Tag: passion

3/25/12 “Startups”

Good day, team.

Last week, I found myself in midtown Manhattan meeting with my new startup clients — six people from different backgrounds, business experiences and living situations, all incredibly pumped up and focused on their new venture. There is nothing like the energy of a startup. It’s equal parts certainty and uncertainty, which puts the people involved in a perpetual state of optimism and fear. It’s life on the razor’s edge. Some days, you’re convinced that everyone will want to buy your product, service or idea, and other days, you wonder how you’re ever going to get this baby off the ground. Where will the money come from? How will you ever get all the work done with so few people? What convinced you that this could work?

Leaving a steady job that seamlessly deposits money into your checking account every two weeks is a tough thing to do, particularly in today’s uncertain job market. The security that comes with that paycheck is often enough to help us ignore the dysfunctionality that occurs in most large companies. How often have you heard someone say, “I really hate this job, but I’m paid so well and have such good benefits that I can’t afford to leave”? The brave souls who leave that security to venture into the unknown territory of a startup almost always feel a combination of burning desire and heartburn.

This week’s challenge is about accessing that startup passion and commitment, regardless of what kind of job or profession you’re engaged in. Here’s an example. One of my current clients — let’s call him Joe — has worked in the same profession for 15 years. He’s really good at what he does and has slowly made his way up in his organization to hold a senior position. Joe is well-known and highly respected in his industry. He also has a growing family that he loves more than anything. Although the demands of his job often sneak into quality time with his family, he has managed to set some healthy boundaries with his boss to maintain a healthy work-life balance. He makes good money, enjoys where he lives and has great friends.

So why did Joe engage a coach? From the outside, his life looks pretty good. However, Joe found himself in that place Dante described so well in the “Inferno”: “Midway upon the journey of my life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

Indeed, Joe wondered where he’d lost himself along the way. You could call this a “mid-life crisis. But when I see people at this crossroad in their lives, regardless of their age, I recognize an opportunity to make a fundamental change. To reboot, so to speak, so they can access the passion within them. When the thing that ignites the essential fire within has been lost, finding it again is essential to carrying on.

Startup companies thrive on this kind of creative energy. In fact, it’s often all they have in the beginning. The ability to tap into that passion within oneself is the very thing that helps us make our way out of the dark woods. Like finding our true north again, it’s the compass that guides us away from confusion and doubt and into the light of clarity and new possibilities.

This week, spend some time finding your passion. If many aspects of your job have become stale, think about ways to redesign the way you do things to bring your creativity into your normal routine. How about taking the family some place you’ve never been before? One client I had took his family to Alaska on vacation, after many years of going to the same place on the beach in Mexico. He arranged for them to take a small plane ride to a remote island where they camped and fished for two weeks. He observed that it greatly improved all of their relationships. The kids were excited about learning how to fish and to see bears scooping salmon out of the water. He and his wife rekindled the fire he thought had long ago burnt out. As he watched her hanging hand-washed clothes on a makeshift clothesline by the lake, he saw the woman he so loved and appreciated. As he remarked, “She was just so incredibly beautiful in that moment, it brought tears to my eyes.”

Find what brings that passion back into your life. We can’t all be lucky or brave enough to be involved in a startup, where the nature of the new beginning reconnects us to that spirit of adventure and creativity. But each of us has an opportunity to change our habits just enough to wake up to the beauty around us. That beauty actually exists in every new moment, whether it’s in seeing a fellow teammate in a new way or connecting with a loved one.

Dante wasn’t really lost, he’d just misplaced his ability to see or find the way out. Sometimes the answer is outside of us, and we have to adjust our vision to see it. More often, the answer is inside us, and we have to be courageous enough to embrace it. This week, don’t be afraid to change a habit to allow your passion and commitment to be rekindled.

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

3/18/12 “Effective Interviewing – Part 2”

Good day, team.

As promised, the subject of this week’s challenge is effective interviewing – part 2 — interviewing tips for the candidate.

I think it’s fair to say that interviewing for a job is an experience most people dread. None of us likes to be put on the spot to talk about ourselves, and when we interview for a job, that’s exactly what happens. Many candidates go into an interview filled with fear and loathing, which is not a great way to start. For one thing, it’s impossible to know what to expect because the person interviewing you could take any number of approaches. That’s why it’s best to be prepared and have a good idea of how you’d like to present yourself.

The following suggestions come from feedback given to and from both interviewers (hiring managers) and the interviewees (candidates). I gleaned these tips over many years while working as a recruiter helping companies find the best candidates. Lots of excellent interviewing techniques also can be found on the Internet, http://www.helpguide.org/life/interviewing_techniques_tips_getting_job.htm and I suggest you do some reading before an interview.

Do your research. The most prepared candidates have a much better chance of getting the job. Read up on the company in advance. Find out everything you can about the organization’s financials, product lines, values, executive management team, board of directors, employee experiences, etc. Websites such as LinkedIn can offer good information about the person interviewing you, such as where he or she has worked before, where they went to school, and who they are connected to.

The best interviews start with a strong connection. That invisible thing we call “chemistry” often has the strongest affect on how an interview goes. If you can make a strong emotional connection within the first five minutes of an interview, there’s a better chance that the rest of the interview will go well. Of course, chemistry can’t be determined in advance — you either have it with another person or you don’t. Still, it’s always a good idea to be yourself and try to make a connection right in the beginning.

Allow for small talk. The first three to five minutes of any interview are generally filled with small talk. It’s the chatter we do when we’re initially checking each other out. We make comments about the weather or the adventure we had trying to find the office or how busy we have been leading up to the interview. This small talk gives us a chance to connect when we first arrive, and these first few minutes are very important. Not only do they give the hiring manager his or her first view of you as a human being, but they also give you the chance to get settled in your seat, take a deep breath, and observe what’s around you. Is the interviewer’s desktop filled with papers? Does it look disorganized? Or is it neat as a pin? Is there dust on the furniture? Are there pictures of family members nearby? What’s on the walls? All of these things will tell you something about the person interviewing you. People like to talk about things they can relate to. Observing your interviewer’s environment gives you immediate indications of relevant subjects you can address during the interview, if the need arises.

Come prepared to be proactive in the interview. As a recruiter, I often heard hiring managers complain to me that the candidate seemed to be waiting for them to do all the work in an interview. “They never really asked me any good questions, and they just seemed to sit there waiting for me to ask the next question. Frankly, I couldn’t figure out what made them passionate or why they would want to do this job.” These complaints stem from candidates who don’t take an active role in the interview. Don’t be afraid to ask for more specifics about the job. Ask what the hiring manager’s biggest challenges have been in the past six months. Find out if there was someone in this job previously and ask what made him or her successful. Ask what he or she could have done differently to be more successful in the job.

Don’t be afraid to show your passion. “It’s not the steak that sells, it’s the sizzle.” Whoever said this understood that it’s the sizzle we experience that encourages us to buy. Whether you’re selling brown sugar water, better known as “Coke,” or selling yourself, nothing grabs attention like an impassioned experience or story. If you can get excited talking about how you’d do the job, you’ll get the interviewer excited about you. And don’t be afraid to tell the interviewer that you want the job. If you feel like this is the one, show it and say it. Enthusiasm sells!

Get the job by doing it in the interview. I’ll never forget the feedback I received from a chief financial officer who was interviewing four of my candidates for a controller position at his company. Three out of the four had excellent backgrounds for the job. The first two candidates had been assistant controllers previously for companies in a similar business, and the third had worked for the same public accounting firm the CFO had worked for and had come highly recommended by one of the firm’s partners, who was the CFO’s good friend. The fourth candidate was the weakest on paper, and the CFO came close to not interviewing him at all. But I encouraged him to do so because the fourth candidate was probably the hungriest for the job. And hungry candidates often go into jobs with the most commitment and drive.

After interviewing all the candidates, the CFO came back to me with his feedback and decision. He admitted that after interviewing the first three candidates, the public accounting candidate, who was recommended by his friend, was the top candidate. As he said, “I’ll know what I’m getting if I hire him, and that’s worth a lot to me.” But when the fourth candidate came in, he soon became the chosen candidate even though he had the least experience. This candidate proactively asked the CFO how he wanted to change things in the next six months to help make the finance and accounting departments more effective. When the CFO shared some of his thoughts, the candidate then started making recommendations and brainstorming on the spot. “I felt like he was already working for me, and he was making some great, practical suggestions that I could envision us doing to make things better. I almost told him to put a detailed plan in front of me by next month so we could start implementing the changes until I realized that I hadn’t actually hired him yet!”

Know you’re in a position of strength. Over the years, I’ve seen lots of hiring managers use job interviews as a way of intimidating candidates. Hiring managers often assume that candidates are only going to tell them good things about themselves, so they think they have to trick the candidates into revealing their hidden weaknesses. This approach makes candidates feel weak and defensive. The irony of this situation is that it’s actually the hiring managers who are in the weakest position. They have the opening and not enough people to get the work done. They have the problem, and you could be the solution. Most candidates who have made it to an interview have the upper hand because they have many of the skills that the hiring manager needs to solve the problem. So go into the interview with confidence.

Don’t brag, but don’t be afraid to crow. No one likes to hear anyone brag about what they’ve done, but talking about your achievements is appreciated. The best way for an interviewer to learn more about your achievements is for you to describe them. Your tone of voice and facial expressions will say it all. When we’re proud of what we’ve done, we tend to light up when we talk about it, and that level of inspiration is often what makes the difference between a memorable candidate and a ho-hum candidate. Once you’ve done it a few times, your fear of crowing about yourself will diminish and you’ll get over the fear of speaking about your accomplishments in a positive way.

Most important, be present. Don’t forget that we make the greatest impression on others when we can be present with them. People love when they receive another person’s undivided attention. It shows respect and demonstrates your ability to actively listen. Nothing is more disturbing to an interviewer than realizing that a candidate isn’t listening or didn’t hear a question because he or she was thinking about something else. And if you try to answer what you think you were asked but get it wrong, you may end up looking pretty foolish. Being present in an interview means releasing what you thought might happen so that you can experience what actually is happening.

I hope these suggested interview techniques will help those of you out there who are experiencing the fear and loathing of job interviews. It’s a daunting process, but with a brave heart, some good advance preparation and the ability to put some of these suggestions to work during an interview, you might just land that next exciting job.

Have a good week,


© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.