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Articles from 2020 In October

Checking out the CEO before taking a job

STUART MILES/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET Checking out the CEO before taking a job
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Arguably, the biggest mistake many job applicants make is focusing on possible advancement, benefits, working conditions, and pay. Obviously, each one plays a role in making a job decision. But taken together, they pale in comparison to scrutinizing the one person perched on the top rung of the ladder, the one called CEO, president, or owner.

No matter how near or far you may wind up from the corner office, the decision maker, the one who calls the shots, affects your destiny.

This could may like a questionable exercise when millions of workers are unemployed or underemployed. At a time like this, checking out the person at the top may seem absurd when all they need is a job.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the culture fostered by a leader can make a difference when it comes to your future, no matter where you are on the company hierarchy. If you understand the dynamics of the corner office, you’re better prepared to manage your future in the job.

To see where this is going, here are eight CEO Scenarios to help get a “reading” on those at the top. There are more but eight makes the point:

  1. Rearview mirror thinker

Looking to the past as the guide to the future may seem incomprehensible given where life and the economy are today. Yet, there are those who view their role from a rearview mirror, clinging to past successes when challenges were more manageable.

  1. Talks one way, acts another

There are those who use all the right words, the ones you want to hear when you’re looking for a job. This makes it easy to be tripped up since the individual’s actions go in another direction, telling a totally different story.

  1. Always suspicious

You are left walking on egg shells, fearful, stressed, and worried you will say or do something that will set off the executive’s paranoia. Such conditions stifle creativity, restrain open and honest discussion, and inhibit a collegial environment.

  1. Stubbornly confident

Organizations, including businesses, are often attracted to a confident leader. But some exude too much confidence. In times of crisis, that doesn’t work. What can keep overconfidence under control, suggests Leon Eisenstaedt in a Financial Poise blog, is repeatedly asking the question, “What do you think?”

  1. All-knowing guide

Then, there are those at the top who act as if having all the answers is the way to demonstrate their competence. When making appropriate decisions depends on data-support, they lean on “going with their gut,” which Annie Duke, a former professional poker player, says in a [email protected] conversation, “Your gut is not a decision tool. It’s not reliable, no matter how reliable you think it is.”

  1. Indecisive decision maker

This executive’s indecisiveness drives everyone nuts. As plans are left up in the air, the pressure builds. It isn’t until circumstances force the issue that decisions are made, leaving everyone scrambling to get the job done. The pattern is permanent and people eventually leave.

  1. Phony optimism

There are two options when something goes wrong, be transparent or cover it up. The former works, while the latter doesn’t. Even so, some chief executives put a happy face on anything they perceive to be negative or troublesome. They do it for one reason; they don’t believe people can pull together and solve problems in crises. Rather than allaying fears, fake optimism only creates distrust, confusion, and low morale.

  1. Self-serving self-view

There are top executives whose picture of what it means to be in their position requires exaggerating their expertise, knowledge, and skills, while undervaluing those same assets in those around them. It should also be pointed out that they have difficulty retaining talented employees.

The 9th CEO Scenario

All this may come across as overly critical. If your goal is landing a job, it’s easy to justify or ignore a top person’s “limitations.” Even so, the eight “CEO Scenarios” come with a warning: “Be careful! May be harmful to your career.”

All of this begs the question, “What should you be looking for in a CEO?” If you’re diligent or lucky, you may find a number one whose attitudes and ideas will advance and grow your career. That is to say, someone who really “sees” you. While no profile of such a CEO is ever final or complete, here are some attributes to look for:

  • Has a nurturing and forward-thinking attitude
  • Takes others and their ideas seriously
  • Views employees, customers, suppliers, the larger community, and not just investors, among the company’s stakeholders
  • Possesses an inquiring mind, asks questions and listens intently
  • Values diverse views and understands improvement comes from dialogue

In a Harvard Business Review article, Walt Rakowich tells of meeting with his team at the company he had founded four years earlier. In the depths of the Great Recession, they faced bankruptcy, and everyone there looked to him for an answer. With head spinning, he left the room, sat down alone to get his bearings.

Going back to the meeting, he didn’t know what to say—except this: “I don’t know what to do” and “I need your help.” What happened next, he says, was amazing. His colleagues gave him a remarkable response. In effect, they let him know they were with him—“We’ll figure it out.” And, as you might guess, they did.

Walt may be the type of CEO worth looking for. If you find one who comes close, take the job.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” Contact him at [email protected], 617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.

Four lessons from coronavirus for improving work performance

Four lessons from coronavirus for improving work performance

“The comfort zone is the dead zone,” states Mike Manes, a business consultant in New Iberia, LA. If we’ve learned anything so far this year, it’s that an unseen—but deadly—force kicked us out of our comfort zone—way out!

Although the pressure is on to put the coronavirus behind us and get businesses up-and-running, it would be a mistake not to learn from this horrendous experience. Here are some takeaways for business:

We’ve found that going it alone is an illusion

Almost instantly earlier this year, everyone became sensitized to those around us, perhaps like never before. At our condo community, for example, there was concern for neighbors we didn’t even know. We were keeping tabs on one another. We went from being individuals living under a common roof to being members of a community.

Yes, there were outliers. One demanded that the pool be opened because it was why she bought here. But something good happened. Most the voices quieted down and we discovered we are not just an accumulation of individuals. We not only had an investment in a property, we had one in each other.

We’re more creative than we thought possible

If there’s anything we need to put behind us, it’s all the talk about the “New Normal.” It’s nonsense. Just a few months ago, the nation’s offices emptied almost overnight and millions were WFH and haven’t missed a beat. The crisis unleashed their creativity. Now many say they aren’t sure they want to go back to the “Old Normal,” including their bosses.

An equally impressive example of creativity occurred a few months ago, when the governor of Ohio, wanting young people to stay at home and practice social distancing, turned to Ohio-based Procter & Gamble for help.

Almost instantly #DistanceDance, featuring an original dance by Charli D’Amelio, went viral with its stay at home/stay safe message and reaching 17 billion or more views, spawning the posting videos by the millions and setting off a world-wide phenomenon.

To say the least, the governor got far more than he expected. It shows what happens when we turn on our creative juices.

We’ve faced up to our own ignorance

It’s been a long dry spell since we last got really excited about scientific knowledge. It may have been when we planted our flag on the moon 50 years ago. Then, out of the blue, we were hit with the coronavirus—which left us not knowing what to think. What followed has been an unending flow of technical information. It was then that it struck us that we were far more ignorant than we dared to think possible.

As it turns out, that was good news. We figured out, finally, that ignorance is not bliss, far from it. What we don’t know can not only hurt our health, but harm in other ways as well. For example, we are just now beginning to understand that customers are deeply interested in doing business with companies that reflect their values and concerns. All along, we thought they liked us and what we sold them.

The virus has taught us guessing in business leads to trouble. Or, as Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker points out, how easy it is to “surrender to the cognitive bias of assessing the world through anecdotes and images rather than data and facts.” And then wind-up in trouble.

We’ve discovered what it means to be grateful

Why did it take a pandemic to become aware of those who literally work every day to support our lives? The number is shocking. It’s not just physicians and nurses, but the faceless and nameless who deliver our packages, fix our cars, make appointments, answer our questions, and stock the supermarket shelves.

Why has it taken a pandemic to make them visible? Arguably, many are underpaid. But without them, we wouldn’t make it ‘til Friday. Yet, what’s so amazing is that they have been putting their lives on the line for us every day. The least we can do is let them know we recognize they exist by speaking up on their behalf.

Even though the experts had been warning us for years about possible pandemics, we didn’t hear them. Then came the coronavirus, the greatest calamity to strike the world in at least 100 years. Nothing has ever made such a total impact on our lives, plans, dreams, and most of all, the future. COVID-19 was a slap on the face. All along we thought we were in control of our own destiny.

As I was writing this on a summer’s day, right outside my window was a squirrel darting about picking up nuts and racing up a nearby tree to store them away for winter. Unlike the squirrel, we assume the future will deal us a winning hand. We expect tomorrow to be better than today, as if we’re owed it. Squirrels don’t make that mistake.

The coronavirus is relentless as it continues its devastation and pain. Even so, it won’t have won if we are smart enough to take advantage of what it can teach us that can make a difference in how we think, plan, work, and live.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” Contact him at [email protected] or johnrgraham.com.


Four basic business survival skills

No one in business was prepared for what happened when the coronavirus invaded the U.S. Overnight, it literally upended the nation’s economy, leaving American workers not knowing what to think about the future.

While some workers are doing well, others are underemployed, and 13 million are jobless. Whether you’re a CEO, just entering the workforce, or someone in-between, such confusion and uncertainty begs the question, “What’s it take to survive in a job today?”

What businesses are looking for are people with the ability to adapt, learn, perform, and progress so they can contribute to the organization’s success. To be specific, these are people who possess four basic business survival skills:

1.   Asking questions

Why is it that when the teacher asks the class a question, it’s always the same kids who raise their hands? But not in business. Many believe that success on the job depends on keeping your head down, going along to get along, and not making waves. In other words, never raise your hand.

While it may be the culture in many businesses, it’s also dysfunctional behavior. Companies experiencing the pandemic’s pervasive effects know their survival depends on rapid and continued adaption and innovation, which starts with asking questions, lots of questions. Here are examples:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Why aren’t we doing this?
  • Why is it taking so long?
  • Why are others getting ahead of us?
  • Why aren’t our people more involved in decision making?
  • Why are we doing it this way?

In other words, if a company wants to flourish, its success depends on everyone involved being observant and curious and raising their hands and asking questions.

2.  Staying focused

If anything is obvious, it’s that we all need to up our ability to concentrate on the job, to stay focused. It’s not easy. We’re drowning in distractions, one every three minutes on average. What makes it worse, as Gloria Mark of the Dept. of Informatics at UC, Irvine, noted, we have only a limited amount of short-term memory available. Is it any wonder why we’re more stressed, less productive, and oblivious to what’s going on around us? We don’t have a chance to concentrate.

The iconic management consultant, Peter Drucker pointed out that Mozart was an exception. He was the only “first rank composer” who could work on several pieces at the same time. Handel, Haydn, and Verdi, composed one at a time.

Most of us aren’t a Mozart. Paying attention takes work, starting with actively minimizing distractions, better organizing our time, and not jumping on the Internet and social media during the work day. Is it too high a price to pay if you want to make a difference where you work?

3.  Thinking clearly

Unfortunately, workers who can think clearly are in short supply. Daniel Jeffries, the futurist and author, is on to something when he says, “We’re not taught how to think anymore, only what to think.”

“Clear thinkers analyze and inspect ideas and arguments before expressing them,” writes Kay Daya, an Academic Writing Lab Instructor at Edusson.com. “Be inquisitive enough to inspect and examine the validity, logic, and truthfulness of other peoples’ claims and arguments closely.”

Soaking up ideas, facts, and opinions doesn’t equal clear thinking. Far from it. Rather, it’s the arduous task of sorting out all of those and putting them together, much like you would a puzzle until you see the picture clearly. This is what it takes for businesses to make it today.

4.   Influencing others

No matter who we are, our age, or our job, the one thing we all do from morning until night—is persuading others either to do or not do something. A few examples of influencing others:

  • A kid asks his mom if they can we go to the ice cream shop before it closes for the season. Mom, replies, “Sure, if you clean your room and rake up the leaves.”
  • Knowing that home buyers often want to be sure their friends will like a particular house, real estate agents may say, “From what you’ve told me, I know your friends are going to love it!”
  • When Dale was faced with a lower-priced competitor, he asked the customer’s committee for three “must have” requirements at a fact-meeting. Then, when closing his sales presentation, he asked them, “How does my proposal stand up with that of the competition? We’re giving you exactly what you said you needed. However, our price is firm.” They signed the order.

Trying to convince someone to change their mind is challenging. Although such efforts are all-too-common, they fail, miserably. We balk and get our back up. No one wants to be told what to do. A more effective approach is to let people come to your conclusion on their own. What makes it successful is a basic human principal: What’s in it for me? How will it enhance my life and make me more successful?

No matter the job, survival depends on skills that empower workers to be change agents, asking questions, staying focused, thinking clearly, and influencing others.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” Contact him at [email protected], 617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.

Rodeo Stronger grants top $80,000

Rodeo Stronger recently surpassed the $80,000 mark in emergency grants to rodeo livestock contractors for assistance with feed costs due to COVID-19 restrictions and cancellations.  

Rodeo Stronger is an initiative of the St. Paul Rodeo Foundation to help provide financial resources for the care of rodeo livestock during times of crisis. Stock Contractors Tim and Haley Bridwell of Bridwell Pro Rodeos commented on the importance of the initiative, “Thanks so Rodeo Stronger and the St. Paul Rodeo Foundation for their proactive measures in supplying assistance to stock contractors throughout this pandemic as we wait to regain stability in the rodeo industry. We are stronger together!”

The grants are made possible by donations from many sources including a $50,000 grant from Cargill, donations from St. Paul Rodeo Association and Foundation, Pendleton Roundup Association and Foundation, Wrangler, Wrangler Network and many others. The rodeo industry has truly come together to show how much they value the livestock that is such a big part of the sport.  

Rodeo Stronger, created in May 2020 has assisted 28 Stock Contracting firms with grant funding to help in providing the high quality feed that rodeo’s animal athletes require.  Stock contractors who own the bucking horses and bulls, steers and calves that compete in rodeo can apply for funds to help feed and house livestock or pay for medicines and veterinary care. A committee reviews the grants for eligibility and quickly sends funding to those who qualify.  For more information go to www.rodeostronger.com.


2021 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo canceled

The executive committee of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo (FWSSR) voted unanimously yesterday to cancel the 2021 Show scheduled for January 15 through February 6.

“This is a heartbreaking decision for our leadership and was not made lightly,” said Stock Show President and General Manager, Brad Barnes. “We wanted to find a way to safely hold a Show for our 1.2 million guests, exhibitors and competitors. Unfortunately, the challenges we face to create practical and enforceable protocols and procedures to comply with COVID-19 guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are extremely daunting. The uncertainty of the virus potential spread across Texas and the nation during the upcoming flu season was another major factor weighing on our decision.”

More than 30,000 animals are typically exhibited in 3,770 classes for horses, livestock, poultry, rabbits and ag mechanics in addition to approximately 2,300 participants in the art contest, judging contests, rodeos and many other competitions and exhibitions. Each event and competition – from the FWSSR PRORODEO Tournament to the Youth Poultry Show, Carnival Midway and all others – represents what’s unique and important for every participant and guest. Consequently, the decision was made to cancel all FWSSR events and features as opposed to allowing some to be held at the expense of others.

Daily Stock Show attendance can exceed 140,000 people that crowd into buildings at the Will Rogers Memorial Center to see livestock, shop, dine, enjoy the carnival-midway and petting zoo as well as watch the many shows and competitions. Each year exhibitors typically travel from approximately 235 of Texas’ 254 counties and 40 states filling the various barns where they work in close proximity preparing their animals for exhibition. Consultations with infectious disease professionals and public health professionals indicate the Stock Show would rank as a “very high risk” for spread of COVID-19, potentially impacting populations and healthcare systems.

“The health and safety of our community is of the utmost importance,” said Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja. “We support the Stock Show’s executive committee in making this difficult decision.”

The only other time a Stock Show was cancelled was 1943 near the height of World War II.

“Today we’re in another war with an enemy that’s invisible and quite deadly,” said Barnes. “We feel a responsibility to be proactive, in order that COVID-19 is brought under control sooner rather than later. For fans of Fort Worth’s oldest and largest public event, our common goal is to help bring the pandemic to an end so future Stock Show’s won’t be in jeopardy.”