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Business Productivity, Pork Fried Rice, and Failing Greatly

In my last blog on the Hunger Games, I made a reference to “Business Bacon” as a metaphor for things businesses do (like eating bacon) that they know are bad for them but they do ANYWAY (it’s sooooooo good!)
In keeping with the whole pork product theme, this week I bring you – pork fried rice. Think of it as something we justify (eat) that is (supposedly) good for us (“Hey, its got eggs and vegetables in it!”) but we KNOW it’s bad for us.
What practices is your organization doing that it rationalizes is critical to success, when everyone knows better. Unproductive mandatory meetings? Forcing sales people to travel excessively to “maintain” accounts? Refusing to embrace non-traditional workplace best practices? The bigger question to ask is: “How does your small business gain consistently high levels of business productivity?”
For every bite of the pork fried rice that represents the prevailing hierarchical, corporate, structured SLOW decision-making, ask yourself “Why do we (continue to) do this?” Better yet, pose the million dollar question: “What if…?”
This is how great organizations go from good to great. They transform themselves. It’s a diet of calculated rationalizing avoidance. And a much healthier “diet” for your company’s future success.
Which leads me to the awesomely enlightening idea of FAILING GREATLY! Why do we fear failure so much? Why have we been taught ever since we were little that to fail is horrible and something we should always avoid?
Growing up under that cloud leads us to pursue safety at all costs. In today’s transformational times, avoiding risks in our personal and professional life offers us dire consequences such as:
* We avoid changing careers for fear of the unknown.
* We accept average goals for ourselves that that don’t force us to stretch.
* We tell ourselves we CAN’T start our own business.
When did we stop challenging ourselves. It’s why Jim Collins wrote: “Good is the enemy of great” in his book Good to Great.
I contend that when we accept that good is good enough, we set in motion powerful forces that lead us ultimately to failure.
Steve Jobs said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” Truer words have never been spoken. Why not demand greatness from yourself. If you reach for the stars and fall short, you still reach the moon.
John F. Kennedy said: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
He also said: “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
Take your pick – either are words to LIVE by! That is how he led America to pursue a space program that got us to the moon. Still not buying this whole “FAIL GREAT” theme? Ask yourself this: “When did America stop trying to expand its space program?” I propose that a VERY strong correlation be made between America’s looking away from the heavens and our Nation’s perceived fall from (global power) greatness?
I went to the gym this morning after a VEEEEEERY long absence. Getting back into the swing of a fallen exercise regimen can be rationalized all sorts of ways…being overworked, having an impossible work-life balance, too many commitments to others, etc.
Look, I know the rationalization “song & dance” that we go through once our New Year’s resolutions are safely in the rear view mirror. It’s especially challenging for me to come up with new excuses. After all, MY gym (Club KO) is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from my house.
So, my once easy 40 minute workout routine is now a real “HUFFER.” Sitting on the stationary bike I wondered…how many excuses have I made not to be here that I never let my clients get away with? How many times do we lie to ourselves as a coping mechanism? As we head into this gorgeous spring of ours, I’d like to pose the question: “When are you going to demand greatness from yourself, and…FOR YOURSELF!
Let’s rekindle the passion for greatness that we all share. Expect great things from yourself. A final thought:
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Oh, the places you will go by Dr. Seuss

The Hunger Games, a (Career coach) Boy on Fire and BACON!

The Hunger Games, The Boy on Fire, and BACON!
Continuing the “movie” theme from my last blog (The Lorax, Planting Seeds, and HOPE) this week I take you to the world of…
The Hunger Games
Last Friday, we took my daughter to see the movie with her friends’ birthday party. My wife, daughter, and I all read the trilogy written by Suzanne Collins, so we were REALLY looking forward to the movie.
For those who don’t know the overall theme…all twelve of the Districts are required to send TWO children every year to compete “to the death” in the Hunger Games. This is their punishment for attempting to revolt against the Capital. All citizens are forced to watch the Games, and see all but two contestants die.
Every family MUST enter every child’s name at least once, but can choose to enter a child’s names multiple times (thus increasing their chance of being chosen) in order to obtain additional benefits (extra food, clothing, etc.)
The story covers the 2 children who represent District 12, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark.
Without giving away what happens, I had a really weird thought as I watched the movie. The children whose names are entered to be selected for the Hunger Games are sacrificed like so many workers who were cast aside these past 4 years by organizations who attempted to stay in business (avoid the wrath of the Capital.)
Why are layoffs the first knee-jerk reaction that organizations pursue, and why are the people on the front line who serve their clients, make their products, deliver their services, and perform the tasks required to keep the organization running the ones who are always pushed out so they are left to fight to the death with the other unemployed to get re-hired? My career counseling advice is to tell my clients to avoid the types of organizational cultures that treat their employees this way.
We have seen this trend repeat itself almost constantly since 2008. In my DUAL role of career coach and business coach consultant, I have been helping the people that were sacrificed. Much like Hamitch Abernathy, the drunk Hunger Games victor from District 12 who is forced to help train Katniss and Peeta, the best I can do is give people the tools required to find their DREAM job in today’s Global contract workplace.
Allow me to introduce the “Boy on Fire.”
Katniss becomes known as the “girl on fire” before the Games when the competitors are introduced to the viewing public during a televised pre-Games event. The designer assigned to work with her and Peeta dress them in shining black costumes with live flames to symbolize their District as a coal-producing region. Getting the public to like you is critical for Game participants. During the game, people can send you much needed supplies to keep you alive IF they like you.
Well, it’s taken me FOUR years, but I’m finally becoming the BOY ON FIRE with my career counseling services. Business is booming, personal referrals are coming in for my career coaching, and the “Districts” are starting to embrace my job search, career transition, and business strategies.
Which leads me to (mmmmmmmmm) BACON…
We all know that it is bad for us, but we eat it anyway. It tastes soooo good. What BACON have organizations been eating? Stated differently…what are the things that organizations are doing that they know are bad for their long-term health, but they continue to do those things because they’re familiar, easy,and reliable (like laying off their employees when times get tough.)

Eating the BACON (or continuing to do things that are doomed for failure) is the behavior that got us in this position in the first place. It begin in the 1980s with outsourcing and off-shoring, continued through the introduction of the internet, advanced technology, global competition, and massive layoffs across EVERY industry.
So to all you organizations that believe you an keep eating the bacon and not suffer any adverse health effects…you must change constantly to survive. Here’s a list of To-Dos to get you off that salty, heart-disease triggering pork product:
* Treat your employees like your customers;
* Treat your customers like your employees;
* Spend MORE on your marketing;
* Make emotional connections with your partners;
* Treat your top customers differently; and
* Look to build stronger relationships with your partners, vendors, suppliers, consultants, contractors.

The (Career Coach) Lorax, Planting Seeds and HOPE

On Sunday, I took my 11 year old daughter to see the new movie The Lorax.
I wasn’t expecting to have an epiphany about my decision to become a career coach and a business consultant. I was just trying to do something with my girl on a Sunday afternoon. However, that darned Dr. Seuss had other plans for me.
When we walked out of the movie theater, it was clear to me that I shared a lot with the Lorax, who speaks for the trees. It was my personal decision to leave Corporate America four years ago, and I chose to focus the rest of my career helping others find their dream job, and pursue their passion to start their own business.
Sitting there watching this movie, it affirmed that what I’m doing now will help plant the seeds needed to help grow our American economy, and position people for future success. What does that have to do with the Lorax? Well, for that you have to know the story.
For those who DON’T know, the Lorax is about a greedy young man named Once-ler. He leaves his family to prove that he is not a failure. He searches the world over for the perfect material to make his Thneed garments. He finds it in the ideal Truffula tree and cuts the tree down. Once-ler is immediately visited by the mythical Lorax, who tells him not to cut down the trees. The Lorax warns Once-ler that evil things will befall him if he continues his ways.

Once-ler promises not to cut down any more trees. He goes to the city to try and sell his Thneeds, but fails at first. Then, the fickle public embraces his thneeds. Once-ler needs to ramp up to meet this skyrocketing demand, so he calls his family. They arrive and begin chopping down all of the trees in sight, to the disappointment of the Lorax.
When the last tree is cut down, there can be no more Thneeds. Once-ler’s family leaves him. He becomes a recluse living in the barren wastelands that used to be the beautiful forest.The forests have been destroyed and the creatures who depend on the trees have departed. The air and water is polluted.
Many years later, a young boy named Ted travels outside the polluted plastic city Thneedville to visit Once-ler and ask him how he can find a tree for a girl Ted really likes. He asks Once-ler why the world is in such a run-down state and there are no trees in Thneedville. Once-ler responds “it is all my fault.”
Watching the movie was REALLY hard for me. I kept thinking about all of the abuses our society has leveled upon the environment and ourselves. I started to get very emotional. At some point we humans are going to have to make a moral stand. Even our latest BEST intentions have led to unintended consequences and have stalled in the face of the status quo.

The Lorax, Planting Seeds… and HOPE

I’m not too proud to admit that at the end of the movie when Once-ler gives Ted the last tree seed and he plants it in the town square over the initial protests of the town, I got choked up.
As we were leaving the theater a strange thing happened. My daughter said to me: “Dad, you’re like the Lorax.” I was floored so I replied: “Why do you say that?”
She said: “You help everyone that you can find jobs and fix their companies by giving them your advice. You’re the Lorax.”
Wow! I never thought of my new career as a career coach equating with The Lorax’s mission. Maybe if we can all do our little bit then maybe…just maybe…we’ll be able to stop the destruction. After all, it only takes ONE seed to plant a forest.

Elephants, Camels, Splendor, Squalor and Business Success.

 Elephants, Camels, Splendor, Squalor…and Higher Education

My Trip to the Land of Gandhi, the Taj Mahal and Bollywood.
On February 26, I returned from an unforgettable, exhausting and life-changing TWO WEEK journey through the oldest democracy that is India.
It was the sort of global whirlwind tour that would make Thomas Friedman proud.
On February 12, we flew out of the Newark, NJ airport. Upon our arrival at the airport, Jamaican and Indian agents at the Lufthansa desk checked our bags and sent us on our way. After a 7 hour flight we changed planes in Frankfurt, Germany and arrived at our final destination…after EIGHTEEN hours.
Everywhere homeless dogs roamed the streets.
We visited with family in Pune. While there, we took the train from Pune to Pimperey for a day trip. Although we bought our tickets in advance, we still had to ask 7 or 8 people where to board the train. They have cars for women only, cancer patients, the elderly, first class reserved…everyone. But if you get on the wrong train car with the wrong tickets, you get thrown off (literally, as happened to a homeless boy next to us) or (potentially) arrested (as almost happened to us!)
In Pimperey we visited a temple, shopped in the market stalls, and ate mutton and a hole in the wall. At every turn, there was something amazing to see.
That Friday we flew from Pune to Gandhi airport in Delhi then went to old Delhi to visit the Mahatma Gandhi memorial. It was like the tomb for john F. Kennedy at the Arlington National Cemetary with the ever-burning flame. We then visited the ancient forts with Hindu-Islam shared influence Qtab Minar, Jama Masjid, and Lal Quila (“Red Fort.”) We stopped to see the new Delhi Indian Parliament and monument to India’s fallen soldiers. The highlight for my daughter was our rickshaw rides through the back alleys of Chandani Chowk.

On Monday, we drove from Delhi to Agra (a four hour car ride) and visited the paanch mahal palace at Fatephpur Sikri, built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in honor of Saint Salim Christi whom he visited when he was desperate to conceive a son and male heir. After visiting Salim Christi, Akbar’s wife conceived a son. The palace served as the capital of the Mughal empire from 1571 to 1585. So cool!

We then saw the Taj Mahal. It’s really hard to describe adequately the true splendor and stunning architectural beauty of the Taj Mahal. Suffice to say, this American who grew up in New York City, lived in San Francisco and Washington D.C. was rendered speechless!

After that, we finished our journey by visiting Mumbai (Bombay) a major Metropolitan city. My family visited my wife’s mother’s two Aunts who are in their late 80s but still as feisty as ever. My daughter spent an afternoon with FOUR generations of her mother’s family. You simply CAN’T put a price on that!
What amazed me most about India’s society is the tremendous dichotomy that exists in all things, from the unbelievable opulence of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai to the abject poverty and squalor of the surrounding shanty towns.

Another example…there is significant disrepair evident at the national monuments. Graffiti painted on the walls of the Queen Victoria train station and cut into the red stone of the Red Fort. Meanwhile, corporations are funding a massive effort to build Colleges and Universities to educate the impoverished, socioeconomically challenged lower classes to defend against ever having to outsource labor.
The Government, despite rampant corruption, is making a major effort to work with these companies to bring higher education to the poorest, least educated segments of their society.

America could stand for a bit of that emphasis on making higher education more affordable for the masses as a way to spur on business start-ups and business growth along with career mobility for all. Clearly, we could stand for a greater emphasis on, and appreciation for, the importance of educating more segments of our society as a means for achieving career success for millions of Americans.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We experienced the rustic villages, massive religious temples, historic palaces and forts, sprawling new urban centers and suburbs expanding from over-populated cities. In all our experiences, the backdrop was the fusion of past, present and future colliding and co-existing.
Having said all that, I’m glad to be back in America where you see the taxis coming at you before they strike, motorists stop for pedestrians and the cows, elephants, and camels all stay off of the highways.
Be on the lookout for my next blog: “Ethan ROCKS consulting in 2012!

Your Personal Branding REALLY Matters

What People Think of You REALLY Matters

When you think of your own personal brand, what comes to mind?
Now more than ever our personal brands matter critically, in our ability to carve out any semblance of long-term job security.
So, what do people think of you? If you asked 4 or 5 of your closest friends, professional peers, and business relations what words they’d use to describe you, what would they say? GO AHEAD…do it! It’s a great learning experience on the road to self-exploration.
At the end of the day, we only have our word to stand upon, as our personal brand. Based on the thousands of interactions I’ve had these past 4 years as a career coach and business consultant, many people are failing miserably. I’m developing a program on “Business Ethics.” When I tell people they laugh, like it’s a joke.
Let’s start with today’s used car salespeople…RECRUITERS. Do you receive emails from recruiters, placement agencies, or search firms about supposed job opportunities that has absolutely NOTHING to do with your background, skills and qualifications? At the end of the e-mail, they say: “If this position isn’t right for you, can you share this with others in your network?” They are basically spamming and phishing us, asking us to help them do their jobs and find others for them to send to their clients.
Have you received a call from a recruiter asking if you’re interested in a job they are looking to fill? They discuss their client’s needs and the requirements with you, then you send them your resume and they promise to forward it to the hiring organization and let you know.
Weeks then months go by, you never hear from them after repeated efforts to obtain a status. Finally you reach them and they dismiss your application by saying their client wasn’t interested, your background wasn’t an ideal match. What about a courtesy call back?
Ethics and professional behavior matter in our personal and professional lives. Have you ever said to someone you had no intention of following up with: “I’ll get back to you?” knowing full well you’ll never call them back? WHY? Because it’s those little WHITE lies that are so easy to tell, rather than the embarrassing truth?
What happened to dealing in truth with all our personal relationships and professional correspondence?
Just this morning I was scheduled to give a FREE coaching session to a potential client. She Tweeted a reply to a re-tweet I sent her on Twitter, so I responded with a message confirming our call. Then I emailed her 2 times within the half hour after our scheduled time when I never heard from her. NOTHING. This is the type of behavior that destroys people’s perceptions of you.
Are we so busy with intensive work schedules and overlapping family, work and personal responsibilities that we’ve lost all sense of decorum in dealing with others?
What happened to the Golden Rule (LUKE 6:31) “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

There are far too many unethical behaviors that can potentially destroy your brand. Here are only a few examples:
* Companies offering extended unpaid internships.
* Plagiarism.
* Lying on your taxes, resumes.
* Falsifying professional credentials.
* Construction companies ignoring codes, taking shortcuts.
* Mortgage robo-signings.
* Producing/marketing dangerous products.
* Legalized gambling.
* Police misconduct.
* Accepting bribes.
* Piracy: stealing others’ intellectual capital.
* Vulture Capitalists.
* False/inaccurate job postings.
* Division I College athletics & big time money.
How do you know if something is the right thing to do? Ask yourself a simple yet poignant question: “If I choose to go through with this decision, would I mind seeing it reported on the news tomorrow?” If the answer’s YES then you proceed. If you’re still not sure then ask yourself four (4) key questions:
1) Does my decision match the organization’s vision & mission statements?
2) Would it be good for customers?
3) Would it be good for the organization?
4) Would it be good for me?
(From Gretchen Morgenson)
So, don’t forget that how you engage people speaks LOUDLY to your ethics, beliefs, and values which in turn creates perceptions that people have about your personal brand. In today’s volatile world with rampant unemployment, stressed schedules, and rapidly changing personal obligations our BRAND matters more than ever.
– Ethan
The Compassionate Coach

We've Survived Worse Times Than This!

We’ve Survived Worse Times Than This

Here we are just ONE week into the New Year, and you’d swear by all the DOOM & GLOOM being propagated that the year was already an abject failure.
There is NO disputing that times are still extremely difficult for many. The unemployment rate is 15-20%, not the ridiculously unreliable 8+% “official” rate being lauded by the Obama Administration. One in four Americans work in contract, consulting, temporary, NON-PERMANENT positions, and the average American will change jobs 8-10 times in their careers.
It certainly doesn’t add to a sense of confidence that things will improve, in a presidential election season in which candidates running for the Republican nomination are spewing hatred and venom at each other and the Obama administration. There doesn’t seem to be any counter or protest being put up by the media, the Republican National Convention or the population at large to focus the debate on the important challenges we face.
It’s also not very encouraging that the Occupy Wall Street movement has fizzled without the effect of building an alternative political figure to run against our 2-Party dysfunctional political system.
However, despite these times of uncertainty and pain, America has ALREADY lived through much tougher times, and come stronger as a result!
Consider this:
“Out of every crisis, every tribulation, every disaster, mankind rises with some share of greater knowledge, of higher decency, of purer purpose. Today we shall have come through a period of loose thinking, descending morals, an era of selfishness, among individual men and women and among Nations. Blame not Governments alone for this. Blame ourselves in equal share. Let us be frank in acknowledgment of the truth that many amongst us have made obeisance to Mammon, that the profits of speculation, the easy road without toil, have lured us from the old barricades. To return to higher standards we must abandon the false prophets and seek new leaders of our own choosing.
Never before in modern history have the essential differences between the two major American parties stood out in such striking contrast as they do today. Republican leaders not only have failed in material things, they have failed in national vision, because in disaster they have held out no hope, they have pointed out no path for the people below to climb back to places of security and of safety in our American life.
Throughout the Nation, men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the Government of the last years look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth.
On the farms, in the large metropolitan areas, in the smaller cities and in the villages, millions of our citizens cherish the hope that their old standards of living and of thought have not gone forever. Those millions cannot and shall not hope in vain.”
Know who said this? Ron Paul? Barrack Obama? Tim Geithner? Bill Clinton? Herman Cain?

NOPE! Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, in his address to the Nation accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on July 2, 1932.
The bottom line is, we’ve seen times like this, and we’ve overcome them before. It may seem dire but we will come through these challenges as a stronger Nation and create greater career opportunities for ourselves, in the process. We ALWAYS have!
Examples of success in business and industry, corporate social responsibility, the Green movement are all around us, as eager, energetic visionary leaders are rising to drive America forward into the 21st Century. Too bad nobody is reporting the successes being achieved in the United States. Just a few examples:
* New marketing, social media start-up’s like Groupon, LivingSocial, IMShopping,and BuyWithMe;
* Social networks for entrepreneurs like Entrepreneur Connect, PartnerUp, StartUpNation, and Go BIG Network;
* Small business success stories like Quadlogic Controls, Back to the Roots LLC, Laughingstock Design, Pillow Bar LLC, Sanctuary T, Mr. Bigshot, etc.
The list of modern day American entrepreneur success keeps rising. WHY?
More and more professionals,seniors, and college graduates who are either out of work, frustrated by their time spent in Corporate America, or looking to fulfill their dreams are pursuing their passions and interests.
Let’s hope this trend only continues. THIS is how America will dig itself out of this funk!
Here’s to a happy, healthy and SUCCESSFUL 2012!