocate for the candidate’s interests in one regard: common courtesy.

Dilemma #1: Volume, volume, volume

It has long been true that on-line job postings have made it too easy for applicants to click a button and bury a recruiter in a blizzard of resumes – many of which might not be even vaguely qualified.   But it is also true that virtually every job board allows the recruiter to set up an automatic reply to acknowledge resumes received.

Resolution: By setting up an auto reply,  the candidate will know his resume didn’t disappear into the black void of cyberspace without even getting to the employer.

Dilemma #2:  “But they didn’t even bother to write a cover letter”

True story: I posted an opening recently for a professional sales position that stated “cover letter required.” Exactly two out of 84 applicants submitted cover letters.

Resolution: I’m with the recruiters on this one.  Continue reading

Servant Leadership: Exuding Gladness, Humility, and Hope

Is exuding gladness, humility, and hopeful expectation an important part of servant leadership?

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of attending a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York that was led by Archbishop Timothy Dolan.  It was a special experience (complete with incense, full choir, pipe organ, etc.), especially coming during the Advent season (the period of preparation and anticipation leading up to Christmas).  I appreciated it deeply on a personal, religious level.  What I’d like to share with you today, though, are the leadership notes that I drew from the archbishop’s presence.

The Servant Leader

Archbishop Dolan cuts a large presence, both in physical stature (he looks like he could easily have been a Division I lineman in college) and personality – clearly gregarious and vibrant in nature, smiling broadly and constantly and engaging the congregation in ways large and small, more than holding his own against the backdrop of the grand gothic cathedral.  Observing him in this setting for the hour-long Mass, several  servant-leader characteristics stood out to me – none of which require a dramatic setting or a high position in the hierarchy, and all of which Continue reading