Saturday, 26 May 2012

Is anger justified in the workplace or interviews?

When a little bit of temper might just be your friend!
Human beings as a species have come to dominate the planet for a number of reasons, not least is our ability to co-operate; together we can achieve more than we can individually. Groups who can co-operate in their use of the ‘opposable thumb’ have the edge over those that don’t (or evolutionary advantage). But within the group slightly different rules may operate and total co-operation may not always be the best tack. Being co-operative in your ‘tribe’ or within your workplace has many benefits and having a reputation as a ‘good team player’  is no bad thing: but as I have consistently said this is not about being a pushover. People who are perpetually angry and shouting, create stress in others, people who run others down and are negative about their peers don’t win a lot of friends. But being sweetness and light all the time can also work against you.
The trick of course is knowing when to reveal you that you have some teeth and can be out to win. When it comes to winning that sale, holding back and saying to the competition ‘after you’ is not going to get you in the boss’ good books!  In the sales environment having  some hunger and a desire to be better than the rest or out front rather than one of the crowd is key to success.
In the debates about company strategy, there is a time for competition and a time for co-operation. Once the debate has been had and the boss has decided the way forward it’s time to cooperate. All that  is just common sense?
But what about in the interview process, surely that is another place where it is essential to be seen as a good team player? Well apparently it is not quite as simple as that. An experiment carried out by Dr Victoria Brescoll at Yale showed that candidates who demonstrated some anger at the loss of a client and blamed their co-workers were rated more competent  than the candidates who expressed sadness.  The ones who behaved less well, were deemed to be better able to cope with a position of high authority.
In a similar study at Rutgers University the social psychologist, Corrine Moss-Racusin discovered that men who were modest were judged weak and less likeable than vain or arrogant candidates. She says this is because they were behaving in line with strict expectations for masculinity.
So how should you present yourself in an interview? Should you show your anger?  Well there are a clear set of circumstances when no one would criticise you for expressing a strong emotion. Even the mildest mannered person can share an impatience and anger with poor performance, with low quality, inefficiency or wasted resources.  Passion for excellence can only be seen as a virtue.  I would counsel more caution with blaming others, consistently blaming others would suggest someone who does not take responsibility and has sloping shoulders. It might also suggest someone who can’t learn from mistakes or failures.
Anger needs to be used very sporadically and carefully because although it can be seen in some western cultures as an expression of toughness and resolve in other cultures, particuallary in Asia, it can be seen as loss of control.
I struggle to advise candidates to be arrogant or vain:  but be confident and assertive, being proud of your achievements and hungry for new challenges are a more attractive way of presenting. There is a real need not to be overly modest or diffident. You need to be able to command respect in leadership positions and have authority, so energy and self assurance are important. And lower risk than appearing vain and arrogant.
So what does all this research demonstrate? Well not having read it in detail I may be disagreeing with it out of ignorance!  But I think that interviews are very complex interactions and there are many variables, maybe research that identifies one and suggests that it may be a determinant would be wrong.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

How good are you at deciding whether to make a job application?

When we are looking for a job or looking for a promotion it is usual to look at the  person specifications and considering whether  we meet it. Often coachees will ask me: should I apply for this? Others will come with a vacancy and go: I am going to apply for this, what do you think?
Being realistic about your own prospects of success is quite difficult. People who are out of work may consider that they have nothing to lose in casting their net widely and having a punt. (This rather ignores the depression that can set in with the law of diminishing returns) So if they fancy the role they will have a go. When I’m coaching people my work is to support them and not to poor cold water on their ambition: although there will be times when I do counsel and more focussed or targeted approach.
So I was really interested to read about the Kruger-Dunning effect, in 1999 they hypothesized that the more people know the less confident they are , whereas the less people know the more they overestimate their abilities.
 For a given skill, incompetent people will:
  1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
  2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
  3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
  4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.
Having gone on studying this cognitive bias they have deduced (2008) that poor performers do not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve. They lack the skill and experience to enable them to know what they don’t know.
The caveat of this is that they were testing humour, grammar and logic rather than the ability to solve complex problems or lead organisations. But it is an interesting principle: we don’t know what we don’t know.

So how can people make sensible decisions about whether to apply for a role?
There is a lot of subjective judgement about your own abilities, but you can reduce your margin of error. What is that Dunning and Kruger say: you can’t know what you don’t know, and the people who over-estimate their abilities don’t listen to feedback. So get on with your research, find out what this job is really about, what skills it really needs and then ask the following questions.

Well clearly the first test is to look at the objective criteria: do I have the right qualifications, right experience?

Secondly look at the person specification and ask yourself ‘if I were recruiting for this role what would my ideal candidate be doing now?’ Does this describe you?

Thirdly, ask ‘if I were recruiting for this role and could not have my ideal candidate, which of these criteria would I be willing to give up?’

Fourthly, given that you now know what the ideal person looks like and what they are doing now, does such a person exist? Are there lots of them? What have I got that would be really useful that this ideal person may not have?

Fifthly, am I 80% of the way there towards meeting this specification? If the answer to that is yes then it may be worth the punt…This is somewhere that the real subjectivity kicks in: but pay attention to the numbers in the job description and the significance of the expereince they are asking for. If it is a fundraising job, running a Race for Life may not be want they want... yes you worked hard but just how much will they be expecting you to raise? that will give you some clues.

 And finally, treat the writing of the application as a test. If it flows easily and you are finding that you have the right examples and it is easy to feel confident then you are probably in the right area. If you are struggling and not sure that your examples are of the same depth and breadth as the tasks in the job... then that struggle is an indication to you.  

Find out what you don’t know about the job and then find out what you don’t know about yourself. Ask for feedback… maybe your coach will give it to you!.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

If you like me repeat what i say! being effective in meetings

Getting your message across in a meeting can be a real challenge. Often it is hard to get into the conversation and then your idea may not be picked up. Skillful influencers can have a few tricks up their sleeves.
  • Firstly you might want to warm the attendees up a little before the meeting. Make sure that whoever is chairing it is clear that you will be presenting an idea. Get them to give you the platform to speak. If the person in charge gives you the space people will be more likely to listen to you.
  • Have your arguments ready. Know what it is that you want to say and be clear and direct
  • Anticipate the objections.. this is easier if you knw the people around the table, but even if you don't you can guess at what others might think of your idea and you can pre-empt their arguments before they voice them.
  • Find allies in advance, win people over before the meeting
  • Take a friend with you! what can the friend do? they can repeat your idea back to the group.
  • Researchers have found that hearing the same thing twice is sufficient for participants to alter recall the idea as the main agenda or theme for the meeting, regardless of who brought it up. 
  • So if at first no-one picks up your idea; say it again.. get someone else to repeat it and you could be in for making a powerful impact!

    for more help, expertise and advice on developing your career success visit:

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Job Search Employment Outlook
According to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey Q1 2012, 6% of employers expect headcount to increase, 8% forecast a decrease and 84% anticipate no change, the result a net Employment Outlook of -2%.  The significant difference in employment rates across regional labour markets has resulted in recent trends being mixed, however across the spectrum was a major commonality; the bleak report on the future of the economy.
With the news of budget cuts, growing inflation rates and organisation freezing pay, the level of job security continues to fall. The Acquisition and Retention in the War for Talent survey showed that 37% of employees frequently think about quitting their jobs, 66% intend to search for a job in another organisation next year and only 44% feel valued by their employers. 

The disheartening employment outlook reports have amounted to declining employee engagement levels across industries as such the number of employees seeking new roles has increased making the job market highly competitive.  Job seekers are now utilising alternative routes to the traditional methods to increase their chances of finding a new role.  Social Media and Career management are amongst the growing trends in the job search market.

LinkedIn's Q1 2012 financial results stated that its Hiring Solutions amounted for over half of its revenue; this confirms there are many job opportunities available from tapping into Social Media.  The Acquisition and Retention survey also showed that 41% of employees use their social media network when making career decisions.  One thing is certain, to maximise the chances of securing a new job in the current state of the economy, job seekers to need to stay abreast of growing trends and utilise the alternative routes to the job market.

Synopsis thanks to Connaught Executive Ltd,