The Broken Glass Ceiling

The glass ceiling has been broken to a large degree, but female executives still voluntarily leave the corporate environment twice as often as men, according to the 2010 study “The Impact of Gender on Voluntary and Involuntary Executive Departure.”

Leaders in large organizations need to examine this issue now and work out the complex and connective drivers making it happen. Then diversity executives and their peers in the lines of business will have an idea which tools will be necessary to assure continuity and retention of top executive female talent. We will learn more as we go, but we do need to take action, starting now.

via The Broken Glass Ceiling.

The progress in the area of having more women move in to the senior levels of business has been slower in materializing that many could have ever realized.  There are multiple pressures on women in today’s world, and they have many pressures built into their world that most men do not take into consideration.

Another fact in this article is that 11 of the 12 female CEO’s of Fortune 500 firms are also mothers.  That adds a dynamic that most men would never have to consider.

My hat is off to women in leadership and I wish them continued success in their pursuits.  As a search professional I will keep my ears and eyes open to the many skilled and experienced men and women who are looking for opportunities to advance in this challenging economy.

Posted in Board Management, Emotional Intelligence, Executive Search News, Leadership Development | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Deep Dish versus Thin Crust-Which does your network resemble?

As a prolific networker I am always looking for ways to better utilize the many connections I make. At the same time I also recognize that it is incumbent on my part to have something to return to others in the networking process. As I continue to think about personal networks, my thoughts moved to one of my favorite topics, food, especially pizza. Pizza is served in many ways, but one of the most conventional comparisons is Deep Dish versus Thin Crust. Just about every major chain offers both and there are multiple varieties of each. Networks can be analyzed in a similar manner and that is something I will explore briefly in this post.

deep dish, depth of relationship

Deep Dish

When I think of Deep Dish pizza I think of depth and volume. Some deep dish pizzas are almost obscene in their volume, but they are filling and voluminous. Thin Crust pizza is similar, but the crust, the backbone is not as substantial and typically more brittle than the deep dish crust. Both types of pizza can be covered with a variety of items; cheese, sauce, onions, sausage, pepperoni and many more items can be added. Personal networks have some striking resemblances to pizza. Some are “Deep Dish” while others are “Thin Crust.” How are they similar and how do they differ? Which is better? Let’s explore this a little further.

thin crust pizza, shallow relationships

Thin Crust

Thin Crust networks can be very broad. They may encompass a wide expanse of markets or types of people based on age, gender, market, commonalities and other factors. At times I see my network this way, especially the online component of my network through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. I love Thin Crust pizza, but sometimes a Thin Crust network can leave me a little hungry. On the other hand, there will always be a part of my network that will be Thin Crust, or more superficial. This is not a bad thing, but I always need to keep in mind the depth of a linkage when it comes to who I can help them or be aided by the same.

Deep Dish networks can be very filling. When you compare a Deep Dish and Thin Crust of the same diameter we should all agree that the Deep Dish will be more filling and take longer to consume. Deep Dish networks are much the same. My personal network has A, B and C contacts with the A’s being those I know well, the B’s being those I know somewhat and the C’s being those I either don’t know or don’t know yet. Many of my A contacts were B or C contacts at one state. Depending on the situation there are very specific times where the Deep Dish contact or network is desirable versus the Thin Crust. On the other hand, the Deep Dish will take longer to develop and utilize when you consider the circumstance, so this needs to be kept in consideration.

handshake, relationship, networking


What about your network? Are you all Thin Crust or do you prefer Deep Dish? Do you see a need to have some of both?

All of this talk is making me hungry. I’ll stop for now and pop a Pizza in the oven.

Let me know your thoughts. Does this analogy make sense to you?

Posted in Career Development, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping up appearances | The Indianapolis Star |

Charlotte Doyle hit the gym two hours a day, embraced the latest fashions and made sure that not a strand of gray peeked through her thick blond hair.

But at age 61, she got pink-slipped from her job in pharmaceutical sales. So, in 2009, shortly after she was laid off after 29 years, Doyle decided to take an unorthodox step in a cutthroat job climate and get her teeth straightened.

“I need to do everything I can to be competitive,” said the Homewood, Ill., resident, flashing a gleaming mouth of metal. “I desperately want to work.”

via Keeping up appearances | The Indianapolis Star |

grey hair, older workers, age bias, age discrimination

Removing the Grey

I work with a number of experienced job seekers in my daily practice and my volunteer work.  I hear many of the same complaints when it comes to “age bias” and it is frustrating to see and hear many of these types of complaints.

By sharing this article I am not promoting or diminishing the practices listed.  I am merely sharing the great extent that many take to gain an edge in the market.  Persistence and process are great tools to the job seeker and if you practice both of those “p’s” you will have greater success.

What are you doing or what have you heard others are doing to “gain an edge” in the job market?

What is the most outlandish thing you have seen?

What advice would you offer?

Posted in Career Development, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Development | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

UVA looking for new COO

The search for the next Leonard Sandridge has officially began. Sandridge, UVA‘s current Chief Operating Officer (COO), has worked at the University for more than 40 years. He announced his retirement last year, but agreed to stay on as a consultant to ease President Teresa Sullivan’s transition. He will retire in July.

via C-Ville: This Just In.

It is interesting to see how searches are done in varying markets and Higher Education is very special and unique in their methods.  If you follow the links when you read the entire article you will see that the education world strives to promote involvement from all facets of the university and the size of the search committee brings that to light.

I wish UVA good luck in their search and I also wish Spencer Stuart the best in this effort.

Posted in Executive Search News | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recipe for Failure-How NOT to treat your new employees

I try to keep things on a positive note, but some messages are better delivered when you show the “worst case” scenario.  I hope none of you ever experience these types of situations in the workplace, but believe me, they do exist.

Here goes-don’t do anything I talk about on this list if you want to have engaged, productive employees:

  1. Don’t talk directly with your employees if you have questions about their performance.  Use their co-workers as “snitches” in order to learn what is really going on.
  2. Make assumptions about people based on where they went to school, what they drive or what they like to do.  You might even make assumptions based on their race or national origin.
  3. If you have new employees, especially recent graduates, “throw them into the fire” with little or no training.
  4. When your employees make mistakes, grill them to point out all of their faults.  They will respect and fear you then.  (This is the corollary to #3).
  5. Change your direction often and don’t give your employees any advanced notice when this change is coming.  They need to be flexible-they will get used to it.
  6. Never praise your employee when they do something correct.  They get paid to do it right-why bring it up?
  7. Never give your employees exposure within the organization.  Keep them cooped up and never let them see the complete picture.

This list is short, but it is long on doing damage.  I hope you have not experienced any of these, but if you work with human beings I suspect you may have dealt with at least one or two of these ingredients.

Many organizations feel like they can get away with some of these because we are in tough economic times and employees will get over it in order to keep their jobs.  What these same firms do not think of is that times will improve and those not treated well will move on.

Take a look at this list and then think about your workplace.  Do you use any of these in your workforce recipe?  For your sake, I hope not.



Posted in Career Development, Leadership Development, Retention | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

‘Emotional intelligence peaks in your 60s’ – Telegraph

Older generations have greater ‘emotional intelligence” than younger members of society, the researchers said.

wisdom, intelligence

Photo-Courtesty Monique Whitsell Photography

They are also better at seeing the positive side of stressful situations.

The US scientists believe it makes sense that humans developed an enhanced ”caring” side near the end of their lives.

”Increasingly, it appears that the meaning of late life centres on social relationships and caring for and being cared for by others,” said psychologist Professor Robert Levenson, from the University of California at Berkeley.

via ‘Emotional intelligence peaks in your 60s’ – Telegraph.

I have to admit that this is no surprise to me.  I have believe for many years that experience is the greatest classroom and teacher and older members of the workforce would obviously have the most experience.

What would make much more sense to me would be a study to learn how we might “accelerate” the emotional intelligence of younger, less experienced workers in order to make them wiser, not smarter.

That, my friends, would be of Great Value!

Posted in Career Development, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Development | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Entropy and Leadership

Before I start this post I first want to wish each of you a happy and prosperous New Year.  I’ll let you define what happy and prosperous mean, but my intent is that you enjoy 2011 as much, if not even more, that 2010.

Entropy, Leadership, Influence


This post will look strange to many of you and for others who are knowledgable in classical thermodynamics or who have some basic understanding of Entropy you might find this title to be “strange bedfellows” by finding a way to incorporate the concept of entropy into leadership.  I encourage you to read on because it struck me as right on target when I heard one of our pastor’s, Mike Smith at Christ Community Church, talk about entropy.  While he probaly did not realize that he would inspire this post, I have not stopped thinking aabout the relationship between these two for the past 90 minutes.

Before I talk about how Entropy and Leadership interrelate, let me first explain what entropy is.  Entropy, as defined by Wikipedia, is as follows:  The concept of entropy is defined by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of a closed system always increases.  What this also means is that systems will tend to head toward a state of greater randomness unless the system in question is acted upon by other external influences or systems.

Did the light just go on for you?  It didn’t.  Well here is my reason for wanting to try and link the two.

Organizations are systems and they also tend to head toward disorder unless there is some type of influence from within or from an external resource.  Let’s consider the following examples:

You are the supervisor of a call center and you have a team of associates who have worked in their roles for a period of time.  As they continue to work there will be issues that arise that will encourage the associates to find ways to do less or to do the same with less effort.  Nothing bad about this, it is just human nature, especially if you are a believer of the McGregor Theory X.  As time goes by the work will become less efficient and effective and productivity will decrease.  Eventually someone from outside the unit will notice and take some type of action to cause a change.  This action may be as simple as an initial email or phone call, but the external action can have the effect of bringing more order to the system than what had existed.

The basic premise is this; organizations are systems and they constantly need input and adjustment from within and on the periphery in order to keep the aligned and running smoothly.  In other words, business units will tend to increase in Entropy unless there is some type of external influence.  In the business world this external influence is typically known as leadership.  As a leader, did you ever consider that you might be living under the second law of thermodynamics.  I might even call it a law of leadership dynamics.

Entropy example

If you have a headache, I take full responsibility.  I hope this makes sense and I encourage your feedback on this concept.

How are you affecting the entropy in the lives and work of others?  What can you be doing?

Posted in Leadership Development | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wages Climb While Hiring Rests

The last month of 2010 ended on a high note for small business employees, with pay up 0.6 percent over November, according to the Surepayroll Small Business Scorecard. There’s no doubt we can attribute much of December’s increased pay to heightened holiday hours. The good news is that wages are up 1.2 percent year-to-date. While that’s not enough of an increase to significantly change the life – or spending habits – of any small business employee, it’s not bad considering pay has been nosediving since January 2008.

via Wages Climb While Hiring Rests.

This is not a huge surprise and it bodes well for showing that a recovery is occurring at some level.  The challenge is that the next steps will include working the current staff past their normal schedule and then taking into consideration the hiring of additional staff.

It is becoming more challenging and difficult to justify the hiring of new staff with the uncertainty that exists both in the economy and in the regulation that emploeyrs must deal with when it comes to policy from the Federal and state level.  Why would you want to have more employees on staff when the regulatory issues involving healthcare benefits and related issues are unsettled and looking more onerous.

We need less government,  not more, in order to spur economic recovery and business expansion.  Remember this when you talk with your elected officials.  Even those who “bring home the bacon” from DC are doing us all a mis-service by continuing to fill the trough with dollars that are not supported by tax revenue.

Small Business and all business have had to tighten their belts.  It is now time for our governmental entities, especially at the Federal level, to tighten theirs.

Posted in Executive Search News, Government Regulation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Destroy Morale-Courtesy of Ken Wright and Nina Spencer

Note:  A good friend of mine sent this to me and it struck a real chord when I read it.  I suspect many firms have forgotten how to keep their employees engaged and enthusiastic during this economic downturn and those firms will have a rude awakening as the economy starts to gain traction.

I hope you do not see anyone you know or know of when you read about the “boss.”  If you do, help them now!


How to Destroy Morale

Hello Everybody,
The following is reprinted from a newsletter by Nina Spencer (Working Wisdom)  I love the story…..I don’t love the Bosses reaction!   Great message for all leaders.        

Employee/Manager Relations: What Really Matters

It doesn’t matter what you know, unless you know what really matters.
Dr. Tim Elmore

My 23 year old niece, Elizabeth, has now logged a blissful 6 months in her first real, fulltime, post-university position and has worked hard at doing all she could to accelerate her comfort with her new colleagues, and win their approval and acceptance as one of the team. With a desire to demonstrate enthusiasm and loyalty, she made a conscious decision to eagerly attend every staff function from last autumn to present. Additionally, she earnestly shows up for work 45 minutes early every day (beating even the biggest bosses to the door), usually skips her breaks, lunches at her desk (or takes abbreviated midday breaks, at best) and stays a good 45 to 60 minutes after “quitting time”, every night. Why? Not to show her employer what a dedicated employee she is, but rather, because she L-O-V-E-S her job. She’s still amazed that she found a position that so well suits her budding professional skills and talents, and applies wisdom gleaned from her degree. A dream come true, these days, for a B.A. graduate.

Well, after graduation, finding a good job…what comes next? “I want to move out. I want to start my full-fledged adult life. I want to get a place of my own.” Her parents understood and accepted. With an impressive nest egg saved, Elizabeth now spends much of her free time on-line cruising for condos. One day this past week, she actually took her 15 minute morning break to, what else?…surf for condos. Like many, once she has a bee in her bonnet, Elizabeth is keen to carry her vision from conception to manifestation. The one time she’s on the web “inappropriately”, her manager happens by and comments, “Don’t you have enough to do? If you’re so idle you can spare time on-line on private matters, I can find work for you…there’s always plenty that needs to be done!”

Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.
— Goethe

Did this manager know what really mattered in this situation? This manager may know plenty about her organization, but one has to wonder–noting this sarcastic comment to a fine, diligent young worker–how much she really knows about sustaining staff motivation and inspiring employee productivity and loyalty. With one careless, off-the-cuff comment (where, obviously her brain was not functioning three seconds faster than her mouth), this manager spewed words and a sentiment that Elizabeth experienced as hurtful and disrespectful. She immediately felt underappreciated for all she does on a daily basis, and that her manager had sorely missed the mark on understanding her daily above-and-beyond output.

A 23 year old, typically, does not yet know what, for example, a 33, 43, 53 or 63 year old knows…that there’s a time and place to professionally assert and speak up for yourself, especially to the person to whom you report. And so Elizabeth said nothing, but seethed the rest of the day, and confessed she felt like crying. Thanks to my work, my niece knows that tears on-the-job, in most cases, are a manifestation of anger, not grief. She knew, then, that she was angry and she knew her anger got in the way of her balance-of-day productivity. She knew it, but her manager did not. What’s the definition of a lose-lose situation? This. Who “won” that afternoon? No one. Not Elizabeth; not her manager; not the clients whom their organization were supposed to serve that afternoon.

The following morning my sister told me she noticed Elizabeth was still home long passed her usually departure time. When asked why, Elizabeth replied (with a little attitude, not directed at her mum), “I know. I’ll still technically be on time, but I just don’t feel like being there early today.” They both knew why.

People aren’t loyal to organizations; they are loyal to individuals.
Marcus Buckingham

When it came to this employee/manager confrontation, in my estimation, here’s what Elizabeth did right:


  1. quietly responded with a metaphoric count to ten, rather than spewing verbal aggression at her manager in the very next moment; granted, she did this not necessarily as an enlightened communications strategy, but rather because she felt positionally powerless to stand up for herself. So, although one might conclude Elizabeth did the right thing for the “wrong” reason, it still counts.
  2. gave herself permission to be a little less productive than normal for a small wedge of time (knowing full well she wouldn’t keep this “work-to-rule” attitude and behaviour up long, for it would too strongly go against her personal principles and work ethic).
  3. shared it with “safe” people she knew would listen and empathize/she got it off her chest in a safe environment (with her family)
  4. asked for advice as to how to proceed in the days that followed
  5. within two days, reverted to a work ethic that demonstrated an internal locus of control, rather than external–her daily productivity and demeanor returned at a rate and style that made her personally proud of her workplace contribution and rewarded her clients (and herself), rather than punished her manager (and herself).
  6. two days later, was willing to give her manager a little benefit of doubt that this woman was having a bad day and that the sarcasm directed at her was merely a presenting issue of annoyance and not the real issue on her manager’s mind

In my estimation, here’s what Elizabeth’s manager did right:


Well, if I tried hard to say something positive, I would concede that the manager saw something she didn’t think was quite right about an employee’s on-the-job behaviour and addressed it. It’s just that she addressed her observation in a spontaneous, completely unenlightened leadership manner, which damaged–even if only temporarily–the employee/leader relationship and her employee’s productivity.

As a frontline employee, what could Elizabeth have done better?

She could have:

  1. donned a thicker skin and just let it go/got on with the business at hand or…
  2. after a sufficient calming down period, requested an opportunity to speak with her manager, to information share that she was investigating a personal matter on her own break time, and, most importantly, remind that she comes in early, works through breaks, usually short changes her lunch and stays late most every day
  3. pep-talked herself into responding rather than reacting, to seamlessly protect her own professional integrity and sense of fair productivity/remembered that she only truly has control over herself
  4. learned and applied appropriate assertive communications techniques (e.g. shared in Dr. Manuel J. Smith’s classic bestseller, When I Say No I Feel Guilty); in this case, Smith’s classic technique of Fogging, alongside Negative Assertion, Self-Disclosure and Free Information would have helped to clear the air before it became so laden. Fogging consists of finding some grain of truth in the criticizer’s perceived observation and then articulating understanding, either in part or principle with those observations. The trick with Fogging is to respond with earnestness, keeping a level tone of voice and personally empowered sense of self; words spoken while Fogging are not an apology, nor do they necessarily express agreement with the criticizer’s observation, e.g. “I can see how finding me on-line, viewing personal information, gives the impression I don’t have enough work; I do. I’ll get back to it now.” When Fogging, the asserter affirmatively responds without actually apologizing or agreeing, before the criticizer can go on any further. Negative Assertion is very similar to Fogging, but more clearly and completely expresses agreement with the criticizer’s observation, e.g., “You’re absolutely right, _____ , I have taken a moment just now to look on the web for something that I should really be investigating on my personal time. I do have plenty to do and I’ll get back to it right now.” Depending on Elizabeth’s comfort and sense of appropriateness to do so, she could also have folded-in the assertiveness techniques of Self-Disclosure and Free Information, e.g. ” _______ , I come in significantly early each day–I’m often first here. I don’t take breaks most of the time and I usually stay quite late. I’m moving shortly and so have taken a few moments of break time today to see what’s on the market.” While I can hear many saying it’s none of an employer’s business if Elizabeth is moving, each person’s sense of what is or isn’t acceptable to share with their employer is different and, in many cases, Self-Disclosure and Free Information with one’s manager can potentially lead to better bonding, better employee/manager relations, and who knows, even some welcomed advice or help.
As a Manager, what could Elizabeth’s boss have done better?

She could have…

  1. made it her business to know the daily comings and goings of her staff…the classic LBWA leadership style/Lead-By-Wandering-Around, thereby knowing that some of her good people come in early, forego breaks, stay late, etc. and, as a result, cut Elizabeth a bit of slack
  2. applied the premise: once is an incident, twice is a trend and three times is a pattern…and addressed this “lack of work to do” observation with Elizabeth only after the third time it presented.
  3. embraced the philosophy that, as a leader, it’s always a good idea to ensure the brain is engaged before the mouth is in gear/the brain is three seconds ahead of the mouth, so not shoot oneself in the managerial foot, thereby damaging employee morale, motivation and productivity (after all, it is by way of the manager’s staff that the job gets done and it is by way of the staff that the manager’s reputation rises or falls).
  4. applied Dr. Manuel J. Smith’s assertive communications technique of Negative Inquiry whereby, with all sincerity she asked Elizabeth why she was working on personal business right now (in a voice tone completely devoid of judgment or sarcasm–authentically asking for the sake of better understanding–along the same line as Stephen Covey’s now classic Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood (from, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People).
  5. consciously chosen to demonstrate a positive leadership approach, rather than the accusatory, negative alternative
  6. committed to ongoing learning (in the form of professional management development workshops and readings on the subject of effective leadership, staff relations and inter-personal/team communications), particularly in the areas of sustaining frontline employee motivation and morale.

People sometimes resign over seemingly “little” things like this/little misunderstandings and miscommunications, especially if such a confrontation is the straw breaking the camel’s back. The bottom line is this: the more “engaged” frontline (and all staff) are at work, the lower the turnover, the higher the productivity, the progressively greater the employee’s positional expertise, the higher the client satisfaction and, in the for-profit sector, the higher the profitability. As unemployment rates are currently relatively low, compared to days of old, engaging and satisfying frontline staff should matter a great deal to managers, for if frontline staff feel too underappreciated and under-acknowledged these good workers may simply jump ship. And loosing trained staff, even at the frontline, is very costly. Repeated studies show employees resign, more than any other reason, because of bad relations with the manager to whom they directly report. It’s the manager, therefore, more than any other in the organization, that can inspire a satisfactory employee workplace experience and greater degrees of employee retention. It’s amazing how a few enlightened, sincerely delivered comments of managerial support, praise and positivity, every now and then–extending benefit of doubt to these employees once in awhile, too–can make all the difference.

So once again, whether you relate more to Elizabeth or her manager, it all comes down to this…

It doesn’t matter what you know, unless you know what really matters.
— Dr. Tim Elmore

Kind regards,
Ken Wright
Engage4Results Pty Ltd
+ 61 414 157 657

Posted in Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Development, Retention | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Understanding the value of Education-From “Stones into Schools” to the States

Education is an issue that always weighs heavily on my mind and the current time is no different.  The reason I am writing this post is to compare two issues that are only casually related, but that both truly matter on the world stage.  These two issues are the education of women in and and STEM education in the United States.  While they may seem like they are a world apart, there is an interesting parallel that I cannot get out of my mind.  I hope you too will see this parallel.

In June of this year I had the honor to attend the in Montreal and during this convention I had the greater honor to hear  

speak about his work educating young girls and now women in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Seeing this presentation has inspired me to read both and .  If you have not read these books, please do so as soon as possible.  It is simply amazing to see what can happen when one person, one man, chooses to make a difference.  I will not bore you with all of the numbers, but be aware that the number of girls being educated in these two countries has increased by over a factor of 10 as a result of Mr. Mortensen’s vision and the hard work of many within the countries.  The Taliban had worked to minimize, if not eliminate, the education of women because they understand the  value and power that women have in the household.  Even the United States military has gotten involved because they too see how the true long term power we can bring to that part of the world is education, especially the education of women and girls.

The parallel I see is that while one easily recognizable force, the , has impacted the education of women and girls, there are many factors that have had similar impacts on the education of young people in America.  The biggest obstacle I have seen to education, especially Engineering education, is the deterioration of interest and proficiency in mathematics and the physical sciences in our country.  There are many reasons that young people lose interest in the sciences, but one of the most basic is that Engineering and Science is not viewed as “sexy” and “cool.”  There are some exceptions to this, such as the CSI series, but when was the last time you saw someone in the engineering field depicted as cool rather than as a “geek?”  Even the IT arm of Best Buy is know as the “Geek  Squad,” hardly a flattering name for a valuable group.

show that while STEM graduates in America dropped during the 1990’s and 2000’s, there has been some improvement in the later 2000’s, a small glimmer of hope in my eyes.

Why is this an important issue?  Think about this; the professions that truly create value are usually the sciences, whether through new technology or drug discovery or a whole host of innovative ideas that are firmly rooted in the sciences and in engineering.  While meaning to offense to the legal profession, attorneys do not create wealth, they only redistribute it.  Accountants add no value, they only add up the results.

What can you do?  If you are a parent you can encourage your children to consider STEM careers when they think about  career choices.  If you are an educator, you can make your offerings interesting and contextually relevant for your students.  If you are a business leader, you can get involved in STEM initiatives in your region such as the

program, an initiative that promotes careers in Architecture, Engineering and Construction.

Each of us can play a part.  You don’t have to go to a third-world country to make a difference.  You can do great things in your own back yard.


Posted in Higher Education, Leadership Development, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments