Peter Drucker on the Importance of Focus

Peter Drucker was a legendary Management Consultant who passed away at the age of 95 in 2005.
He was the author of classics such as “The Practice of Management”, “The Effective Executive” & “Drucker on Management”.
Forbes magazine deemed him “the founder of modern management”.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by © Isaac Mao
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by © Isaac Mao

One of my favorite quotes of his appears in his autobiography, Adventures of a Bystander.

Drucker wrote:

“Bucky Fuller and Marshall McLuhan exemplify to me the importance of being single-minded.  The single-minded ones, the monomaniacs, are the only true achievers.  The rest, the ones like me, may have more fun; but they fritter themselves away.  The Fullers and the McLuhans carry out a ‘mission’, the rest of us have ‘interests’.  Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”

We are all too often guilty of loading too much on our plates.  We waste time on Facebook or Twitter.  We binge-watch episodes of House of Cards.  Or we spread ourselves too thin when we decide that we are going  to start a garden, and train for a marathon and learn Spanish – all within the next 6 months.

Bottom line – Drucker’s advice is prudent.

If we really want to accomplish something that is important to us, whether it is building our careers or raising a family, we would be better served if – instead of ‘frittering’ ourselves away – we focused our time & energies on that one “mission”.

When we are focused & diligent – only then we can succeed…..



5 Reasons to Consider a Lateral Move

In my last post, Career Advice – Step Back To Step Ahead, I wrote about the advice I had received from a very successful Sr. Executive I know about the value of making a lateral career move.

Well, it appears that Megan Ragsdale, writing over at at the Career Revolution website concurs.

She recently wrote a post entitled, 5 Reasons a Lateral Move is Better than a Promotion.

In her post, Megan wrote:

“It’s human nature. We want to move up in the world, make more money, improve our social standing and even increase our power. In a world that’s so focused on being upwardly mobile, why would anyone waste her time making career moves from side to side?…..One common element among those most successful people is that they understand the difference between pay and promotion and career progression, and that you don’t need the first two things in order to achieve the third.”

Megan goes on to list the following reasons:

1) Lateral career moves can better position you for the future.

2) Parallel career moves demonstrate strong learning agility. 

3) Moving laterally improves your visibility with a broader group of leaders. 

4) It shows your boss and your leaders that you’re willing to do the work. 

5) Lateral moves can keep you better engaged. 

Megan’s complete post can be found here.

It is a good read and definitely provides some interesting perspective.

Career Advice – Step Back To Step Ahead

One of the best bits of advice I received regarding managing your career came from a gentleman I know who is currently a Sr. VP of R&D for a major company.

I first met him when I was looking to fill a senior level Retained Search I was working on.

He happened to be in NYC for a conference and we agreed to meet in the lobby of the New York Hilton.

During our first meeting, I realized this guy had it all – he was intelligent, articulate, passionate, charismatic etc. – plus he was genuinely a nice person.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons Businessman Crossing the Finish Line - Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons Businessman Crossing the Finish Line – Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

But I also noticed something else interesting on his resume.

Early in his career, at a relatively young age, he was a Lab Manager for a small company that was focused on a relatively narrow product line.  He reported directly to the owner.  Yet his next job was only at a chemist level for a major company – working in an entirely different product area.

I asked him to explain what happened….

He replied that while he enjoyed being the Lab Manager and was happy to have such a high level of responsibility at a young age, he realized he had plateaued at that company.  There simply was no where else for him to go.  Additionally, the company he was working for was narrowly focused in terms of product type. He said his long term goal was to be a senior executive at a major company and he realized that in order to achieve that goal, he needed to broaden his experience and become well versed in a variety of different product areas.

So he swallowed his pride – took a step back – and took a different position at a major company at the chemist level.

He said it was the best move he ever made.

And he went on to say that he encouraged the people that he mentored to consider not only lateral moves – but – in certain situations -moves that could be perceived of as a “step back”.  Obviously he stressed, the moves had to make long term strategic sense. He was not advocating just randomly taking a step back. But he said – in the right situation – the philosophy of taking a step back to get ahead can provide a powerful boost to your long term career success.

His advice is spot on…..

To Hire Top Talent – Bring out the Big Guns

In their book, The War for Talent, the authors (Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones & Beth Axelrod) wrote:

“What distinguishes the high-performing companies from the average performing was not better HR processes, but the fundamental belief in the importance of talent.”

While many companies subscribe to their belief in the importance of talent – their interview practices suggest otherwise.

One thing that companies need to do when trying to fill a key position with top level talent is to ensure that the “Big Guns” are involved in the interview.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Laszlo Ilyes
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Laszlo Ilyes

If the position is important and the candidate is an “A” level performer, then senior management must be involved.

In an article from a few years ago entitled “Waging a War for Talent”, Ann Dowsett Johnston writes:

“Last month, Bill Gates went shopping for talent at the University of Waterloo, one of six universities he visited in three days…Call it a one-person career fair.”

The moral of this story?

If Bill Gates (who at the time of the article was still actively running Microsoft) was still leaving the friendly confines of his office in Redmond to help conduct interviews, there is absolutely no reason that anyone in your organization can claim that they are too busy to interview.

I have had a number of instances during my career where a mid level candidate was floored that a VP or President actually took the time to interview them.  And they later admitted that meeting senior management during the interview process was one of the key factors in their accepting the offer.

Obviously – this practice needs to be used judiciously.  A company can’t trot out senior management for every interview.

But when trying to fill a key position, bringing out the “Big Guns” can mean the difference between hiring the best person for the job as opposed to simply hiring the best person applying.



The Importance of Hiring Top Talent


One of the great truths in life is that superior talent, whether on the playing field, in the Executive Suite, or in the laboratory, usually wins in the end.

Good Coaches – and good Managers – have always intuitively grasped this concept.

Alfred Sloan, the former head of General Motors once famously said:

“Take my assets, leave my people, and in 5 years I will have it all back.”


CC Image courtesy of Creative Commons -U.S. Army Photos by Tim Hipps - FMWRC Public Affairs
CC Image courtesy of Creative Commons -U.S. Army Photos by Tim Hipps


Yet, the question remains, exactly how much difference does talent make?

In the mid-1990s, consulting firm McKinsey & Company set out to answer that question. After interviewing hundreds of executives and extensively studying numerous companies, the consulting firm reported having strong talent in key positions creates huge improvements in performance.

For instance, top Plant Managers grew profits 130% while the lowest performing managers achieved no improvement; the best Center Managers in Industrial Service Firms grew profits 80%; and Portfolio Managers in Financial Services institutions grew revenues by nearly 50% while average performers’ portfolios remained flat.

But the positive effects of superior talent extend beyond improvements at the individual and/or departmental level. The most striking effect of talent is seen on the company’s bottom line. The consultants at McKinsey stated that the companies that excel in talent management achieved total returns to shareholders that were 22 percentage points better than the average in their industry.

The difference talent makes is striking.

The concept that superior talent enables superior results is not something that we need to only grasp intuitively.

The data shows that companies with better talent are not merely better than their peers – They are vastly superior to them. 

Warren Buffett’s Career Advice

Warren Buffett is a legendary investor without peer – but the Oracle of Omaha can offer some sage career advice as well.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Aaron Friedman
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Aaron Friedman

According to a post on the Lifehacker site:

“Fortune magazine drops in on a Q&A Warren Buffett offered to 150 business students, and the advice dispensed by the Oracle of Omaha on investing and money in general is elegantly simple. 

When one student asked Buffett how to best spend his free time to further his investing knowledge, Buffett avoided generalized advice and told him to stick to what he knows. Fortune paraphrases:

For most people, the bulk of their income is going to come from earning power in their chosen profession. Therefore, from the standpoint of building wealth, free time is better spent sharpening one’s professional skills rather than studying investing.

Warren’s advice is prudent.

But how many of us actually do this?  How many of us actually spend our free time doing things that will enable us to get better at our jobs and make us more marketable?

As a Recruiter, I often hear people lament about how their careers are stagnant, or that they are not earning what they think they are worth.  But when I ask them what are they doing to invest in themselves and get better at their jobs, often there is no response.

Maybe – if we are really serious about developing our careers – we should follow Warren’s advice and spend more time developing our professional skills and less time following other pursuits.

Maybe we should all start investing in ourselves.


Pump Up The Volume Before An Interview

In a series of earlier posts here and here, I wrote about Amy Cuddy and her research about how changing our posture and adopting a more expansive pose (Power Pose), in fact causes us to act and feel more powerfully.

But are there any other ways for us to feel more powerful and more confident?

According to researchers at the Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management – there is.

All it takes is putting Queen or 50 Cent on your iPhone and turning up the volume.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Jonathan Grado
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Jonathan Grado

Researchers ran a series of experiments to study how music, and in particular powerful songs with a heavy emphasis on bass, like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”, tended to empower people and make them feel more in control and more powerful.

You can read an article about their research here.

In the article, Dennis Rucker, one of the researchers at Northwestern, discussed how athletes, before a game, are seen listening to music to put themselves in a proper frame of mind:

“One ritual we have noted is that athletes often arrive at the stadium wearing earphones. And these athletes often emerge from the locker room to the sound of music pounding. It is as if the music is offering a psychological coat of armor for the competition about to occur.”

The article then discussed how people can use this same ritual to prepare for the “competitions” in their lives (e.g. job interviews).

Bottom line – whether it is listening to music with a strong emphasis on bass, or adopting a Power Pose, there are rituals that we can perform before an interview that can put us in a frame of mind that will enable us to succeed.

Power Pose Before An Interview – Part 2

In a previous post, I wrote about how adopting a ‘Power Pose’ (i.e. a more expansive posture) can improve performance and reduce stress, especially before important meetings or job interviews.

One of the leading researchers on this topic is Amy Cuddy, an associate professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Ms. Cuddy decided to research the question of posture and its impact on performance even further.
While her previous research had addressed the question of whether adopting an expansive body posture or ‘Power Pose’ could positively impact performance before meetings or interviews, Ms. Cuddy decided to ask the next logical question – Will adopting a low power posture negatively impact performance?

Low Power Pose
Image Courtesy of Creative Commons by Simone Graziano Panetto

Ms. Cuddy, in a paper she co-wrote with Maarten Bos, examined this very topic.  In this paper. the authors wrote:

“We examined whether incidental body posture, prompted by working on electronic devices of different sizes, affects power-related behaviors.”

The authors continued:

“Just before walking into a meeting, many of us are hunched over our smart phones, reading and responding to emails, and reviewing last minute notes. Following this frenzied attempt to efficiently manage our time, we have to be on our game in the meeting. Recent research documenting the benefits of adopting expansive (vs. contractive) body postures – “power posing” – suggests that hunching over our smart phones before a stressful social interaction, like a job interview, may undermine our confidence and performance during that interaction.”

Cuddy and Bos went on to discuss the details of their study. You can read the full version here.

At the end of their study, Cuddy and Bos concluded that hunching over our cell phones and adopting a low power posture does indeed negatively impact our performance. By adopting a low power posture before a stressful event like a meeting or job interview, we actually feel less powerful and less confident.

The authors concluded:

“Many of us spend hours each day interacting with our electronic devices. In professional settings we often use them to be efficient and productive. We may, however, lose sight of the impact the device itself has on our behavior and as a result be less effective. We suggest that some time before going into a meeting, and obviously also during it, you put your cell phone away.”

In a future post, I will address exactly what to do prior to an interview to ensure that you really do feel more poised and more confident….

2014 – America’s best year of job growth since 1999

2014 ended up being America’s best year for job growth since 1999 according to a post by Matt Egan and Heather Long on the CNN website.

According to the post:

“More than 2.95 million jobs were created last year, according to the latest figures from the Department of Labor.

It’s encouraging news as the U.S. tries to put the Great Recession and sluggish recovery solidly behind it. Many economists expect 2015 to be equally as strong, if not better, for job seekers….’American businesses are on a hiring binge,’ said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. ‘It clearly suggests the economy is on a much stronger growth track than the first four years of the recovery.'”

But the news wasn’t all good.

The article continues:

“While job growth continues to pick up steam, wages have not. The government said average hourly earnings fell slightly in December from the previous month.”

Nevertheless, while wage growth has been negligible, the overall jobs situation is still much stronger than it has been in years.

And that is good news for all of us….

7 Signs You Should Leave Your Job

As we enter a New Year, now is a good time to review your current job situation.

Time Magazine’s website has a great article on this very topic entitled: 7 Signs You Should Leave Your Job (Sooner Rather Than Later).

The article’s author – Camillo Cho – lists the following signs:

  1. You’re Living the Status Quo
  2. You Don’t Get Feedback
  3. You’re Not Learning
  4. There’s a Constant Exodus
  5. There’s Regular Re-structuring
  6. Headhunters Want You
  7. It Feels Like Time to Go

You can read more detailed explanations regarding the 7 signs in  the complete article on Time’s website here.

If none of the above listed signs apply to you, then you should definitely stay where you are.

But if you find yourself nodding in agreement as you read down the list, it may be time to polish up the old resume…