Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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I’ll be happy when ???

“I’ll be happy when….” is the way many people think as they are living their lives. Yet, happiness is not something that happens to you. Happiness comes from the inside.  What do you need to have, to allow happiness to surface?

Happiness = K (knowing who you are) X D (discovering your life’s work) X L (learning not to tolerate what’s not important).

That’s the formula for happiness–know yourself, your true calling and that you get what you tolerate.  By the way sometimes your true calling is exactly what you do everyday.

When you know your innate signature talents, your values, assumptions/beliefs, guiding principles, vision and passions are you
able to bring your true self to your professional and personal lives.

In medicine, you look at how ‘well tolerated’ a drug will be related to its side effects. At work and at home, many people evaluate new
opportunities related to what can be well tolerated.

Yet after life, most people don’t want their tombstone to read, ‘He tolerated stuff for other people because they paid him.’  Especially, when we realize that we can make more money and have more fun doing work that engages our passions. Life is too  short for doing work you don’t enjoy for people you don’t respect.

Your Life Signature is the tracing of the talents you are given and how you express them in your life and in everything you do.

Food for thought for your Monday morning.




Definition of Success

About a million years ago, or that’s what it seems like to me now, I was interviewing for my first management position.  I prepared well, and knew I had tough competition. The interview went well, until the last question. What is your definition of success?

Well I was not prepared for this question.  It was one I had never really considered before.  As I took a minute to gather my thoughts, I explained that success to me was lying down on my pillow every night knowing that I did the very best I was capable of doing with each person and situation I encountered that day.  I told my interviewer that if I did no harm and where-ever I could help, I did, I felt successful.  After I left the interview I chastised myself about giving that answer.  I convinced myself that she was probably expecting some brilliant career goal and all I rambled on about doing the right thing.  After I had a chance to reflect on my answer, I realized this was truthfully what I believed, but, oh couldn’t I have said it a little less naïve.

She called me back the next day and not only offered me the job, but told me the reason I got the job was the honesty in which I answered her question about success.  Go figure, I went on to have a great relationship with my boss and learned a great deal from her.  Even more important, I learned that honesty is really the best policy.  The most robust form of success is that achieved as an outcome of helping someone else.  And maybe back then, I didn’t say it as eloquently as I might today, but it still feels like success.

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Attitude Impact

The first habit in Steven Covey’s book; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Be Proactive”.  In his book Mr. Covey says that being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. He writes that our life doesn’t just “happen;” that whether we know it or not, our lives are designed by none other than ourselves.  He goes on to say that we make our own choices.  We choose happiness. We choose sadness. We choose decisiveness. We choose ambivalence, courage, fear and numerous other things.  He tells us that we make new choices in every moment and every situation, and in doing so, we have an opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results. 

I am reminded this week how this first habit can impact your life.  In seemingly the same situation those who made a conscious decision  to be happy and not feel angry or hurt any longer, seem to weather the storms in their lives so much better. 

For me it really comes to light when you interact with someone everyday and sometimes secretly wish you had their life, mostly because they are so happy and have no problem or a care in the world.  Life for them seems like a fairytale.  Come on admit it, you have dealt with this feeling at some point in your life.  More amazing is when you somehow learn this individual has had not one or two but several catastrophic events in their life, and some they are still dealing with.  Yet they never once gave you or anyone else around them an indication that they were upset or life wasn’t fair, etc.

We’ve all been there, a situation we didn’t expect that turns our world upside down.  And I for one wish I always reacted positively and constructively, afraid not, but trying. Yet when I witness individuals like this, I am inspired and I commend them for their sense of humility and courage, as well as their desire to be the creative force of their life rather than being the victim to current circumstances.    When we experience painful situations it’s hard to gain the self-awareness to choose to be positive.  But I will say it does give you a sense of freedom, rather than surrender.


“Fear” The enemy of achieving your goals

...non fidarsi è meglio - my scared cat / gatto

Image by Paolo Margari via Flickr

We all know people who are talented, possess great ideas, values and goals. When they communicate their goals to you they are passionate and you can’t help but get excited about their journey.  And I believe they are sincere at that moment when they are talking. But as soon as it is time for them to follow through on their intentions with actions, it doesn’t happen. Somewhere between talking and action, they get caught up in something else, I’m too busy, there is a lot going on in my life, etc.  Succeeding is easy if nothing scares you. If nothing makes you hesitant, shy or nervous.

When you do not act, it is probably because some fear doesn’t allow you to follow through.  When you have a disparity between your goals and your actions, your actions will always be the truth.

It is difficult to move forward in reaching your true potential when you are stuck in fear and inactivity.  Yet we sometimes want all the stars to line up before we can take action.  Well, reality is the stars won’t always line up just right; however, you can do things that get them lined up close enough to take the plunge.

What goal you are working towards.  What are those things you need to do to meet that goal?  The things you do on a daily basis, are they supportive of your intention and the things you say you care about for yourself? If not, then what do you need to do to correct that? Are you willing to make those changes?

If not, then you may want to re-examine your goals. So often, people have created values and goals for themselves based upon what they think they “should” be doing or what someone else thinks is best for them. This approach might work for a while, but not for the long run.

Once you know what your true goal is, begin to take specific actions to move in that direction, establish some deadlines for yourself.  The next step is to let others know your action plan. Telling other people about your intentions is very important. You are making a public affirmation.

Remember leaders impact others by taking actions which reinforce their values. They have found something they truly believe in and are living by their values. Be a leader in your life. Be, think, feel and act in a way which is in accordance to your values and your goals for success. Opportunities will begin to appear.

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Dress For Success

 This Blog was written by Gregg Hake.

Company dress codes and people’s perception of what’s acceptable to wear in business has long been a debate.  I think Gregg says it the right way and more organizations should follow suit.  Thanks Gregg.

“Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire.” – Charles Dickens

One thing should be clear: clothes do not make a man a gentleman or a woman a lady; and, by the same token, a real gentleman or a true lady is always a gentleman or a lady, no matter what he or she wears. The clothes you wear either magnify or cloak your personality and what you wear is in many ways less important than how you wear it.

I relaxed my company’s dress code today in hopes that there might be room for greater creative freedom, not just in apparel choices but in thought and deed. We’ve been heavily engaged in breaking down assumptions we’ve held that have prevented us in any way from making it easy for our clients to do business with us and this fashion statement was freshly pressed to that end.

The fashion choices we make are deeply personal. Like our food choices, they are based part on preference, part on need, part on availability and part on custom. Your clothing is a calling card to your personality, to your mood and to your outlook and your ability to dress appropriately can have a significant impact on how successful you are in any department of life.

It is possible to overdress. It is possible to underdress. At times it makes sense to overdress while it is less commonly advisable to underdress. The key is to dress in such a way that you do not hinder your effectiveness in life. Neutral or helpful is good. Hindrance is bad.

I’ve found that first impressions are important to people but at the same time I’ve always enjoyed the times when I’ve been surprised to learn that my initial impressions were incorrectly formed. Appearances can be deceiving and its worth remembering that fact lest you be caught in a web of prejudice.

In relaxing the dress code at my company I hope that everyone will rise to the occasion and take care to determine what is appropriate. We don’t live in a time like the Elizabethan era where what was worn when was formalized and rigid. That said, the art of appropriateness lives on.

There are those (often men) who say that they don’t really care about what they wear, but then when you look at them from one situation to the next they somehow end up not just fitting in but often matching what others around them wear. I was recently in a small town where every guy had a baseball cap on with sunglasses perched atop the cap. I was convinced of a fashion conspiracy, but were I to ask about it I’m sure that every one of them would have said that they put no thought to the ensemble.

There is no harm done in caring about what you wear, neither is there any problem in my book with not caring much about what you wear, unless your lack of concern gets in the way of you delivering the greatness that is yours to give. Clothing fitly chosen, like words fitly spoken are an aspect of your aesthetic and there is no reason to decrease the odds of someone receiving you due to a poorly composed aesthetic.

At the end of the day, it’s not so much what you wear but the goods you deliver that tell the tale. If you don’t have the resources to wear what you would like to wear, don’t be ashamed. Do the best you can with what you have and you can’t go wrong. As Albert Einstein said “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies…It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”

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Education vs. Experience: What does the job really need!

The debate about education vs. experience has been around for years.  As I re-read this week’s earlier blog, I want to make it clear that I am not advocating not getting a degree.  My family is filled with degrees, the higher education the better and it is certainly what we have ingrained in our children.  But I can’t help seeing everywhere I go the value of experienced people who may not have a degree being overlooked, and the value they can bring to organizations.

There is a unique opportunity, with the market providing a large pool of available candidates, with and without degrees for employers to explore all qualities of candidates including education, knowledge, skill set and experience to bring a valuable and much-needed balance of talent to your organization.

Let’s examine why employers prefer college degrees. Most often, they associate the following characteristics with people who have degrees (and more specifically, four-year degrees):

  • A proven ability to analyze problems, conduct research and produce solutions
  • A proven ability to learn complex, difficult subject matter
  • Motivation and high energy
  • High Intelligence
  • Credible qualifications

While it’s difficult to argue that these characteristics are consistent with people who have earned a four-year degree, it’s easy to question whether or not these characteristics are exclusive to that group. This is the root of my confusion with employers as they define job requirements. There is nothing wrong with requiring a four-year degree if that’s what the job requires. But, if that requirement is based on a “that’s how it’s always been” mentality, or a personal bias, your company is probably missing out on a large pool of candidates.

The field of Quality Assurance for example is susceptible to this pitfall. The fact is that there is no accredited engineering program that produces a “Quality Assurance Engineer”. You can get a degree in many different engineering areas. However, you can’t get one in quality assurance engineering, at least not yet. Many of the job descriptions I see for “quality assurance” don’t justify the degree. The requirement is usually there because the position is within the software, technical or engineering department or because of a preconceived notion that only someone within technical degree can perform these duties. Much of the time, I believe the position could be renamed “Quality Assurance specialist” and be filled by someone with applicable experience and associated competencies.

Let’s examine the list of characteristics of experienced business professionals that typically aren’t found in college graduates without experience or limited experience. 

  • Business insight
  • Customer Following
  • Industry Knowledge
  • Demonstrated work Ethic
  • Proven skill set
  • Practical knowledge
  • Applicable experience
  • Effective interpersonal skills

So all I am saying is, take the time to properly identify and develop the required behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities before completing the job description. Ask yourself whether or not these required competencies can only be obtained through the process of earning a degree or if they can be acquired through experiences.  At minimum, you’ll learn more about the job requirements and better understand how you see this position fitting within your organization.

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Education vs. Experience: The debate

I’ve drafted more job descriptions than I care to admit, and the majority of the time I beg the question “Is a degree required”?  Can experience make up for the lack of a college degree, or does formal education provide some value that experience does not? Is one more valuable than the other? Talk about a discussion that will have you chasing your tail! It’s truly a trap debate because the right answer is “it depends”.

When Captain Sullenberg lost both engines and had no power on his Airbus 320 airplane, he had to think fast.  Is it a valid argument that formal education alone could not have brought that plane down safely on the Hudson River?  Many would agree it was his many years of flying experience that allowed him to quickly assess the situation and react accordingly to bring the plane to a safe landing.  His success was the result of his level of experience.

Obviously, there are specific cases where the question is moot. If you’re looking for a surgeon, you’re probably seeking someone with the highest degree possible, plus A LOT of experience. However, the scope of positions that may or may not require a degree is broad and wide. This is true for most industries.

Frequently, the decision is based on company cultural or personal preferences. When preparing the position requisition, we want the ideal candidate, right?  Why would we settle for less? A candidate with a degree would fulfill this expectation, or would experience sufficiently outweigh the need for a degree, still resulting in an ideal outcome?  These are fair questions that may not be considered due to a number of factors including: Company hiring philosophies, personal biases or paradigms.  As a result, the hiring manager often justifies the decision to require a degree based on their experience.

Whether it’s a completely strategic discussion about your organization’s policies or a discussion involving a specific position and candidate, this issue continually resurfaces in organizations. And depending on what side of the fence you sit, this issue can be very personal and emotional. Regardless of your personal preference, my suggestion to you is to ponder some basic concepts to help you make a sound decision.

In my next Blog I am going to share certain characteristics employers typically associate with someone who has a college degree as well as those characteristic that employers may be missing out on, when disregarding business success and work experience.