A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the tag “success”

Is Your Resume Scan-Friendly? 12 Things You SHOULDN’T Do

Resume w Magnifying Glass

OUCH:  75% of online job applicants are rejected by the employer’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS)!  

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have revolutionized the hiring process.  Because they can check for person-job fit much more quickly than a human scan, ATS are used by over 90% of large companies and 50% of mid-sized companies.

So, just about any time you apply online for a job, your resume will be scanned by the company’s ATS before it is even seen by a human being.  This makes passing the ATS resume screen one of the biggest obstacles that you will face in your job search because:

  • An ATS doesn’t “read” your resume in the same way that a human does — instead of reading left to right, ATS scans resumes up and down.
  • Plus an ATS removes all formatting in your resume — since an ATS uses OCR (optical character recognition) to scan resumes, it becomes very “confused” by unusual formats — or even font styles!
  • Plus an ATS is programmed to search for key words that are relevant to the job for which you are applying — many are not able to “figure out” that an MBA is the same thing as a Master of Business Administration…or a Masters in Business Administration…or even an M.B.A.
  • Plus an ATS “sorts” all the information on your resume into predetermined categories — if it is “confused” by your formatting, it assumes that the information is missing in that category.
  • Plus an ATS scores your resume – and only the highest scored resumes move forward.

Even though most job candidates hate ATS, a growing majority of employers will continue to use ATS to help their recruiters and hiring managers sort through the huge number of online applications for a single job.

The following is a quick checklist of tips for creating a scannable resume:

  1. DON’T upload a pdf of your resume when applying online.  ATS interpret a pdf as a picture — so it can’t sort your information (aka “the words”) into the predetermined categories.
    INSTEAD upload your resume as a text (.txt) file — it’s not pretty, but not only is it much easier for the ATS to scan and interpret, the system will automatically convert your uploaded document into a .txt file for scanning.  (You can always bring your “pretty” version of the resume to the job interview OR email it to your contact within the company.)
  2. DON’T use borders or horizontal lines that go across the page.  This only confuses the ATS — and a confused ATS will automatically reject your resume.
    INSTEAD use dashes (–) OR equal signs (==), if you must have a horizontal line — this is particularly helpful before and after subheadings.
  3. DON’T add your picture or format your resume by using graphics or tables — the ATS can’t read them!
    INSTEAD provide your LinkedIn address if you want to provide a picture – but most employers will Google you before inviting you to an interview.
  4. DON’T worry about the length of your resume — it should be as long as you need to tell your story.
    INSTEAD focus on the content and key words in your resume, rather than the length.
  5. DON’T use hanging paragraphs so that the most important information is indented from the left side.
    INSTEAD bring all your information to the left margin and use 1″ margins — ATS can generally read only 60 characters in a line (a very small amount), so the rest will be ignored.  Again, this might not be “pretty” to human eyes, but it helps the ATS correctly read, categorize, and score your resume.
  6. DON’T use “fancy,” unusual, or script fonts (e.g., Comic, Chiller, Brush Script, Freestyle Script).  This also confuses the ATS — and it will reject your resume.
    INSTEAD use “classic” or standard fonts, such as Arial, Times, Tahoma, or Calibri (the default font in MS-Word).  Quick note:  some ATS can’t “read” a serif font (that is, a font that has a little line at the edge of a letter), so it’s best to use sans serif fonts such as Arial or Calibri.  HINT:  This page is in a serif font.
  7. DON’T use small fonts in order to “fit” more information on a page — remember that the ATS doesn’t calculate page length.
    INSTEAD be sure that your font is at least 10 or 11 point.  It’s easier to read and reduces the probability that important achievements falling at the end of a line won’t be overlooked by the ATS.
  8. DON’T be creative with your wording.  ATS scan resumes for specific key words that the employer has programmed into it — and it can usually not “read” variations of a word.
    INSTEAD use key words that are identical to those found in the job description.  ATS often don’t know that “successful” is a derivative of “success” — so if the ATS is programmed to search for “success,” it will not count and give you points if you use the word “successful.”  (I know, it’s a pain!)
  9. DON’T try to outsmart the system by using “white font gimmicks” — in other words, adding key words in a white font in the borders of your resume.  The logic is that even though a human can’t see the words, the ATS can — but most ATS are too sophisticated to be “tricked” by this ploy.
    INSTEAD use key words throughout your resume to provide context.  Not only will the ATS pick up and count these key words to give you points, but it will also contextualize the key words by showing that you’ve actually used these skills in other jobs over time — which leads to a higher score for your resume.
  10. DON’T use acronyms even if they are well known in your industry.
    INSTEAD add the full spelled out name that the acronym represents; in other words, format it like this:  Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
  11. DON’T use specialized names for section headings — once again, this can confuse the ATS and it will determine that these sections are missing from your resume.
    INSTEAD use standard section headings only.  Use “Work Experience” not “Professional Credentials.”  Use “Education” not “Academic Background.”  Hint:  Don’t combine two categories within one heading, such as “Training and Credentials” — use each as a separate section.
  12. DON’T be surprised if only the first page of your resume is scanned — employers may program the ATS in order to save time and scan more resumes.
    INSTEAD front-load your resume with relevant key words and experience –while not all ATS will scan just the first page, it’s a good idea not only to raise your ATS ranking but also pass the quick skim that a human will eventually give your resume.

Remember!  A “confused” ATS will default to eliminating your resume from consideration.  By following these rules, your resume will be more likely to pass the first hurdle in finding a new employer.  GOOD LUCK!

NOTE:  If you need help developing a powerful resume, click here for information about my resume writing services.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com




Listen to the Naysayers: How Resistors Can Actually HELP During Organizational Change

Change Resistence in Business

Change resistance.   It’s the bane of change leaders’ existence…but should it be?  Could change resistance actually be a BLESSING?!  And if you are the target of an organizational change initiative, should you keep your doubts and concerns to yourself?

These are some of the fundamental challenges facing change leaders and change targets when an organization is attempting massive change.

In talking to change leaders over the years, one of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen is the anger that change leaders feel toward any employee who resists or even questions the veracity of the need for change OR the method of changing OR even the potential outcomes of that change.

A common refrain by change leaders is, “Get the right people on the bus!  We only want employees who embrace change – anybody else is a change resistor and we need to get them OFF the bus!”

I remain shocked that a change leader would discount the insights and concerns of employees when you are asking them to fundamentally shift their work processes, assumptions, and routines.  As the photo above says, “I don’t think so!”

The Change Resistance Zoo

Change resistance is defined as efforts focused on impeding, redirecting, rejecting, or stopping the change (Coetsee, 1999).  It is often thought as being overt…but it can also be very effectively done through covert actions.

Although change resistance is viewed as a “bad thing” that needs to be eliminated from the workplace, employee resistance to proposed organizational changes can also be a very GOOD thing because:

 “When resistance does appear,…it should not be thought of as something to overcome…Instead, it can best be thought of as a useful red flag – a signal that something is going wrong.”   (Lawrence, 1954)

In general, a certain amount of resistance should be anticipated when an organization demands that its workers change their working behaviors, processes, or even attitudes.  But these responses will vary based on their view of the changes being asked of them.

Therefore there is no ONE change resistant response or behavior.  What employees will exhibit as resistance will vary greatly.  For change leaders and change targets, it’s important to understand these differences.

Based on my research, I’ve developed six attitudes toward change in what I call “The Change Resistance Zoo.”  Each type views change somewhat differently, which consequently leads to distinctly different behaviors and responses throughout a change initiative.


The Ostrich.  The employee who avoids change at all costs is like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand.  Ostriches staunchly deny what is going on in the organization and may even view the current status quo as being “not that bad…really.”  Rather than change, Ostriches will often resign from an organization – either when changes are anticipated OR after the change initiative is lost.

What’s Bad About Ostriches:  These are the die hard change resistors who dislike any degree of change to the status quo.  They are in denial and will do anything to avoid making the change.  This is particularly bad for the organization if one of your key employees is an Ostrich.

What’s Good About Ostriches:  Even though they dislike changes to their status quo, Ostriches are also smart enough to realize that the changes are going to happen – so it’s better for them (and the company) if they find a more suitable work environment with another employer.


MoleThe Mole.  The Mole is sneaky about refusing to go along with the changes.  Rather than being upfront about their doubts, the Mole goes underground and covertly sabotages the changes.  This could be through missed deadlines or by spreading negative gossip about how the change is progressing or what it really means for employees.

What’s Bad About Moles:  Moles can sow seeds of discord and fear among not only their immediate coworkers, but throughout the organization.  Because their resistant tactics are covert, Moles can be difficult to spot:  there’s always a “logical” excuse for a missed deadline and it’s rare to catch them as the source of misinformed or outright malicious gossip.

What’s Good About Moles:  Consider the option that the Mole has a good reason for refusing to change.  Even though they can be toxic in the workplace, Moles serve as an indication that something has not been considered when planning and implementing the change initiative.


TigerThe Tiger.  Unlike the covert activities of the Mole, the Tiger is vocal and aggressive in resisting the changes.  Tigers will argue with change leaders by challenging their ideas and assumptions about the changes.  Their goal is to attack everything related to the change initiative so that it will not proceed.

What’s Bad About Tigers:  They are disruptive and combative, which can make other employees uncomfortable – regardless of whether those employees support or disagree with the changes.  Unlike Moles, it is easy to spot a Tiger – but it’s harder to deal with them in a rational, calm way.

What’s Good About Tigers:  The Tiger will let you know what is a contentious aspect of the change initiative – there’s no guesswork involved.  Try to discuss the Tiger’s concerns in private (so that they don’t damage employee morale) and remain calm.  There is a good chance that the area of disagreement might be eligible for some sort of compromise that creates a win-win outcome in the proposed changes.


DogThe Dog.  The Dog will never directly challenge the activities or expectations in the change initiative – that is, unless they’re part of a group of more vocal employees.  Believing that there is “power in the pack,” Dogs resist the change initiative through a group effort – and they’re not afraid to “fight dirty.”

What’s Bad About Dogs:  Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they can also be terrifying in an angry pack – particularly a pack that is united in staunchly fighting the change initiative, in whole or in part.  Because change is frightening, some employees may go along with the “pack” because they fear being ostracized by their peers or coworkers.

What’s Good About Dogs:  Because Dogs are part of a pack, swaying the opinion of one Dog toward the change initiative can lead to the entire group becoming more receptive to the changes.  Also, if there is a group of employees who have banded together to fight some aspect of the change initiative, this is a clear indication that the change initiative most likely has unintentional deleterious effects for a subset of the workforce.


OwlThe Owl.  The Owl is usually an experienced employee – someone who has been with the company for a long time or is recognized as an expert in their field.  Because they are wise and knowledgeable, they will point out minute flaws in any aspect of the change initiative.  The challenge is that Owls believe that, although it is their duty to identify problems, they consider that any active involvement in remedying those problems is “beneath” them.

What’s Bad About Owls:  Owls can appear to be condescending, “know-it-alls” who focus too much on the details – but miss the big picture.  By overlooking the broader outcomes associated with the change initiative, Owls can develop tunnel vision that obscures any information that is not within their area of expertise or interest.  This can be particularly damaging if an Owl is selected to lead a change initiative.

What’s Good About Owls:  Subject matter expertise and knowledge are essential criteria for an employee to be considered an Owl.  As a result, they have a breadth and depth of knowledge about how the changes will affect their department, unit, or location.  Listen to them!  But also encourage them to take the lead in improving the steps in the change initiative, so that they can mentor others to create the necessary changes.


SnailThe Snail.  The Snail just…kind of…creeps along…with their tasks.  Their goal is to avoid making any waves.  This reaction to change is usually based on fear about the potential consequences, so they will make every effort to avoid detection.

What’s Bad About Snails:  It’s difficult to understand how a Snail feels about a change initiative; because they tend to “fly under the radar,” they are often overlooked or tend to avoid discussing their opinions in meetings.  They do their jobs in a way that makes their performance less likely to stand out from the crowd – for either good or bad results.

What’s Good About Snails:  Snails will continue to get their work done – but don’t expect them to wholeheartedly embrace the changes.  Because the work is still getting done, this can be a good thing for consistency during a change initiative.  Also, snails won’t “make a scene” or add to the disruption in a workplace undergoing change.

Identifying an employee as one of these “zoo animals” does not mean that change leaders should attempt to squash their responses.  Quite the opposite:  change leaders should view their reactions to the proposed changes as red flags or beacons warning about aspects of the change initiative that may have been overlooked.

Change resistors can actually prevent a change initiative from derailing – IF they are respected and listened to.

5 Quick Tips to Benefit From
the Insights of Change Resistors

Change leaders can only observe the behaviors of these animals in the change resistance zoo in response to their requests to change – but it takes a little more digging to unmask the why behind these perspectives.

The following five tips will help you better understand the reasons behind change resistant employees’ behaviors and then adapt your management style to help guide them toward acceptance of the desired changes.

Tip #1:  Communicate the practical economic reasons for the change, but don’t forget to include emotional appeals to employees’ values.  This transforms the change initiative from a cold, quantitative rationale to one that is inspirational and motivating.

Tip #2:  Always listen to employees’ concerns before, during, and after a change initiative.  Resistant behaviors and words that are not acknowledged can potentially undermine the desired changes.

Tip #3:  Respect employees’ fears about the changes by taking an evolutionary approach to change.  Rather than focusing on what will change, also highlight what will remain the same.  This provides a sense of security for workers.

Tip #4:  Include employee input throughout the change initiative.  Don’t just “spring” changes on employees!  Instead, frame the problem that needs to be addressed and ask key employees and network leaders for their opinions on how to remedy the problem.  In nearly all cases, this will involve a change of some kind – but it will be embraced because the employees had input into how this will be achieved.

Tip #5:  Focus on the resistance as a potential treasure trove of new ideas.  Tap down any feelings of anger and resentment that your workers are not immediately embracing the changes.  Remember that it is impossible to predict every possible outcome or effect of a change initiative – so, listen to your change resistors for insights that you might have overlooked (and which could potentially sabotage the changes).

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com


Efficiency vs. Effectiveness: How Leaders Balance Both (NEW Video)

Efficiency vs. effectiveness:  why is it so hard to have BOTH in today’s hypercompetitive world?

When a company relies exclusively on being efficient, it can result in a culture that is change resistant and focused on maintaining the status quo.  Conversely, focusing exclusively on being effective can lead to constant “tweaking,” missed deadlines, and a tendency to veer off course.

The goal, of course, is to know when to focus on being efficient…and when on being effective.

In this free mini-webinar, I’ll discuss the crucial skills that differentiate efficiency from effectiveness as well as provide tips on the situations that most benefit from each.

The difference between efficiency and effectiveness coincides with the different skill sets of successful managers and leaders.  By developing a balance between these two skill sets, organizations can better innovate and compete in a hypercompetitive world.


Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Letting Go of Dream Stealers: How to Spot People Who Will Sabotage Your Success (Webinar presented by Dr. Geri Puleo)

We humans have an innate need to dream and grow — yet many of us must deal with people who undermine or sabotage our chances for success.  While these “dream stealers” may appear to have good intentions, they are actually transposing their insecurities on you.  The challenge is that dream stealers are often the people who you care about or respect.  As a result, they can have a profound influence on how you move toward and feel about your success.

This 7 ½-minute “mini” webinar provides helpful tips on how to spot the telltale signs of dream stealers in your life, as well as understand why they are trying to sabotage your success.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Why Do YOU “Go to Work?”

Why Work - Stress Enjoy Boredom

Jobs and work:  mostly everyone wants one.  Mostly everyone needs one.  But not everyone is happy or productive in one.  In fact, job stress can be a leading cause of burnout.

In the graphic accompanying this article, a highly skilled individual who is in an unchallenging environment will be bored.

An employee who is challenged beyond his or her skill set (and, I might add, did not receive appropriate or adequate training) will be stressed.

But the worker who has found the perfect balance between his or her skills and the right degree of challenge on the job will most likely be happy and excel.

While I mostly agree with this somewhat simplistic approach to job satisfaction, there is a key consideration that is overlooked:  why exactly are you working in the first place?

The reasons why we go to work are as diverse as the individuals in the workplace.  While the relationship between our skills and the challenges of the job are important, our own personal reasons to “go to work” can have a powerful impact on not only our commitment and performance on the job, but also on our propensity to burnout.

Consider these reasons to “go to work”:

  • Simply to get a paycheck:  There is a strong likelihood that we will do the bare minimum that is required on the job – and we’ll probably be the first ones out the door at quitting time.
  • We “have to” (even though it bores us):  Boredom can arise because our skills are higher than what is needed on the job OR we view the work as comprised of routine, mind-numbing tasks.  It is almost inevitable that we will display “presenteeism” on the job – we’re at work, but we’re not really “there.”
  • We like our coworkers:  Because we are human beings, it is impossible to separate the relationships that we have with the people in our work environments from our satisfaction or dissatisfaction in the job.  But even though our relationships might be super, if the job itself doesn’t align with our career goals and aspirations, then we will ultimately have a nagging sense that “something is missing.”
  • Our job aligns with our professional goals BUT it is an unethical or poorly led company:  In this situation, we may simply be going to work in order to get the paycheck – but the building stress generally causes us to eventually believe that no amount of money is sufficient to keep us.  But until we find another employer, our stress levels build from the cognitive dissonance between what we believe is right and the environment that thwarts our good intentions.
  • We believe in the purpose and mission of the organization:  There is a greater tendency to commit more of ourselves to the job – in other words, the organizational vision is aligned with our personal values so we believe that our work has a meaning beyond a paycheck.

These are just a few examples of reasons why some of my clients have “gone to work” – as well as some reasons why they left their employers.

Understanding why you, your colleagues, or subordinates come to work each day provides a profound insight into the best ways to motivate and lead them to their fullest potential.  And when employees excel in their jobs, then the company overall reaps the rewards of higher productivity, better customer service, and greater employee commitment and loyalty.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Understanding the Reasons Why We Work 

As a career consultant for many years, I have often been surprised when I’ve asked clients about their career histories:  why they are in their current field, what they want to accomplish, and what they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals.

Their responses have often surprised me – primarily because many individuals (whether in entry-level or senior positions) often don’t have clear-cut answers to these questions.  They were quite capable of explaining their career history in terms of projects or events.  They could easily express aspirations about their futures in their fields.  But they were often stopped short when trying to identify what they were willing to sacrifice in order to reach those goals.

Once we understand the sacrifices necessary to achieve future goals, we get a better understanding of why we are working in the first place.

For example, let’s say that you aspire to a senior level position entailing extensive travel and long work hours BUT your reason for working is to provide a better life for your family.  The key is to understand specifically what “a better life” means to you:

  • If “a better life” solely means providing material comfort for your family, then you’ll probably do well in this type of position.
  • However, if “a better life” means spending quality time (i.e., fully present and engaged) with your family, then the demands of this job contradict your real reasons for working.
  • When the demands of your job contradict your real reasons for working, then stress and burnout are the likely results.

Finding a job and career that reflect your personal goals and values is critical in creating the life that you want – your job then becomes a powerful reflection of who you really are.  Unfortunately, far too many people are in jobs that frustrate, anger, or even demoralize them.  The only reason that they “go to work” is because they “have to” (usually for financial reasons).

A recent study revealed that 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs even though we spend an average of 90,000 hours “at work” during our lifetimes – that’s a lot of hours that cannot be replaced.  To avoid being part of this unhappy 80%, take the time to fully understand what you expect from a job and what you are willing to sacrifice in return:

  • Do the hours you spend at work reflect your own personal goals and ambitions – or is it time spent doing something that you hate in an uncomfortable environment?
  • Is work a “means to an end” – and is it really contributing to your desired end goal?
  • Finally, does your work make you feel good and proud at the end of the day?  If not, maybe it’s time to reflect on why you’re working in this particular job, in this particular company, and in this particular way – know when it’s time to move on.

Understanding and acting upon our answer as to why we go to work is fundamental to avoiding burnout.  Not only are we better able to create a new, more productive, and satisfying way to work, but also a richer, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling life as a whole.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #23: Seek proof before delegating

Paradigm Shift

People are generally very good about telling others about their KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and abilities).  Whether it’s strategic planning, employee motivation, balancing work and life, or even making the perfect spaghetti sauce, I’ve observed that people tend to profess to be quite good at a number of things.

As a result, we tend to take others at their word and accept their help in completing projects or tasks.

The problem occurs when the results don’t live up to their professed talents and KSA’s. Why?

Are people intentionally lying about their skills – or are they confusing talent or potential with mastery and results?  Are they exaggerating their scope of knowledge – or are they really talking about areas of interest rather than actual experience?

While the disconnect between professed competencies and corresponding outcomes can have a variety of causes, the real challenge is what to do when the person to whom you’ve delegated responsibility for a project or task is really not adequately prepared for it.

A second challenge is the frustration and anger that you often feel when others don’t do what they said that they could do.

How to Enhance the Probability for Success When Delegating:  In my own experience resulting from many episodes of colleagues not being able to do what they said that they could do, I’ve learned that proof is critical prior to delegating a task to someone.  The challenge, of course, is how do you obtain that proof prior to delegating responsibility?  Here are some tips to consider before delegating:

Proof #1:  Discover what the KSA means to them.  Don’t simply rely on the word that someone uses to describe his or her KSA.  In addition to the denotative (or “dictionary”) meaning of a word, all words have different connotative meanings that are unique to each person.  For example, “strategic planning” to a CEO or entrepreneur requires creative visioning, hard core business analysis, and internal negotiations with stakeholders; in contrast, “strategic planning” to a middle manager often focuses on operationalizing tasks to achieve a pre-assigned goal.  As a result, the competencies necessary to strategically plan are quite different.  By understanding the competencies associated with someone’s KSA’s, you can better determine if they are the same ones that are needed to successfully perform the task to be delegated.

Proof #2:  Ask for examples of their KSA in action.  Once you understand what they mean by the term used to describe their KSA, use behavioral-based questions to find out more about the context in which this KSA was used.  These questions do not focus on how they might manage the delegated responsibility in the future, but rather focus on how they previously managed a similar project in the past.  This is a critical step in determining whether or not someone actually has the necessary skills to complete the delegated responsibility.  For example, subject matter experts (SME’s) are often delegated with the task of training others on the SME’s area of expertise; however, subject matter expertise may or may not include the ability to effectively train others.  Training requires not only understanding the subject, but also being attentive to the needs and experiences of students, then creatively presenting the concepts in a way that resonates with those experiences.

Proof #3:  Investigate how they used their KSA.  This is an extension of Proof #2.  Probe for specific behaviors, attitudes, etc. used in implementing the KSA in the past.  For example, “leadership” comes in many forms.  Will the way in which this person previously led others be effective in leading others in this particular situation?  Also focus on the context or environment in which the KSA was used.  Is it aligned with the values and goals of the current culture?

Proof #4:  Seek specific results of their previous use of the KSA.  This is often overlooked prior to delegating.  Just because someone has done something in the past does not necessarily mean that they achieved the level of success that you need for a potential delegated task.  This is also when many people will offer too many rationalizations or excuses if the results did not meet certain standards.

Proof #5:  Don’t be afraid to pull someone from the task if he or she is not performing.  Although it’s important to give the individual some time to ramp up, it’s equally important to monitor how he or she is progressing on the delegated task.  Offer coaching and restate the desired outcomes, but also be courageous in assigning someone else if it isn’t working out.  While this may seem to be cruel, it is just as cruel to keep someone on a task if he or she is insufficiently prepared to take responsibility for it.

Proof #6:  Above all, never assume that someone possesses a KSA or competency based on his or her job title.  Job titles change at breakneck speeds and require different skills in different environments.  For example, the title of “Vice President” is quite different in a Fortune 100 company than it is in a 5-person start-up.  By seeking proof and conducting due diligence prior to delegating, you are much less likely to pay the consequences of inaccurate assumptions of others’ professed KSA’s.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #4: Don’t let your fears control your actions

Paradigm Shift

What are we afraid of?  Although we live in a time where economic uncertainty and mindless violence threaten our security, the fear that I’ve observed (and even experienced) is something much more intangible – something that often arises from our internal (rather than external) environment.

While we live in times that are challenging, threatening, and often just plain scary, I’m sure that earlier generations felt the same way.  Nothing remains the same.  Everything is constantly changing.  Despite our best attempts, we can’t predict the future.  To sail forward, we must leave the shore.  But fear is an anchor that refuses to budge.

Sadly, many of our fears remain nameless, yet they influence not only what we will and will not do but also how we do or do not do it.  The sources of fear often exist on a subconscious level, but direct our conscious actions.

The good news is that because fears are thoughts, we can learn to control them.

How to Control Your Fears:  The key is to identify your root fear.  Surprisingly, many fears share some common sources:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of both failure and success

The fear of failure is often intuitively understood by most people.  Failure undermines our self-esteem, can lead to negative effects in our environment (e.g., job loss, financial insecurity, etc.), and degrades our image in the eyes of others.

Fear of success is just as pervasive.  Succeeding requires time and effort.  It requires us to lose sight of the shore and take advantage of opportunities whose outcomes might not be immediately evident.  Success requires changing that which we currently know into that which is currently unknown.

Finally, the double whammy of the fear of both failure and success is perhaps the most challenging.  Despite the strong desire to succeed, we’re too afraid of not only what will happen after we succeed, but also along the path to take as we move toward that success – so we sabotage, procrastinate, and “almost” succeed.

These are powerful fears – but they can be changed to support (rather than hinder) you.

Step #1:  Admit that you are afraid.  Recognizing your fears, understanding them, and consciously accepting that they are affecting your actions are extremely effective in getting to the root cause of your fears.

Step #2:  Define success on your terms.  Why do you want this particular type of success?  (See Paradigm Shifter #6:  Define what success means to you, not for somebody else.)

Step #3:  Be specific as to how your fears have undermined your success.  Think about the connections between your fearful thoughts, your actions, and the outcomes.

Step #4:  Change your self-talk and the associated images.  Addressing the emotions associated with your fears is just as important as intellectually understanding them.  Your self-talk is not only words, but also images that determine your behaviors.  So, rather than just focusing on the messages in the endless “self-talk” loop, also try focusing on the images associated with these messages.  Then change not only the message, but also the image for something that is desirable and speaks to your emotions and internal motivation.  Messages that are accompanied with positive, desirable images can be more powerful than simply reciting new, half-hearted messages.

Step #5:  Celebrate each time saying “no” to your fears leads to a positive outcome!  This not only feels good, but also reinforces that you are committed to no longer allowing your fears to control your destiny.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

New Year’s Resolutions: Why a Personal Mantra Might Be Better

January 1 on CalendarWhen January 1 rolls around, many people embark on achieving well intentioned resolutions.  As we near the end of the first month of 2015, how well are you doing in these worthwhile goals?

Or, based on past setbacks from prior resolutions, did you just scrap the whole idea of resolutions in the first place?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a resolution is “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.”  As a result, resolutions require three things:

  1. Identifying the underlying problem (rather than the symptoms of that problem)
  2. Determining what you want instead of that problem (your goal or ideal state)
  3. Setting up a doable plan so that you can achieve that goal

Personally, I have always set new year’s resolutions – some of which I’ve even achieved.  Unfortunately, others I’ve carried over into the next year with the infamous refrain, “This year I’m going to actually achieve this!”

In 2014, I watched an interview in which the guest talked about using a word or phrase to guide your actions through the new year.  Instead of setting up resolutions that can easily go off track, this word or phrase would keep you focused on the overall effect of the goals that you want to achieve.

So I tried it.  My word/mantra for 2014 was “Forward!”

Many things happened in 2014, including the terminal illness of my father and administration of his estate.  While I didn’t eschew goals in 2014, I kept focusing on the act of moving “forward.”  At the end of the year, I looked back on what could only be described as a very difficult 12 months – and, yes, I had moved forward in ways that I had not anticipated.

As a result, I felt energized that I had achieved my over-arching goal.  The subgoals that I had created (I don’t advocate giving up goals and projects totally) may not have been achieved, but I could see that in each category I had indeed moved forward.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Finding Your Personal Mantra (a Guiding Word or Phrase)

The act of creating a personal mantra is very similar to creating a compelling vision.  It must speak to your heart and not just your head.  It needs to be noble and worthwhile.

It also needs to have “wiggle room” – not so specific that there is a win/fail or zero/sum result, but directional so that you can adjust and adapt as you navigate toward it.

You can use an ideal, value, attitude, state of mind or body, or even an adverb that describes how you will act.  But whatever word or short phrase that you choose, it needs to indicate the need for motion or activity in order to attain it.

But, perhaps most importantly, it must speak to you.  Brainstorm whatever words come into your head; write them down and observe how you feel when you say them.  The right word or phrase will create a visceral reaction inside you.  You’ll know it when you say it – and it doesn’t matter if no one else “gets it.”  This mantra is uniquely yours and provides a direction (rather than a specific destination) to constantly reference as you move through each day.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #11: Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be

Paradigm ShiftWe Americans are driven by a Puritan work ethic – regardless of our personal culture, ethnicity, or religious beliefs (or nonbeliefs).  While we are encouraged to “work smart,” there remains some small voice saying, “If it’s too easy, then it must not be right.”

Each one of us has a unique range of talents and skills that makes certain tasks “easier” than others.  Instead of embracing this, we tend to downplay what comes naturally to us and focus on “improving” that which is hard for us.

If it’s too easy, then we aren’t working hard enough.

In my own life, I watched my mother – a working woman who was ahead of her time – clean things that didn’t need to be cleaned.  Every week, she wiped down all sides of every piece of furniture and even the spines of books with Lysol.  As a result, cleaning was a dawn to dusk affair that I could never understand because the house was neither dusty nor dirty.  FYI:  I never saw “dust” until I got my own apartment!  (But that’s another story.)

While my mother’s cleanliness was highly commendable, was it really necessary to engage in these unnecessary tasks each week?

How to Make Things Easier But More Effective:  In today’s hypercompetitive, time-starved work environment, it’s important to focus on what’s important and necessary for success.  Streamlining processes leads to not only greater efficiency, but greater effectiveness because employees’ energies are focused on those activities that will provide the greatest return to the company.  It also can help to avoid burnout.  Consider making these changes:

  • Determine key performance indicators (KPIs):  Change reports (or activities) that are no longer necessary, outdated, or focus on items that are only superficially related to key performance indicators
  • Plan for tasks and people:  Poor planning negates the inherent synergies between the different moving parts and people in the workflow
  • Focusing on “results achieved” rather than “time spent”
  • Watch out for “busy work:  Fear can lead to paralysis by analysis by focusing on irrelevant details or waiting until the time is “perfect”

Case Study:  When I started working during the early introduction of the PC to the workplace, Lotus 1-2-3 (remember this predecessor to Excel?!) assigned error messages if a calculation resulted in zero.  One President/CEO actually hired temporary workers to go in and manually change the “Err” to “0” in every cell on the spreadsheet.  Considering the payroll costs to make these cosmetic changes, wouldn’t it have been better to (1) reconsider what should be included in the report or (2) simply add a legend indicating that “Err” represented a zero?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #6: Define what “success” means to you (not for somebody else)

Paradigm Shift“Success” is subjective and only you can decide what your own success will look like.

On a personal level, we all know people who are very satisfied, happy, and successful in their careers – yet feel like failures during family holidays when they are interrogated as to aspects of their personal lives.

On a corporate level, one company’s vision of “success” might require global domination, while another company views “success” in terms of its reputation as a thought leader in its field.

Our frantic race to “have it all” (even if we don’t really want it all) is a recipe for disillusionment and burnout.

Abraham Maslow researched self-actualized individuals who happily committed enormous amounts of time and energy because the outcomes were closely aligned with what was personally important to them (not necessarily someone else).  These individuals chose not to “have it all,” but instead focused on what was important to them.  Although burnout had not yet been identified at the time of Maslow’s research, these self-actualized individuals did not display the 3 precursors to burnout (frustration, anger, and apathy).

It takes courage to make a definitive decision on what your personal success would look like – it takes even more courage to then act in ways that are aligned with that image of success.  Without this compelling vision to drive your activities, frustration and burnout can result from:

  • Chasing after goals that others want (even if you don’t)
  • Being reactive (rather than proactive) in the direction your life is taking
  • Taking actions that violate your personal values and ethics
  • Feeling frustrated and unfulfilled no matter regardless of others’ views of your “success”
  • Not enjoying what you’ve accomplished

How to Create Your Personal Definition of Success:  Decide not only what you want, but also why you want it.  Your personal definition of success should include tangible and intangible outcomes.  Tangible outcomes might be material items (e.g., car, home, etc.), while intangible outcomes represent the emotional and value-driven aspects relating to your success.  It may not be easy, but deciding will simplify your life by keeping things in perspective and better focusing your energies.

Case Study:  A small high tech firm made an intentional decision not to expand, but to keep the firm under 10 employees.  Sales revenue was not the driving force, but rather quality of work and quality of life.  As a result, they were selective as to the types of projects that they accepted and very satisfied to profitably occupy a small segment of a specialized niche within their industry.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  

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