Tag Archives: Career

Do You Belong Here?

Few topics stir more emotion than organizational culture. Over the last year, we’ve spent a great deal of time examining what organizational culture is and how it affects individual performance and health.

Here are a three fallacies of organizational culture to consider:

  1. Organizations Have One Culture = FALSE

Organizational culture is an elusive, transitory and intensely personal description of the characteristics of your workplace. Within any given organization, Culture varies over time and differs across departments, functions, hierarchical levels and geographic locations, among other factors. In practice, organizational culture is in the eyes of the beholder – it is the aggregation of how you and others in your organization perceive it.

  1. The Larger the Organization the Less Important the Individual = FALSE

A commonly held belief is that the sense of belonging, so often associated with start-ups, is lacking in larger organizations where people can often feel isolated, unappreciated or worse – unnoticed. In practice, organizational culture in larger enterprises is a mosaic of micro-cultures created by the regional or functional areas and often fostered by the executive in charge – change the executive and change the micro-culture.

  1. My Values Must Align with Organizational Values = FALSE

Most organizations, explicitly or implicitly operate with a formal hierarchy and an informal network organization. Hierarchies are designed to keep the factory running while networks are designed to assess and respond to environmental changes. So, when it comes to values, the more aligned you are, the better positioned you are to work within the hierarchical structure of the organization. The more aligned your values, the better you fit with the rhythm of the business – the way the business is run today. The less aligned your values are with the organization’s, the more likely you are to provide the networked side of the organization fresh ideas and new ways of thinking(innovation) and working (collaboration).

If you find yourself asking do you belong here, it’s worth exploring how you, as a leader, can become an agent of change and right the wrongs you see in the system. Sure, some people and organizations just don’t mix, but before you jump ship, consider how you might turn a cultural mismatch into a career accelerator by considering the fallacies of culture discussed here.

Have an idea or story about culture that you think should be included in our work?  Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with me at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.


The New Leadership Challenge (Part 1)

A Sneak Peak at Leadership Research Findings

After interviews and conversations with 100’s of top executives from 26 countries around the globe, it has become clear that business as we know it is on the way out. In its place is a new type of enterprise that looks less like an assembly line and more like a community; a place where care, fun and yes, even love, have a place.

While this new world order of business promises levels of professional freedom and opportunity our parents never imagined, it also redefines the concept of a career and demands new skills for success. Achieving success in the future is what the New Leadership Challenge is all about.

Our research has identified the 11 essentials for becoming an effective leader in this new environment.

The first 4 steps deal with becoming an introspective leader – getting clear about who you are, what you care about and what you want:

  1. Personal Inventory: Great leadership comes with reflective honesty and self-appraisal, taking the time to specifically define our strengths and weaknesses AND the courage to validate your findings with others is the first step.
  2. Values: It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have that matters and VALUES drive ACTIONS. List the 5 things you value most (in order of importance) and use that list to guide your actions.
  3. Unique Ability: We are many things, but each of us possesses unique talents, driven by our passions and what we value. Chicago consultant Dan Sullivan suggests that finding your unique talent is a key to unlocking your leadership potential.
  4. What Success Means to You: Success is NOT a destination. Success is an aggregation of effort, time and lots of lesser successes. Take a moment to define what success means to you and make an effort to become successful each day. Then every night ask yourself, was I successful today?

Next week we’ll provide the rest of the list (several of which will likely surprise you) and offer concrete ways to begin taking action to rapidly accelerate your vision of success.

AND… keep those cards and letters coming! Don’t hesitate to share your perspectives by writing me at Jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

The Unspoken Rules of Work: Defining the NEW Social Contract

Bye-bye lifelong employment, gold watches and pension plans. Hello to a new set of work and career rules.

Our changing relationship with work is a central component in my new book. So, I’ve been doing a great deal of research trying to discover what’s in the new social contact – what exactly is expected by organizations and what can employees except in return. In short, what are the rules of engagement in this new world of work?

The New Social Contract

What to Expect in Your Career:

  1. You’ll have more jobs in a career: A 20th century taboo is evaporating before our eyes. Lifelong employment is a thing of the past. As companies have surrendered their commitment to their employees, we’ve become a job-seeking nation.
  2. Your career will likely span multiple roles and industries: Over the next generation, workers will be freed to switch functional roles and even transition to new industries with relative ease.
  3. More than ever before, organizations will focus on and value your ability to learn: Assessing a candidate’s ability to absorb information and learn new skills will be the most sought after competency for non-technical jobs. Let’s face it. What you are doing quite well today may not be a needed function in the future. Are you prepared to fill a new role?
  4. Your ability to effectively contribute and lead a team (especially ad-hoc or self-organizing teams) is fast becoming a critical success factor.

The research is pretty clear on what organizations want and need, but I’d like to hear from you on what employees want!

The following is a list of job characteristics mentioned in a number of surveys. Is there something missing? Is there some expectation of your job that’s not on the list?

What Employees Want and Expect:

  • Control (some)
  • Care (as a person)
  • Equitable compensation (vs. others)
  • Challenged (mind)
  • Nourished (soul)
  • Protected (healthcare, retirement, disability, unemployment)
  • Advancement
  • Recognition
  • Social component (work with great people)
  • Pride (self-respect)
  • Development opportunities (learning/insights/new skills)
  • Flexible workplace (physical or virtual facilities)
  • Adventure (variety)
  • Mission greater than ourselves (what I do matters/purpose)
  • Wow factor (brand or industry attractiveness)
  • Responsibility and empowerment (ability to make an impact)
  • Work/life imbalance/unbalance


Please share your thoughts with me by sending an email to:



Mackling & Jensen as paraphrased in Bass (2008). The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research and Managerial Applications.

Jobvite, The Polling Company, Inc.  Jobvite Job Seeker Nation Study. (2014). Retrieved September 25, 2015, fromhttp://web.jobvite.com/rs/jobvite/images/2014 Job Seeker Survey.pdf

Show Up, Shut Up and Do It Our Way…

“…And the strategy begat the tactics.
 And the tactics begat the objectives.
That begat the tasks.
That begat the people in cubicles
 who no longer begat children
 because they’re working all weekend
 trying to finish the *@#$-
assignments they’ve been given…

-The Cluetrain Manifesto

Amazon lists 349,691 books on relationships, 162,082 of which deal with relationships in the workplace. But few titles focus on the changing relationship we have with our work. New research suggests that our jobs often cause stress, illness and even death.

Annual Costs of Work Related Stress:

  • $300B of absenteeism, reduced productivity levels and employee turnover,
  • Contributes to 120,000 deaths, and
  • +$190B related U.S. Healthcare Costs.
Employee Loyalty is Becoming a Thing of the Past:
  • 51% of employed workers are either actively seeking or open to a new job and
  • Over a third of you will change jobs every 5 years.
  • Younger employees, those with less formal education and high wage earners arelikely to change jobs more often,
  • 75% of job turnover is related to quality-of-life issues,
  • 13% of turnover can be attributed to poor relationships with their supervisor, manager and/or colleague, and
  • Replacing an employee typically costs 120-200% of the salary of that employee.

People are changing jobs, though a recent survey indicated that people view the process to be more difficult than doing your taxes, dealing with a car salesman, refinancing your home or planning a wedding.

Just a few generations ago, there was an implied social contract between workers and the organizations in which they worked.

Show up.
Do the job our way.
Don’t make waves and
 you’ll have a job for life.

Outsourcing, right-shoring, downsizing and variable cost models summarily cancelled that social contract with no replacement. Next week we’ll examine what the new social contract might look like and what you can do to protect and advance your career when your next opportunity may not be a promotion to a corner office but an exit across town.

Surviving or Thriving: Evaluating Your Career Strategy

Do you have a career strategy?

Regardless how you respond, the real answer is YES.

Either you are explicitly driving your career or you are implicitly letting your career drive you.

Just as young people entering the workforce often view success as getting any job; mid-career professionals often view success as either keeping their current position or getting a promotion.

Sure, when you are starting out, you may have to take whatever work you can to make ends meet. Once into the steady pace of your career and facing the personal pressures of family and finances, just keeping what you have may fill your plate.

So, if you’re like most people you are probably feeling so over-worked, over-tired, overwhelmed and under-appreciated that you simply don’t have the ‘head space’ left to think about one more thing. Working parents often tell me their ‘strategy’ is to just make it through the week… and that’s the difference between surviving and thriving in your career.

Strategies are simply plans to help you achieve a goal. Your career is too important and consumes too much of your life (2,080 hours a year for 40+ years) to simply survive it. It’s worth your time to think more purposefully about your career. Here are a few questions to get you thriving:

  1. What is your greatest natural talent/skill? Are you getting paid to do what you do best and love doing? If not, what can you do to change that in your current organization or another?
  2. If you retired doing what you are doing now, would you be satisfied to “call it a life” and move on to your golden years? If not, what can you do between now and your gold watch to fill the gap?

As my grandma used to say, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there!”



Job Suicide…

The days of job security are long gone. Graduates entering the workforce will likely have many, many more jobs than the generations before them. Today’s critical, must-have, can’t-replace skill is tomorrow’s automated “app de jure”.

For those seeking some control of the process, I’ve assembled some of the best advice on:

  1. What to avoid if you want to keep your job,
  2. Clues that might indicate you are on the way out,
  3. A few things you can do to speed up the process if you want to go…
What Not to Do


  1. Lying on your job application
  2. Being indiscreet about your job hunt
  3. Gossiping
  4. Too many personal calls
  5. Drinking at work
  6. Excessive internet use
  7. Becoming romantically involved with the boss
  8. Forgetting to double-check your figures
  9. Alienating your co-workers
  10. Pointing the finger at everyone but yourself
Fox Business:
  1. Fudging your time sheet or expense report
  2. Inappropriate use of company information
  3. Bad attitude/creating drama
  4. Social media overload
  5. Blatant refusal to take good advice
  6. Theft
  7. Physical assault or threats
  8. Coming to work drunk or using unlawful substances
  9. Sleeping on the job
  10. Repeated tardiness
  11. Failing a random drug test
Clues You Are On the Way Out!
  1. No longer part of the loop
  2. You have been told to “take a vacation”
  3. You need an attitude adjustment
  4. You made a major mistake
  5. New blood has taken over
  6. Bad fit with corporate culture
  7. Your company is on CNBC
  8. New management
  9. Bad review & boss has an eye on you
A Few Fun Ways to Speed Your Departure:
  1. The Fort: Turn your office space into a fort and require everyone who enters to give the “password”
  2. New Hires: Loudly tell new hires to “run while they still can”
  3. Oreos: Bring Oreos to share with the whole office, but first lick the filling out of each one and reassemble the cookies
  4. Office Pool: Set up a kiddie pool in your office and fill it up cup by cup from the water cooler
  5. Note from Mom: Show up late, and when questioned, present a note from your mother

Trying to stay or eyeing the door; it’s your career–own it.


101 Hilarious Ways to Get Fired, HR World Editors, http://www.hrworld.com/features/101-ways-to-get-fired/. Retrieved May 8, 2015.

The 12 Quickest Ways to Get Fired, Kathryn Tuggle, September 1, 2011, http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/09/01/12-quickest-ways-to-get-fired/  Retrieved May 8, 2015.

Top 10 Ways to Get Fired, Beverly West, Monster Contributing Writer http://career-advice.monster.com/in-the-office/workplace-issues/10-ways-to-get-fired/article.aspx . Retrieved May 8, 2015

9 Signs You’re About To Get Fired, Ian Harrison,
Askmen.com, http://www.askmen.com/money/career_60/69_career.html
Retrieved May 8, 2015.

Did Your Career Choose You?

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had the privilege of giving a series of talks to college students. With graduation season fast approaching, it was apparent that these students were worried about how to get their first job or internship. The experience allowed me a fresh perspective on the entire process of career development and led to this week’s question,

Did You Choose Your Career or Did Your Career Choose You?

Interestingly, I wrestled with a similar question when researching for “Everybody Sells”, my book on global team selling. Interviewing sales leaders from across the globe, it became clear that sales organizations were waking up to a new reality; selling to whomever is buying is no longer a recipe for revenue and profit growth. Not all customers are created equal, not all customers are profitable and some deals shouldn’t be done. We learned that the best sales organizations were starting to focus on selecting their customers instead of their customers selecting them.

Isn’t the career question essentially the same?

Dozens of students have reached out to me, following up on one of my talks. The themes are essentially the same. What do I do to source a job or internship opportunity? Or how do I ‘win’ a job over other candidates? Without exception the questions asked, “How do I get any offer?”, rather than “How do I develop the opportunity I want?”

Considering that most people will spend 2080 hours a year for 40 years of their lives in this thing called a job, picking the right track is key to our success and central to our happiness.

Over the last decade, I’ve interviewed hundreds of senior executives for various reasons. One consistent element in each interview was a retelling of their personal story – how they got to their position. The vast majority of executives share a story that started out very differently than where they ended up. A science major that ended up running one of the nation’s leading insurance companies. An engineer that ended up running one of the world’s foremost sales organizations. It’s rare to find a person that ended up exactly where they set out go.

Taking a more proactive view of securing that first job may be more important than ever. For my parents’ generation, having one, two or three jobs in a career was pretty typical. For my generation that number swelled to a half dozen. Today’s young business professionals are predicted to hold over a dozen jobs in a single career. Getting locked into a career path that typecasts what you are capable of may severely hamper future options.

My advice? Ask two questions, combine the answers and you’ll have a much better idea of what you’d be really good at and what you are passionate about:

  1. What would you do if you had all the money you’d ever need? After all the parties, purchases and travel… When you wake up and have to live the rest of your life, day-after-day. What would you do everyday, for free, because you loved it?
  2. What is your formal training?

Love travel and have an English degree. Travel writer?

Love TV and films and have an accounting degree. Production accountant?

Sure, a first job isn’t the end of the line, but it’s an important step for the next crop of corporate citizens. It seems to me that one’s career should be the result of careful consideration and deliberate development of an opportunity that suits you!

Or am I being overly idealistic? This is a BIG QUESTION and there are a lot of really smart people that read this blog.

So, I’m asking you for your help and insight.

What advice do you have for our soon-to-be graduates?