Dialogue on Race and Social Inequality Series

I had the great opportunity to share a panel with some bright minds at Texas Woman’s University discussing intersectionality and being Black in Modern America.

Click here  (the recording started early before the panel actually began, so skip to 8:33 for the beginning of the presentation)

Polishing Your Resume: The Basics Still Apply

My students always ask me for advice on their job search. I decided to offer some resume tips that are effective based on what some experts recommend, but also based on feedback from my students and clients. Seasoned professionals may recognize these basic tips (nothing wrong with a friendly reminder), and those of you new to the job market should find them helpful. Surprisingly, the basics still work, but with a few tweeks.

Recruiters, whether internal or external, on average, will give your resume 6 seconds for their first screening. However, if your resume is not crafted correctly there is a chance it may never be seen by a human being because of the various kinds of software used to scan your resume. These “bots” pick up on predetermined key words that employers have deemed as qualifying characteristics of the ideal job candidate. The basics still apply, but because of these aforementioned factors, here are some reminders about what to consider when crafting your resume:

1)  Job specific key words. Employers literally receive hundreds, if not thousands of applications. And job seekers may submit hundreds of resumes for only a few job replies. That is why it is important to focus your job search. A cookie cutter approach will not work, and your resume must reflect the skill set that fits the job you are seeking. “Bots” in recruitment software will scan for key words so a great place to start with your resume is to make sure that words in your resume reflect the job description. Also, some resume formats translate better than others. Because Linked In profiles can now be uploaded to many electronic applications, following a format that Linked In uses might be helpful in some cases.

2)  Time. Your time is valuable, and it should be spent wisely to ensure the maximum return on your time invested. Although many hiring managers seldom read cover letters, or do so only after reviewing your resume, it will set you apart from other candidates if you take the time to write one. A cover letter may also be a tie- breaker for you. However, because many jobs currently ask for optional cover letters, I advise you to write cover letters only for jobs for which you know that you are extremely qualified or that you really, really want. Feel free to apply to jobs that list “preferred skills” even if you do not have those skills, but do not waste time applying to jobs that ask for “required skills” that you do not have.

3)  White space. Because recruiters may glance very quickly at your resume, you want it to be easy to read quickly. This can be accomplished by reducing as much clutter and creating as much “white space” as possible. Some other rules of thumb to make your resume look polished include using no smaller than 1 inch margins and using no smaller than 10 pt font. Avoid fonts that are too fancy. I recommend Arial or Times New Roman.

4)  Achievement oriented language. Your resume must include language that signals success and recognizes accomplishments. Your goal is to quantifiably prove that you can perform the job. Employers already know what the role does and do not need a job description submitted by you. Every bullet point spent on describing historical circumstances, promotions, or scope of responsibilities is wasted and lost on a hiring manager. Employers want to know if you’ll be any good at the job. In order to do this, the language in your resume must reflect accomplishments using action verbs and metrics whenever possible to be persuasive.

Please comment with any more tips that you find useful that will assist Linked In followers.

For career tips and updates or to discover more ways you can better your career email me at jlambertphd@gmail.com.

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Don’t Make These 3 Leadership Mistakes

leadership mistakes

In an earlier post entitled the Dark Side of Leadership I discussed the responsibility that comes with being a leader that might test the resolve of some individuals.  For example, terminating employees because the company is underperforming can be a stressful but necessary task that leaders are expected to do.  Although this may not be deemed unethical, there is still an element of discomfort that exists.  Today I want to shift the focus towards things that leaders do both intentionally and unintentionally that lead to poor decision making and occurrences of unethical behavior.

1) Leading autocratically:

Whenever you begin to believe you know it all, that is when you know absolutely nothing. Over time when those around you want to impress you, it can be easy to believe you are the end all be all.  What might happen is that you begin to depend less on your team for solutions and lead by making all the decisions.  This type of thinking can backfire as you lose the innovation that comes with having multiple perspectives to address challenges.  Also, to make matters worse, when you do not engage your employees or consider their ideas, they will allow you to bask in your ignorance.  You will truly know nothing when you try to direct everything, because your employees will no longer communicate important information to you from the trenches.

2) Not articulating codes of ethics:

Employees’ values differ based on differences in culture, beliefs, religion, even by industry.   Leaders cannot assume everyone in the organization is on same page ethically. You have to articulate what you and your organization value in order to see those values show up in your employees.  You must also scrutinize what behaviors are rewarded and how they are rewarded.  The behaviors that receive attention are the ones that will be repeated, ultimately determining how your employees behave and perform.  If you do not represent the values of your organization, then overtime it may be difficult to harness unethical behavior when it occurs.

3) Just being kind of “crazy”:

Recently, some researchers have found that some leaders may possess trait characteristics similar to psychopaths in the clinical sense.  A study found that found that 8 out of 200 high-level executives had scores that exceeded the psychopathic threshold used in the criminal justice system.  Individuals who fit this mold exhibit a higher degree of risk-taking, do not sense empathy like most other people, and use manipulation in the relationships they have. So if you think your boss is crazy, there is 4% chance you could be right.

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The Dark Side of Leadership

darth-vader-in-suit

Source: http://www.boredpanda.com/365-photography-project-daily-life-darth-vader-pawel-kadysz/

Everybody wants to lead.  In American society, leadership is synonymous with power and influence. Most leadership authors frequently discuss ways to be a better leaders and the strategies always seem straightforward. Tactics identified usually speak to the higher nature of our personalities. “Be a positive example”; “Engage your employees”; “Happy employees make for happy customers”. However, there is a dearth of literature that looks at how difficult it is to be a manager or leader on an ordinary and daily basis. Below are 4 things that you need to be able to do in order to lead effectively that many leadership books do not talk about that may test not only your abilities, but also your ethical compass.

1 Keep secrets

Most leaders can attest that when you are in a position of authority you are privy to a lot of information. Some information is “classified”.  It can be very awkward  and difficult for some to be professional and cordial with others when you know things about their character. For example, you may be aware of employees who have a pending sexual harassment charge against them. As a manager, you also know who your poor performers are versus your superstars. You can’t slip up and leak certain information about employees or bad mouth them over a cocktail after work. You also can’t tell employees the company is planning to layoff folks until the predetermined time. But you and Jim started working there at the same time. Would you tell him? Can you keep a secret?

2 Tell the truth

I believe in the saying that the truth will set you free. You should always tell the truth even to your own detriment. If your company is going bankrupt, let your employees know. If Jim asks if he will be laid off, tell him. If you do not have the solution to a problem, that is okay. Do not pretend you have all the answers. And please do not make up answers like I have witnessed a few leaders do. That will lead to mistrust and it is very difficult to regain trust back.

3 Fire people

There is no space for employees who continually underperform. So, unfortunately you will have to terminate employees. I never understood how some people actually enjoy firing employees. I have found this to be one of the most difficult things about leading a team, unit, or organization. However, it must be done whether due to an employee’s poor performance or budget constraints.  But how you do it makes all the difference because your employees are observing your behavior. Are terminated employees treated with dignity as a human being or are they dismissed with impunity as if their contributions never mattered? Regardless of how you approach the situation, the bottom line is that when you fire someone or lay them off you may be essentially destroying their life. Their family, health, and well-being depends on their livelihood from work income and you have the power to take that away. Whether they deserve it or not, it actually sucks when you understand the consequences of what may happen to someone you have to fire.

4 Be humble

As a manager, some of your colleagues will treat you differently. They may bring you a gift for your birthday. You may find a souvenir in your mailbox from a country your colleague visited. As a result, some managers develop a god-like complex. They begin to believe that everything they say or do is the gospel. They begin to dismiss the ideas of those around them or make unreasonable requests. Do not fall into that trap. My best advice is to always ask for the opinions of others even when you think you know the right answer. I have found that my ideas are never the best, or at least they can always be adjusted by the ideas of others.  Like Thomas Jefferson has been quoted as saying, “The wise know too well their weakness to assume infallibility; and he who knows most knows best how little he knows.” And always give credit to someone else even if you think you deserve it (because you probably do not deserve it due to your power blinding you from reality). What is the worse that can happen if you give away the credit?  Your employees will trust and appreciate you, and you still will get the credit anyway.  That is because others will perceive you as being able to motivate strong and innovative performers. 

So… do you still wanna lead?

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The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Power of Followership

Most books discuss leadership in a vacuum as if leaders can accomplish the things they do without help from others. When success is achieved the leader gets all the credit. But great leaders are sometimes created because of those who they lead.  Without good followers, leaders can never achieve success.  Let me explain using a well know fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.  If you remember, this story is about two con artists who tell a vain emperor they have the most exquisite fabric that only smart and powerful individuals can see. Actually, there is no fabric at all and the con artists only pretend to see the fabric as they present it to the emperor.  The emperor, not wanting to admit that he cannot see the fabric as it would indicate that he is not smart or powerful, falls for the con and asks for a suit to be made out of the fabric by the con artists.  In conclusion, the emperor parades the town in his new suit until a child yells out “the emperor has no clothes!”

This story makes a great case about leadership and its inability to have an impact if there are no good followers around to speak up and wake leaders to the truth. Out of all the emperor’s servants, friends, and townspeople it was a child who was not afraid to speak; an unapologetic, naïve, but very aware child. In some organizations, the culture becomes so homogenized by egomaniacal leadership that everyone thinks the same.  No one questions why things are done a certain way.  Sometimes a newly hired employee may enter the organization with some great ideas for innovation and change, but over time his or her ideas are overshadowed by the culture and they are brought into the fold.  Metaphorically speaking, employees, like children, who were once curious and honest, become cynical and expressionless.  More leaders need “children” like those surrounding the emperor in order hear the truth.

So why is followership just as important as leadership?  Because great followers make great leaders through their ability to think independently and express themselves. There is research that identifies 4 types of followers based on their ability to express themselves and critically think independently (Kelley, 1988).  These two characteristics are important for your subordinates to possess so that you can lead well.  They also are important to possess if you do not hold any formal authority in an organization, but want to be recognized as possessing leadership qualities.  The four types of followers can be describes as alienated followers, sheep, yes folks, and subordinate leaders.

  1. Sheep: We all recognize them when we see them. They lack independent thinking, and do not say much. They follow the status quo.  Contrary to what most think, acting like sheep is very bad for an organization.  A workforce made up of individuals who are afraid to express themselves and do not think for themselves will cause innovation and creativity to suffer.  Leaders who admonish others for not thinking as he or she does, or discourage risk taking will create a workforce where everyone will leave but the sheep will remain.
  2. Alienated followers: These employees think independently. However, if leaders do not value the feedback and input of their workforce, alienated followers will no longer express their opinions and ideas.  Why should they if the leader is always right?  Sometimes these are the best employees that eventually leave the organization and take their talent somewhere where it is valued.
  3. Yes folk: These followers are not afraid to express themselves, but they only express and regurgitate the ideas of their leader.  They do not think independently. This is fine when leadership is right.  But when leadership is wrong, and is not questioned, then the ramifications over time can be devastating to an organization.  To avoid this, effective leaders should ask followers to think about the pitfalls of ideas presented.  Otherwise, depending on the culture of the organization, bad ideas will always flourish because followers allow them to.
  4. Subordinate leaders: When you are a subordinate leader, the term follower is really misleading because you think independently and are not afraid to share your ideas, even when it goes against the status quo.  It takes real courage to be a subordinate leader because you may have to question the decision of your superiors for the greater good of the organization.  All effective leaders should want subordinate leadership in their organization.  However, ego can prevent leaders from realizing how it benefits their leadership abilities. I have found that most leaders feel threatened when an idea or solution that differs from their own is presented.  If you are a leader, embrace your subordinate leaders because they express themselves freely because they care about the organization. Do not take it personal.  Otherwise, they will leave the organization, and they may be your best employees.  If you are a subordinate leader, here are some tips to “manage up” so that your boss may listen:

a) Express ideas that are contrary to your boss in private. He or she will appreciate your respectfulness as well as your candor.

b) Be an expert in your field. That way you will possess what is known as expert power which can be more influential than legitimate authority or the power to reward or punish others. This influence can be effective in speaking with your boss and your peers.

c) Having expert power gives you the freedom to take your talents elsewhere if your boss simply does not “get it.”

d) Remember, you do not have all the answers. Be willing to listen to alternate perspectives and hear your boss out. Otherwise you become just as egomaniacal as your boss.

Be a leader.  But it is also okay to be a follower… so long as you are the right type.

Dr. Jason R. Lambert is an Assistant Professor of Management at Texas Woman’s University.  His research examines the impact of individual differences on early recruitment, selection, and performance.  His work has been presented at both regional and international conferences such as the Academy of Management and Southern Management Association, and has appeared in Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal, and the Oxford Handbook of Diversity and Work. His professional career spans 10 years in managerial roles in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.

He can be contacted at jlambertphd@gmail.com or through his website at http://www.jaylamphd.com.

He also offers small business consultation through a partnership with In The Spirit Network at http://www.inthespirit2.com/jason