Archives For Careers

[Rant on…]

Are we becoming a nation of spoiled wimps?

Based on this article I read in Sunday morning’s Houston Chronicle, I would say the evidence is mounting that we are.

Trader Joe’s has been a shopper’s favorite for years now. They have a great reputation of friendly service and great prices, but the article postulates that employees are encouraged to act like they are in a good mood even when they are not.

From the article:

“…in recent years, the patina of good cheer has masked growing strife and demoralization in some stores on the East Coast, far from the company’s base in California. A number of workers, known at Trader Joe’s as ‘crew members,’ complain of harsh and arbitrary treatment at the hands of managers, of chronic safety lapses and of an atmosphere of surveillance.

“…some employees say they are pressured to appear happy with customers and co-workers, even when that appearance is starkly at odds with what is happening at the store.”

And there’s this…

“Other employees in stores across the Northeast and Middle Atlantic regions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, echoed Nagle’s description of stockroom hazards and managers’ behavior. A worker in Brooklyn said that if two workers spoke to one another for more than a minute or two while on the job, often a manager would appear and ask, ‘What’s going on?'”

It’s amazing that Trader Joe’s can has any employees at all based on those deplorable conditions. How horrible! (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

I have an idea! If you work for a company that is so horrible that you have to fake being nice, then quit. Go work somewhere else. I can’t even believe the New York Times would publish such drivel.

[…rant off]

Meet Glover Quin

October 26, 2016 — 2 Comments

This is a great piece about financial savvy of Detroit Lions safety, Glover Quin. Doesn’t happen often enough.

He saved 70% of his income the first three years of his NFL career and lived on the other 30%. Too many young players get the big money and go on wild spending sprees. Not Mr. Quin. He not only saved 70% of his income, he INVESTED it. Now 30-years old, Mr. Quin might be lucky to have five more good years. If he continues at his current pace, he should be able to retire and live comfortably the rest of his life.

I wish him the best.

This piece comes to us via a daily email I receive from Wells Fargo.

Employers are struggling to find workers with soft skills, such as critical thinking, empathy, and the ability to get along with colleagues.

The Wall Street Journal cites a recent LinkedIn study that revealed 58% of 291 hiring managers believe the dearth of soft skills in the job market is hindering their firms’ productivity. Meanwhile, 89% of 900 executives polled by the Journal in 2015 said finding candidates with soft skills has proven very or somewhat difficult.

As the labor market tightens, businesses are spending more money and time on methods for screening and discovering candidates who possess skills that range from engaging customers in small talk or taking the initiative to lead a firm-wide project that requires reaching out across the invisible boundaries that sometimes divide teams.

According to the Journal, companies are saying they’re less inclined to provide training that could ramp up employees’ soft skills as they would with training for topics such as technical skills or industry licensure. In turn, this could be a driver behind the country’s high number of unfulfilled job openings, as reported by the Labor Department.

LinkedIn crunched data from its users’ professional profiles to find out which soft skills were most prevalent among users who successfully landed jobs they’d applied for. Here are a few of the leading attributes:

  • Communication
  • Capacity for teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability

To some, these skills might seem like a given. They’d ask, “How could you not know how to hold a conversation or engage in critical thinking to build an informed judgement?” But it’s not that easy for everyone. Some workers may be well-intentioned and interested in the success of their employer and would sincerely like to feel engaged with their peers—but the attributes required for these things need cultivation or awakening in order to shine through.

This requires critical (and new) thinking by employers. Technical and industry skills are essential; but how can you shift the priority so soft skills are factored into professional development plans and goals? In addition, traditional workplace training methods—such as webinars, workshops, or courses—can be convenient and effective. But if your goal is to bring out the best in your workers’ more nuanced traits and personalities, what’s the best method?

Here’s a good approach: According to Learning & Development, executives at British Gas view volunteering as a positive indicator of a job applicant’s soft skills. In fact, the company encourages its employees to take two days of paid leave to volunteer in their communities. Not only is volunteering a great thing to do, British Gas sees it as a way to develop soft skills, such as the ability to relate to customers.

If you can’t tell already, I’m a big proponent of the development of soft skills in the workplace. A major influence on my career came from my years of training in Boston’s improv comedy scene. While there’s no memorizing lines for an improv comedy show (scenes are 100% created from scratch), there are countless exercises, games, and practice sessions that stimulate the mind and enable new skills. In terms of soft skills, improv training enhances the ability to listen completely, present new ideas fearlessly, and think on your feet in high-pressure situations. And above all, it shows you the importance of creating and maintaining a culture of support within your team.

Much like British Gas’ focus on volunteering, these exercises bring about attributes that are good in the workplace and good in life.

John D. Natale

Dear College Kids

April 10, 2016 — 5 Comments

I read this piece in today’s Houston Chronicle about an incident that occurred during a talk that H-E-B’s president of the Houston region, Scott McClelland, gave to some business students at the University of Houston.

“About 20 minutes into his talk, he [Scott McClelland] spotted one student leaning back in his chair, sound asleep and ‘sawing logs.’

“‘I asked the student sitting behind the sleeping student to tap him on the shoulder. When he sat up, I told him that he looked tired and he needed to leave. He just sat there, so I told him again that he needed to go,’ McClelland recalled. ‘The whole class looked on (as the student left). I think they were surprised someone would actually address what probably is tolerated in other classes they attend.’

“McClelland said he didn’t plan on doing anything that dramatic, but in that moment he saw a teaching opportunity.

“‘When you are at work, or school, you need to bring your “A” game, because people are always watching,’ he said. ‘A year from now, the students in the class won’t remember the slide that I showed them on how we partnered with Whataburger to develop a retail package for ketchup, but they will remember that a kid fell asleep in class and the H-E-B guy didn’t tolerate it.’

“McClelland said doing nothing would have made him guilty of ‘the insidious acceptance of the B grade.'”

Well, one of the students who witnessed the exchange took to Twitter to call out McClelland. They said that McClelland was out of line and that he humiliated the student.

Wow. You cannot make this stuff up.

Here is a man who is probably earning $250K + per year, taking precious time out of his very busy schedule to impart his wisdom to a bunch of college kids who will be looking for jobs in the not so distant future. And here is a student sleeping during his lecture. So much for a good first impression.

The problem I have with today’s kids is that they don’t seem to understand that there are consequences for actions and those consequences may not be pleasant. You fall asleep in class, the lecturer calls you on it and asks you to leave. If you don’t want to be called on it, then don’t fall asleep during class. Instead, this person blames the problem on the lecturer. It doesn’t and shouldn’t work that way.

This is such a small issue that I feel silly even writing about it. Welcome to 2016.

Mike Rowe on Jobs

October 30, 2015

I caught this video today and thought it was worth sharing. I’m a Mike Rowe fan. He has common sense, which seems to be a rarity these days.

He said a couple of things that stood out to me:

“…when you’re going to be a digger of ditches, be the best damn ditch digger there is.”

“There’s a trap out and it’s so easy to forget, but there is no such thing as a good job. There is not such thing as a bad job. There’s work. And what you bring to the work, how long you decide to stay on the job, and whether or not you use it as an opportunity, a destination, or something through which to pass, is up to you.”

Agreed.

Morals and Business

May 16, 2013

Watch this when you get a chance:

“Character can be taught.”

Of course it can, but most leaders and employees don’t think that way.

The following question was published in this weekend’s WSJ:

Dear Dan,

I don’t care about cars, never have. But I’m a sales executive, and people tell me I should own a nice car (BMW, Mercedes, etc.) to enhance my credibility to both my customers and sales team. I can afford either but would rather save the cash and buy a Honda. Does it matter?

—Cody

I’m curious what your thoughts are on this.

Here are mine:

I suppose the answer depends on the circumstances (what are you selling?). I, however, would gravitate to the one I wanted and not worry about what other people think. So, if I wanted a Honda, I would go for the Honda. There’s nothing worse than a flashy, cocky, salesperson. That’s my opinion.

Thoughts?