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On Boarding – Questions to Ask During the Learning Plan

Posted by lyndabell on April 29, 2010

Getting off on the right foot is crucial for new employees.  Many resources exist to help you get started right.  I have found The First 90 Days and YOU’RE IN CHARGE – NOW WHAT to be two of the most useful books on the process of on-boarding. 

If reading books is not enough for you and successful on boarding is critical in  your next role, consider seeking the advice of a career coach.  I had the good fortune to connect with Barbara Blake of Longview Associates during my job search.  Through thoughtful coaching Barbara has helped me prepare for the on boarding process.

In addition to Barbara’s coaching, I have put together a document combined from information in the two books previously mentioned.  This document is a quick reference of questions I plan to ask  during the informational interviews I will be holding with internal and external stakeholders during my first 90 day learning plan.

I  have posted the complete document on my Blog for your reference – I hope you find something that will help you in your own on boarding process.


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Building a Network

Posted by lyndabell on April 17, 2010

For people actively engaged in career transition or job search or actively working to build a business or sales leads, the value of a network is generally understood.  However, I have recently discovered that understanding of a need does not necessarily translate into action for meeting the need.

An example:  A friend of mine recently pointed out that when he meets someone frustrated by the results of their job search, the first thing he does is ask them how many connections they have on LinkedIn.  He further inquires about the particular groups and number of groups they participate in on LinkedIn.  He shared with me that he often finds those people disappointed in the results of their job search are often not connected to others individually or through groups.

After he shared his technique with me, I began to use his methodology and test his findings.  Interestingly, I uncovered similar results. 

I believe his advice is relevant not just for job seekers or those in career transition.  It is equally useful for those who are selling their services or promoting their business. 

Test yourself.  Are you participating in informational meetings with others?  Do you participate in associations and meetings outside your place of business?  When you do either of these, are you making connections with others and seeking actions you can take to help them?  Have you built a network through LinkedIn or some other social media site?  If you haven’t, what’s stopping you?

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How Can Toastmasters Help You

Posted by lyndabell on April 4, 2010

If you are not familiar with Toastmasters, the following mission statement says it all.

The mission of the Toastmasters Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

Toastmasters offers skill building in several areas; communication, leadership and social networks

In the area of communication, the learning opportunities include public speaking though prepared speeches, impromptu speaking and evaluations

  • The prepared speeches are what Toastmaster’s is most known for.  Club members have the opportunity to develop public speaking skills by giving 5 to 7 minute prepared speeches.  Toastmasters members typically do not use props or slides in their presentations.  The challenge is to deliver a speech within a set timeframe, using proper grammar, no filler words and minimal notes.  Prepared speeches are evaluated by another member of the club.  The evaluations are a unique feature of a Toastmasters Club.  Evaluations are delivered to encourage the speaker and develop self-confidence, however they are also delivered to provide actionable feedback for improvement. 
  • The impromptu speeches are opportunities for Toastmasters members to learn to think on their feet and deliver a speech with no prior preparation.  Impromptu speeches are from 1 to 2 minutes in length.  Speakers are given a topic and asked to speak on that topic with no preparation.  I am sure you can think of many times in your personal or professional life when you have had to speak with little or no notice.  Examples include giving the toast at dinner, speaking during a retirement party, riding in the elevator with a senior manager or sharing your opinion during a meeting.  If impromptu speaking situations make you uncomfortable Toastmasters will definitely help you overcome the jitters. 
  • Evaluations provide another opportunity for building communication and presentation skills.  The role of Evaluator is a key role in the Toastmasters meeting.  Evaluators are asked to listen to and observe others and their work and offer feedback.  The evaluator provides an honest reaction in a constructive manner to the speaker using guidelines provided based on the speakers objective.   Good evaluators give feedback that is helpful and encouraging.

Toastmasters also provides the opportunity to build leadership skills.  Toastmasters members are encouraged to participate in the weekly meetings by filling a leadership position on the agenda.  You may also develop leadership skills by serving in a club officer position.  There are also district meetings and educational events that provide other opportunities to build leadership skills.  For you leadership skills may be in the development of sound meeting planning and time management.  For someone else development of leadership skills may be in coaching and mentoring others.  No matter what your particular need, Toastmasters will have a role or program that will help you realize your development goal for leadership.

Social Networking is another benefit of belonging to Toastmasters.  You will meet new people and form friendships through weekly meetings, contests and social gatherings.  While Toastmasters meetings are structured and develop skills in meeting management, there is an atmosphere of fellowship and fun in each Toastmasters Club meeting.

I have recently become involved with a local Toastmaster’s Group.  When I attended my first meeting I was not sure what to expect or even if I would continue on with the group.  What I have discovered is a community of friends and professional associates all focused on self-improvement and helping others.  I am committed to lifelong learning and have chosen Toastmasters for my personal development program.  I hope you will find a club near you and make Toastmasters part of your lifelong learning plan!

Get connected at:

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Have you returned your 2010 Census

Posted by lyndabell on March 24, 2010

Have you returned your 2010 Census.  If you haven’t, read on for some thoughts on why you should complete and return your census by April 1, 2010.

The census is a count of everyone living in the United States.  By Federal law, answers are private.  The census bureau cannot share personal or identifying information with anyone, even other federal agencies, for 72 years.  The US Constitution requires the census be conducted every 10 years, in part, to determine state populations, to distribute tax monies and to apportion seats in the US House of Representatives.  The census also provides a wealth of information about the nation and who we are as people. 

This year’s census will cost the taxpayers approximately $14.5 B to count every resident. 

Planning for this year’s census began 13 years ago.  The 2010 Census has been mailed to 120 million households in the USA.  All census questionnaires should have arrived by Weds, March 17.  This year’s census is one of the shortest since 1790 when the census first began.  The 2010 census includes 10 questions for the head of the household and 7 questions for all other members of the household.  The Census should take about 10 minutes to complete and mail back. 

Statics indicate that about 30% of the population will ignore the census or refuse to answer the questions.  The people in this population cite fear and suspicion of the government as their primary reason for not completing the census.  Please consider the following as you are filling out your census, anybody that files a tax return provides the federal government far more information than is required by the census.  Each of us disclose far more information about ourselves on Facebook, LinkedIn, and even when applying for preferred shopping cards.

By law we are required to cooperate with the census.  You can be fined up to $5,000 for not completing the census, however the government chooses not to fine, instead they elect to send multiple mailings and if needed, dispatch a census taker to your front door to collect the information.  If you are one of the 30% of the population that does not return the first mailing of the census by April 1, you will be mailed another census.  If you still don’t respond, you can expect a visit from a census taker.  The 10 question form costs $.42 in prepaid postage (bulk rate) to mail and a census takers visit costs approx. $56 per household.  The census bureau is estimating it will cost the taxpayers $1.5 B to send approximate 650,000 census takers knocking on doors. 

The Census helps to determine how much federal money comes back to a community, so each uncounted person is costly – about $1,400 per year – to one’s hometown. 

And lastly, it’s important to answer all of the questions on the census.  While the question on race has been part of the census since the first census was mandated by the nation’s Founders.  Over time a major purpose of the Census has evolved to ensure compliance with civil rights laws designed to outlaw discrimination in everything from employment to housing to education.  An example is the Voting Rights Act.  The Voting Rights Act was enacted to prevent states from drawing voting districts to dilute minority voting.  If the federal government cannot tell where Hispanics or African-Americans live, it is a tough Act to enforce. 

As a recap, I have listed 5 compelling reasons to complete the census questionnaire:

Distribution of tax monies, apportion seats in US House of Reps, each uncounted resident costs their community approx. $1400 per year, provides data to ensure compliance with Civil rights laws, and in these economically challenging times, we can save the taxpayers, you and me, about $1.5B by completing by April 1.

If you did not receive a census or you have a question about filling it out, call the census bureau at 1-866-872-6868.  You may also find local centers through the Census 2010 website,

Filling out your census is an exercise in good citizenship.  I hope you will return yours by April 1.

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YWCA Women’s Leadership Conference – “Unwritten Rules”

Posted by lyndabell on March 20, 2010

Last week I attended the YWCA of Cleveland Women’s Leadership Conference.  What a great opportunity to refresh and learn alongside many other talented women.  The Keynote speakers and Break-out Session speakers raised interesting questions and delivered messages to help women gain a competitive edge for career advancement.  In today’s blog I am sharing information based on the message delivered by Lynn Harris, the Morning Keynote Speaker.

Lynn’s new book is “Unwritten Rules.  What Women Need to Know About Leading in Today’s Organizations.”  

Lynn began her presentation by sharing some statistics that I found to be startling.  In the USA as measured in Fortune 500 Companies, women make up 15.2% of the Board of Directors positions and 13.5% of Corporate Officer positions.  Recent news leads us to believe the ranks of women in the workplace are growing, however the real statistic is that women are filling ranks of middle management but not senior leadership roles.  We are not getting better at providing opportunity for women to move into senior leadership roles. 

I believe we all intuitively know that diversity in the workplace is a good thing.  Lynn provided some interesting data and thoughts on how important diversity is to the economic success of organizations.  Consider these for yourself. 

  • Financial Performance – There is a direct link between the number of women in senior level positions and the financial performance of the organization.  Catalyst research reported “companies with higher percentages of women board directors, on average, financially outperformed companies with the lowest percentage of women board directors by significant margins.  The same correlation exists  between the percentage of women corporate officers and financial performance.”
  • Voice of the Customer – Women influence the largest percentage of buying decisions, however women are not in influencing and senior leadership positions in organizations.  Do we really need men in senior leadership roles in organizations trying to think like the female consumer?  How much more powerful would the organization be if we had more women in senior leadership roles influencing the strategy and growth of the organization?
  • Diversity – Intuitively we know we are better at making decisions when we do not all look-alike, act alike, think alike etc…  Working with diverse teams is more difficult at first but once the team members develop skills to work in diverse cultures, decision-making is more effective.
  • Talent Pool – Even with the current economic crisis, analysts continue to predict a future shortage in the senior leadership ranks.  Including women in the senior leadership ranks provides organizations a bigger talent pool.

  Lynn defines the current state “Unwritten Rules” as follows:

  1. Senior Leaders are available anytime and anywhere.  These means full-time availability,  10+ hours per day in the office, ability to travel extensively, and have geographic mobility.
  2. Senior Leaders have a linear career path.  Continuous career history without the career breaks typically seen in a woman’s career for focus on the family.  Senior Leaders begin to break away from the pack in their mid-30’s, again a time when women often take a break to focus on the family.
  3. Senior Leaders are competitive.  Lynn described this as motivated by money and position.  When torn between career and family, they chose career.  Women often choose differently.  They often put their careers on hold to start, and often to raise, a family.
  4. Senior Leaders promote themselves.  They speak confidently about themselves and build a network with people who can support their career growth.  When women behave “the same” as men in this area it is often viewed by others very differently.  Women are not expected to have strong negotiation skills and an assertive style.  They are often not rewarded for the same behaviors. 

These “Unwritten Rules” disadvantage women and create a work environment where it is difficult for women to advance or succeed in Senior Leadership positions.  Lynn provided tips she considers to be mandatory for professional development.

  • Due Diligence – Do your homework on the organization before you join.  Ask companies what they are doing to get more women into Senior Leadership positions.  Ask them what you would need to do to move forward in the organization.  Research the organization, the diversity of the Board and the Senior Leadership Team.
  • Strategic Influence – Build skills in the competency of Influencing.  Invest in skill development.
  • Networking – Develop and maintain professional relationships.  Don’t think of networking as smarmy.  Don’t ever stop investing time in building and maintaining your professional relationships.  Set aside time to do this, it is critical.
  • Personal Sustainability – Take care of yourself.  This is body, mind and spirit.  You can’t perform well if you don’t look after yourself.  Women have a tendency to take care of everyone else first.  Take care of yourself first.  It’s like the preflight message:  Give yourself oxygen before you try to help others (paraphrased).
  • Authenticity – You must understand your values and stay true to yourself.  You don’t have to behave like a man, your strength and contribution is in being a woman.
  • Mentoring and Coaching – If you don’t have a mentor, get two.  One inside the company and one outside the company.  And always seek one-on-one coaching.  If you can afford it or influence the organization to provide it, seek the skill of a credentialed coach for developmental feedback.

In the end, understand your values, develop skills, understand the “Unwritten Rules”, and don’t try to behave like a man.  Be your authentic self.

Lynn’s book is “Unwritten Rules What Women Need to Know About Leading in Today’s Organizations.”  I highly recommend it!

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How do you differentiate yourself in the job market today?

Posted by lyndabell on March 16, 2010

Every day I wake up and ask myself, “What am I going to do differently today?  What can I learn from yesterday and improve on today?”  As I attend lectures and webinars I look for ideas from others to help me answer these questions.  Last week I had the opportunity to hear Mike Perry, President of Szarka Financial Management, speak on “Using Tools and Resources to Tell Your Story and Stand Apart from the Competition.”  I found Mike’s presentation to be just what I needed to jumpstart my thinking.  These are some tips I found most helpful – I am hoping you find these helpful too!

RESUME – Don’t think one size fits all.  Each time you apply for a position, tailor your resume to the position.  Review the skills and requirements needed for the position and be sure you have accomplishments that support your qualifications for the position.  Tailor your objective / positioning statement to the position.  If you list key words at the top of your resume like I do, tailor those to the job description.  Don’t stretch the truth but do put your best foot forward by presenting your unique qualifications for each position.

MARKETING PLAN / PROFILE – This is a one page document that has become a must have in today’s market.  The marketing profile is used during informational meetings when a resume is too much information.  The marketing plan provides highlights of your past experience and, at a high level, what you are looking for in your next position.  If you don’t have a marketing plan, get one.  If you don’t know where to start, visit local job seeker groups or google “marketing plan for job search” for ideas. 

YOUR NETWORK – Who’s in your network?  If  you did not answer “Everybody is in my network” you are thinking too small.  Your direct and indirect contacts are in your network.  If you are using one method to communicate to your network, you are thinking too small.  Use different methods to communicate to your network and always make sure your message matches what you say on your resume.  I’ve already mentioned two of the tools you will need to use in communicating to your network, others include LinkedIn, Blogs, Newsletters, Status Updates via email and telephone, and networking events.  I know you’ll think of communication methods I haven’t listed here, be creative and get your message out in your network.  People can’t help you if they don’t know what you need.

DEMONSTRATE LEADERSHIP – Leaders do the right thing.  Reach out and help others.  Engage and learn from others.  Don’t close your ears to any opportunity, you don’t know where the conversation will lead.  Be proud of your experience and communicate how you can impact the organization!

I am revising my job search plan to include ideas from these four tips.  It’s time to jumpstart the job search!

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