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Pro Tips – Video Meetings

Here’s how to look like a #wfh pro.  These tips work for meetings with colleagues, clients or job interviews (yes, there are still job interviews happening)

Phone holder – This is essential.  It is nauseating for your viewers to see your image moving back and forth when you hold it in your hand.  It also limits your ability to make notes.  There is no need to buy one.  You can find lots of DIY templates on Pinterest. Here is a link to get you started – https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/227009637437845277/

Light – Sit facing the window.  When the light is behind you, your face looks dark and spooky.  If you are using Zoom, you can change the background so people cannot see the real background.  This is fun and useful.  Learn how here — https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/210707503-Virtual-Background

Prep the day before – Just like any other meeting, you want to put in a few minutes of thought before the meeting.  Think about what you need/want to get out of the conversation. Leave a few minutes before it starts to get friendly with a comb.  Over the ear headphones don’t do our hair any favours.

Sticky notes on the side of your computer – if there are a few specific things you want to bring up, put little sticky notes on the side of your monitor or device.

Tidy the area around you – Check what’s around and behind you.  Clear away papers and lunch leftovers. Deploy the virtual background (above) if you need to.

Set appointments for early or late in the day when more band width is available.  Also people in your household might be engaged in activities that don’t require you – like sleeping and Netflix.

Turn off the video if the audio gets strangled – if the audio starts to sound garbled, suggest to your parties that everyone turn off the video.  That usually clears it up right away.  You can  get adept pretty quickly at turning on and off the video – it’s nice to have it on when you are speaking.

Practice these things your friends and family first – then you will have total confidence running your business day and we could all use a little of that.

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Keep Talking…..and Helping….and Talking

“It’s about the give.”  That’s what @Christoph Niebel said yesterday on our all-hands call.  We as an organization and individuals have so much to offer. We just have to figure out how to get it out into the universe.

Christoph is our Chief Sales Officer and he must be feeling an awful lot of pressure. But it did not show. He had pulled together strong and positive examples of how our teams around the world were extending help to our clients. 

A Canadian bank is providing virtual, on demand coaching for their mid level managers who are now managing virtual teams.  You have to do more than learn Zoom to be an effective virtual leader.

A large German automaker is going to give resiliency workshops to its front line supervisors.  They have a whole new host of things to deal with but they need to keep propelling the business forward.

Our offices in China are back up and running and my colleagues there are rising to the challenge for our leadership and recruitment services.

Regardless of the business or sector we are in, we must continue to reach out to clients and communities to offer our experts, our advice or just an ear.  This is a time of intense uncertainty, but we will come out of it stronger and better than we were before.  We just have to help each other along the way.

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Social Distancing? Pick up the Phone

Yesterday morning at 9:30, I felt like curling up under the covers and not coming out until May.  There was so much change and so much information. I felt like I was being bombarded.

Then my phone rang.  It was a former colleague. She wanted to introduce me to someone who she thought could use my advice.  We spent a few minutes catching up and sharing ideas on the best yoga apps and hung up.

Suddenly, I was back in the world.  I phoned a colleague.  And then a friend.  And then my mom.

My tank was full, and the rest of the day was very productive and positive.

Now that our evening activities have been curtailed and our commutes eliminated, we have time.  This is the thing we have been wishing for more of since we were assigned our first essay in school.

We are out of practice managing our time when we have more of it– our usual MO is squeezing everything into less time.

Use this time wisely.  Check in with people every day – not the same people but different people.  Reach out to former managers, neighbours, colleagues, friends from high school.  Keep a rolling list of people to call.  Get reconnected, get new insights, new energy and hopefully a few jokes along the way.

Social media still has it’s place in this “hunker down and stay home” era but it will not take long for us to realize that actually talking to someone on the phone or a video chat is entirely more satisfying.

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Will your resume make the cut?

I had coffee last week with a candidate who was really frustrated because he had applied for lots of positions and not been contacted.

I asked him to tell me about one of them.  “Well, it was a mechanical engineering position in a manufacturing company.”

“What were they looking for?” I asked.

“An engineering degree and 5 years of design experience in a plastics manufacturing environment.  It was perfect for me.  It’s exactly the kind of company I want to work for.  I can’t understand why they have not called me yet for an interview.”

As we continued the conversation, I learned that while he did have experience in plastics, it was in equipment design not product design and that he did not have an engineering degree.

So at the risk of sounding harsh, I told him why he had not been called.  There were three criteria listed in the posting and he met only one.  In a resume sorting system, whether it’s human or digital, he won’t make the cut.

“But that’s not fair!” he wailed.  “I would be perfect for the role!”

That may be true but if you are replying to a posting where there are clear specifications, you better have most of them if you want to be considered.  Companies have reasons for their criteria and it really does not matter whether you think you are perfect or whether the criteria is justified.

If you are an “out of the box” candidate, then you need to apply in an “out of the box” method.  If your resume does not make the kind of impression you want to make, then you need to make your first impression in a different way.

Find someone who can introduce you to a hiring influencer.  Speak at a conference or workshop.    Post a comment on a Linkedin discussion or write an article for your specific audience. These avenues allow your expertise, handshake, eye contact, stature and general aura to make the first impression.

Bottom line: At the application stage, it does not matter if you think you are perfect for the role.  What matters is that there is a clear fit between your experience/credentials and the company’s criteria.

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Thank your way to the Top

I started the day today with five thank you notes.  Actually, I did them after my first two meetings.  I had them on my list yesterday but I just didn’t get to them.

It was not hard to come up with five people who needed recognition.  My company hosted several events over the last couple of weeks ago and there were a ton of people who contributed to an absolutely great day.

My notes were just brief emails – a bit like Jimmy Fallon does on Thursday nights.  I really didn’t think too much of it.  It only took a few minutes.

Guess what happened after I sent them?

Every time I came back to my desk, there was note back.  People appreciated getting the note but also took the opportunity to share what they enjoyed about the day as well.

I did not expect to get responses – that was not the point.  It was just to recognize a special effort made people who don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands.

That they responded in such a positive way was a real gift to me.  I filed each one in my Feel Good folder.  (Yes, I have one of those in my inbox).

This kind of genuine and spontaneous act can make a real difference in your career.  Not only is it totally uplifting to send a nice note, but it’s something that people really remember.  It’s the sort of differentiator that lends well to moving into more senior roles.  It is an indication of two things: that you can get your head out of your ass long enough to think about other people and that you can carve a few minutes out of your schedule to do something about it.

Trust me:  those two things will set you apart.

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Snacks, Dogs and Networking

There were snacks in the kitchen at work yesterday.  Aside from a nice, little afternoon pick-me-up, they provided great conversation too.  I found myself talking with two colleagues from other parts of the company.  As we nibbled bits of cheese and cut up fruit, we discovered that we were all dog owners.

One said she was working with a trainer to get her dog to be more social.  She talked about how she is enjoying walking her dog way more than before.

I causally asked if she was seeing the positive benefits spinning off into her work. She paused and thought about it.  Then she got a bit excited.  It seems that the dog trainer had commented on how much more confident she seemed and that she was definitely carrying herself differently.

Her manager and colleagues had noticed the changes as well.  We are going through a lot of change in our organization and it’s been challenging for Quite a few people. She has become the go-to person for helping to sort out problems and find solutions.

All from learning to be a better dog owner…..

There are two lessons to be learned here.

Keep developing yourself.  It could be an academic course, a sport, a craft. It does not really matter what it is as long as you are learning and pushing out from your “usual”.

Let the things you learn come out in all parts of your life.  Don’t hold back.  If you have mastered the art of squaring your shoulders when you snap the leash on your dog, you can do it when you get on the elevator at work too.

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#BellLetsTalk – Great but is it Enough?

Yesterday was #BellLet’sTalk day.  The day when we all spit out messages about mental health awareness and Bell makes a big donation to support research, programs and services.

Bell started the initiative back in 2010.  @Mary Deacon, a long time mental health advocate, was hired to create a plan to contribute $50 million over five years.  @Clara Hughes, Canada’s only dual-season athlete got behind the program early on and has been one of the main spokespersons for the program.

As of 2019, Bell’s contribution had been over $100 million.  This is huge.  It is a main source of funding for many programs across Canada.

Bell has a graph on their website that shows the increase in the number of interactions that generate the funds.  It has gone from 66 million to 145 million.  (https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/results-impact/2019/ontario/#funds) That’s a lot of tweets!

I am very, very happy to see this growth in awareness and people’s willingness to be vocal about their support for the need for increased mental health resources.

But it is not enough.  Awareness does not help someone with mental illness get or keep a job.  That’s where we still need a lot of help.

We still have enormous difficulty providing accommodations for people who think or work differently and this is so ironic because today’s current buzzwords are diversity and inclusion.

I really hoped that the adoption of flexible workplaces and working remotely would start to create space for people who don’t function well until after 11am or people whose moods go up and down.  This just does not seem to the case and it’s really disappointing.

The stats on Bell’s website say that 1 in 5 Canadians will suffer from some kind of mental illness during their work life.  That’s an awful lot of people – shouldn’t we be thinking about more than just awareness?

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