Sunday, June 26, 2011

Buried Treasure

With unemployment in California continuing to hover around 12%, there are many individuals who struggle to find work.  There is a buried treasure of approximately 70 to 80 of these individuals who meet each week at a synagogue in Walnut Creek at an organization called Experience Unlimited, (   It is a professional job search network of extraordinarily talented people.  This is a 100% volunteer organization of people committed to help each other find employment.  They do this by bringing talented professionals and inspirational speakers to speak to them about how to remain positive during their job search as well as giving tips on how to energize their job search.
The venue where the meeting takes place charges a monthly rental fee for the use of the facilities. The rental fee is paid by the members who attend the weekly meetings.  At a recent meeting the president of the chapter, put out a request for donations.  What happened next totally blew me away!  Without any hesitation members stood up and went to the back of the room and began to drop one dollar bills in the basket.  You may say BIG deal!  I will tell you, yes, it is.  Remember, these individuals are all out of work and funds are short.
It is amazing how many skilled and experienced professionals are out of work these days.  In this same group there was a need to bring internet connectivity to the room.  Several members consisting of Project Managers, IT Administrators and other technology professionals worked together to outline a plan and executed it flawlessly to bring the internet to the space.
If you want to find buried treasure, look no further than Experience Unlimited. Seeing men and women leading by serving, while actively pursuing their next employment opportunity is truly inspirational.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Returned Phone Call -- A Lost Art

Why don’t people return phone calls anymore? Is it because the person who left the message is not important enough, is long winded, is a complainer, or is it that you’re on the phone so much you don’t want to be on the phone any more than you have to?

I don’t know how many times I have called someone and left a message for them to call me and never received a reply.  Do you know how disrespectful that is? 
I cannot verify the statement, but a friend of mine stated that Warren Buffet said he would not buy a company if the CEO would not return his call. 

Opportunities are lost every day because someone did not return a call.

My main reason for writing this post is to express my appreciation to a friend of mine who is a CEO, published author, world traveler, and sits on the board of several companies.  This man is extremely busy, yet when I call him or send him an email, without fail he will reply within 24 hours.  He does not just do it for me, but anyone who leaves him a message.

When I spoke to him about it he said, “It’s extremely poor manners not to return a phone call.”  With everyone having cell phones these days there is no real good reason for someone not to return a call. 
Some have made not returning a call a bad habit.

How many times have you had someone tell you they will call you, only to have them break their promise? 
Not returning a phone call, or not keeping a promise to call, can ruin both personal and business relationships. It’s just plain rude.

In a prior company I was responsible for hundreds of employees at all levels of the company.  One of my strengths was returning phone calls.  My commitment to every employee was to return their call within 24 hours of receiving it.  My reputation depended on me keeping that promise.  Many times while on the road I would check my messages and return calls sometimes to the employee’s home at 7 or 8pm.  They would always express their appreciation for returning their call. 
If I forgot to return a call I would feel just horrible and apologize profusely.

If you are one who does not return phone calls, think how it makes you feel when someone doesn’t return yours.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Taking Responsibility Is More Than Just Saying It

Unless you are living under a rock, you have heard the story about New York Congressman, Anthony Weiner’s fall from grace.  With the release of certain provocative photos of him which he had sent from his Twitter account, Congressman Weiner has been hit by the media, and both the Republican and Democratic parties.  First, he denied the photos were of him, however with the threat of the release of additional photos, he finally came clean.

“…and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23 NIV

“For there is nothing hidden that shall not be disclosed, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come out into the open.”  Luke 8:17 AMP

When Anthony Weiner says he has taken responsibility for his actions, I am not sure he has.  Taking responsibility is more than just saying it.  When one takes responsibility, especially for a wrong action on their part, they should also be willing to be held accountable.

In Congressman Weiner’s case, I believe that if he really wanted to take responsibility, he would resign.  However, he has steadfastly said that he is not going to resign even though members of his own party are calling for his resignation.  This is what is wrong with some of our leaders today—they say one thing, but do another.   They think they are above it all and that rules and laws don’t apply to them.  There is this belief that because of their position and power they can do and say almost anything they want.  It is all about them. As a result, the public continues to be very cynical when it comes to politicians. 

With this latest failure of one of our elected officials (there will be others) , it is clear that many people do not have any real understanding of what it means to be responsible. Responsibility means you are willing to be held accountable for your actions.

I believe we must demand more of our leaders, not perfection, but sound ethical behavior from leaders  who live by an uncompromising set of standards.  Is that too much to ask of the men and women that we trust to run our country?  If it is, we are indeed in trouble.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Does a company have a responsibility to be compassionate?

In this critical time in our country’s history, many companies are finding themselves having to make tough choices if they are going to survive this economy.  Most times the choices involve reducing costs.  This is a code word for laying off employees.  It is amazing how many companies seemingly accomplish this task without a lot of compassion.  With the stroke of a pen thousands of people’s lives are changed forever.  Some never recover from the loss.  The result can be the loss of a home, car, or deferred dreams.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that sometimes it is necessary to reduce staff and cut back on other expenses in order to ensure the survival of a company.  My question is why do so many companies make this decision and carry it out with such a lack of compassion?  I have a friend whose wife worked for a Bay Area company that called all of their field staff into the office.  As each of them arrived at the corporate office they were greeted by their supervisor who took the keys to their company vehicle handed them their last check and gave them cash for the waiting taxi that took them home.  How cold is that?

There has to be a better way.  When I was laid off from my company, not only did they give me warning, but they also explained the reasons why the decision was made.  Obviously anytime you are laid off it doesn't feel good, but when a company is cognizant of the effect that the decision will have on the employee and take steps to mitigate the shock, it goes a long way to maintaining the person’s dignity.

As a leader I think it is critical to stay in front of your business and to take steps to minimize the need for layoffs.  What do I mean?  With the exception of external forces beyond the company’s   control, there are steps the company can take to mitigate the necessity for layoffs.   Proper business forecasting, staying lean, and understanding your market can help. In addition, growth should be very strategic and personnel hired only when capacity dictates.  I hear of so many companies who experience explosive growth and hire a lot of personnel.  In short order someone gets the idea of improving efficiency which results in the loss of jobs.  Efficiency is required for a business to deliver consistent services and products to the customer, but more thought should be given beforehand to implementing streamlined processes and hiring based on anticipated need.

Leaders have a responsibility not only to their shareholders and boards, but to the people they lead.  I think you can take care of both if leaders get out of short-term thinking and look to the long-term benefits of all those they lead.  Building a compassionate and caring company culture is achievable if the right person is at the helm.