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As are so many truths, the concept of “strength-based organizations” seems to be obvious. Why would any company or business ask their people to do something they aren’t good at? To cite a quote (inaccurately, I am sure) from a Marcus Buckingham Imagearticle I read years ago, “Companies should stop trying to make people things they aren’t and use them for what they are.”

So true, yet most organizations are struggling to stay afloat, much less seeking to devote the time and energy they would like to in developing the talent of their workforce.

Here’s the shorthand for this quandary – If you are the employee, YOU discover what you are best at, what inspires and enthuses you, what causes you to lose track of time and space, etc., and then seek a way to do it for the company you work for! If you are the employer, INVEST time in learning the strongest skills of your staff and finding ways to use them more effectively.

This can create a Win-Win scenario for all involved. The employer gets the very best Return On Investment from the worker, and the employee can stop calling Wednesday “Hump Day!”

A recent insurance commercial with a “dromedary” theme has inspired a revision to an earlier post of mine on “Hump Day.”Image

Gallup research tells us that there is a certain percentage of any work force that will remain “disengaged.” What a great word – DISENGAGED.

I still recall reading a license plate on the front of a vehicle in Western PA which opined, “I LOVE PAYDAYS, VACATIONS, WEEKENDS.” Some quick mental calculations told me that the driver must HATE most of their existence!

There are, of course, people out there who will never be happy unless they are miserable. While I was discussing this phenomenon in training with a company, one of the attendees raised his hand in the middle of the presentation to “give his two cents.” Anyone who has trained knows that the raised hand can go one of two ways – very badly or very well! Breathing a silent prayer, I acknowledged the gentleman’s presence and gave him the floor.

I am happy to report it went well, and this is why: he shared THE STORY OF SMITTY.

Smitty was a long term employee of the company. Smitty was also a pretty miserable person. Smitty wore a perpetual scowl, seemed to be trying to decide between staying on the job or having root canal without Novocain. His interaction with his co-workers was consistently negative. If queried as to what he liked about work, his response would probably be something like “Payday, lunch and leaving.” That’s assuming he answered at all!

Smitty’s job, by the way, was working in The Pit. I never found out exactly what that involved, but it clearly did not sound good.

One day, his supervisor decided to ask, “Hey, Smitty, do you like working in The Pit?”

“Nah,” said Smitty with his typical venom-laced voice, “I HATE it!”

Deciding to wade in deeper, his supervisor then asked, “Well, what would you LIKE to do?”

Smitty responded immediately, “I’d like to work in Banding” (Once again, I really did not know what this entailed, but clearly Smitty preferred it to The Pit).

The result of this exchange was that the supervisor was eventually able to transfer Smitty to Banding. When this happened, something AMAZING took place!

Smitty became human! He actually smiled on occasion, working more effectively with his co-workers and becoming more productive.

Here is the Big Question: Whose fault was it that Smitty was so miserable for so long? The supervisor or Smitty?

And the Big Answer: BOTH!

To quote from two companion books by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans (Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em and Love It, Don’t Leave It, my reviews on Shelfari, of course), “ASK!”

Smitty should have thought of asking if there were any other positions that he felt he could enjoy/do better at (often these two factors work together), and the supervisor should have checked much sooner on Smitty’s interests and skills. To paraphrase a favorite author of mine, Marcus Buckingham (formerly of Gallup), “Companies should stop trying to make people what they aren’t and use them for what they are.”

By the way, so you do not consider me to be a starry-eyed idealist, I realize that EVERY position will require the employee to perform some tasks they would rather give up. I like to call this “The Grown-up Stuff.” I don’t want to do it, but I have to because they told me to. Welcome to Life.

However, by asking about and considering the employee’s key interests, satisfiers and skills we can come as close as possible to eliminating that favorite term for Wednesday touted by morning DJ’s – HUMP DAY!

I must take issue with the 80’s rock group Loverboy – Not “Everybody’s working for the weekend!”

In his excellent tome “The Passion Plan,” Richard Chang writes of making decisions regarding your life and work from two sources: your Head or your Heart.

If your decisions move from your Head to your Heart (based solely on rational thought, logic, what “makes sense,” etc. and then considering your subjective side), you will ultimately experience Regret“I wonder what might have happened if I had done this or that…?” Or, according to Chang, if you stay with Head decisions, you’re likely experience Sadness, as you realize that you failed to consider your deeper needs and desires before taking action.

Heart decisions can have their pitfalls as well. As Chang notes, if you start from your Heart and stay with your Heart, you are likely to make Risky, totally impractical decisions, placing your future in danger as you never tempered your Heart ideas with logical considerations from your Head.

The best process, he suggests, is the Heart-Head journey. Identify and clarify your Passions, those deeply held beliefs and drives that make you the extraordinary person you are and then evaluate alternatives and drive your actions through your Head to seek out the best path(s) to achieve your Passions.

According to Chang, this Heart-Head process is the ultimate way to achieve what he calls “capital P Profit,” Profit that feeds the soul as well as the body! In the introduction to his book he quotes Benjamin Disraeli- “Man is only truly great when he acts from the passions.”

How about you? Do you know where your passions lie? If not, take action to discover them.

See the connection? (Probably not yet, but be patient…we’ll get there).

As a former apartment dweller and a college student making the trek to the laundry room, I recall perusing the cork-covered bulletin board while killing time during the rinse cycle.

ImageWhat did I see? A collection of signs with tear-off phone numbers, providing access to used sofas, pleas for roommates, lost dog information and a panoply of related requests and announcements.

Years ago, I used a BBS to gather useful advice on improving my marathon performance (a goal that has since gone “the way of all flesh”…these days, I’m happy to finish standing up!). Since that time, I have come to see the multitude of Social Media applications (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc., etc.) as the 21st century replacements for the bulletin board process that had served us so well.

Allow me to suggest some key points on using a digital thumb tack to post your sign at the new “Laundromat”.

  • Be professional. As you request insight and advice or referral (please, NEVER job leads!), be aware of the sacrifice these people are making in sharing their perspectives with you.
  • Use these tools with discretion. If your every communication is to “get something,” you will soon be branded as a “user.”
  • Always, always be appreciative. A simple “thank you” (taking precious little of your time) can cause you to stand out from the teeming mass of “gimmes” out there.
  • Participate in groups as an advocate and contributor. Don’t be a “cyber stalker.”
  • Pay it forward. For every time you to seek to gain, find at least two times you can give.

Please don’t take this metaphor too far. If you have an ottoman for sale, I really don’t want to read about it on LinkedIn. However, at the same time, Social Media can present an extraordinary goldmine of information, advice and referral that would take months, perhaps even years to unearth without it.

…I’ll be watching for your “ad.”

First of all, WHAT is it?

ImageFuzzy Job Hunting is a term I’ve coined, based upon the computer process known as Fuzzy Logic. Fuzzy logic is an approach to computing based on “degrees of truth” rather than the usual “true or false” (1 or 0, on or off) Boolean logic on which the modern computer is based. It was first advanced by Dr. Lotfi Zadeh of the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960’s as he was working on the problem of computer’s understanding natural language. Computers are literal – they always do what we ask, not what we mean – while human beings are a bit “Fuzzier” in our ways of communicating and interacting.

Fuzzy Job Hunting implies that there is No One Distinct, Guaranteed, Always Successful Method for achieving meaningful employment. Employment search and career development are moving targets, requiring continuous action, adjustment, revision, sometimes even radical change in what you do and how you do it! This “Fuzzy” approach may relate to your vocational targets, your actions, your thought processes – everything involved in the career development and job-search process.

Let’s take a look at WHY you should employ Fuzzy Job Hunting.

1.   It will increase activity.

That old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is quite true. There is however, another phrase: “paralysis by analysis.” In a desire to have your act completely together, your resume absolutely perfect, your career target razor sharp, your employment search plan mapped out in 15-minute increments, you may never get started. Fuzzy Job Hunting encourages you to get an inkling of what and where and start moving. Laser-guided job search can create strategic and efficient action, if you ever come up with “The Target” In the meantime, you are mired in the morass of planning the best course of action and end up going nowhere.

I like to think of this as selecting a basic direction for movement – Northernly, for example. As you move ahead, keep your eyes open. Maybe you’ll end up going Northeast or North / Northwest, but at least you’ll be moving in a direction that is generally correct! If you never strike out in a direction, you’ll never see any sights at all!

2.   It will create opportunities.

I once heard that “If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit the mark.” Well said! As noted above, pick a direction and start moving. Fuzzy Job Hunting creates the potential for Serendipity, “the faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident” (The American Heritage Dictionary). Things happen when you are in action.

As Barbara Sher said in I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, “The amount of good luck that comes your way depends on your willingness to act.” When your job hunt is “Fuzzy,” you tend to move more, get more visible, interact with more people, create more networking opportunities. Oh, sure, some of this may appear to be a waste of time, but how do you decide where the best contacts should be made? Many of my clients have found the most productive contacts they ever made came from the most unlikely of sources. Fuzzy Job Hunting gives you the chance to discover and be discovered.

3.   It will introduce new perspectives.

As open-minded as you are, there is no way to have much of a viewpoint on reality other than your own. As you employ your Fuzzy Tactics, you will get introduced to new ideas, new alternatives and other ways to look at things. Do you remember the story of the four blind men and the elephant? They each approached the animal from a different vantage point. One touched the elephant’s side and declared, “An elephant is like a wall.” The second reached out to the animal’s leg and said, “No, an elephant is like a tree.” The third tugged on the elephant’s tail and stated, “You are both wrong. An elephant is like a rope.” Finally, the forth reached out and touched the beast’s trunk, declaring, “None of you knows what you are talking about! An elephant is exactly like a snake!”

Who was right? They all were, each from their distinct perspective. The Fuzzy Job Hunt works much the same way by allowing you to benefit from the views of others. Each person you meet will have a slightly different slant, evaluating things from another side. Take advantage of their perspective.

4.   It will provide results.

Fuzzy Job Hunting increases activity, visibility and alternatives. I’ve said it before and will say it again: the traditional approach to the job market is chaotic and ineffective. It does not work particularly well, either for employers or for job seekers. The vast majority of job-search success (at least 85%) is through “nontraditional” methods, such as research, networking, social media, volunteering, etc. There is no better way to tap into the “hidden job market” than by thinking and acting “Fuzzily.”

I am particularly appreciative of this concept of mine, although I will confess that it HAUNTS ME AT TIMES! This does not reduce its value, however!

Life is full of decisions, and career development has more than its share of them. As Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

With due respect to the sagacious Yogi, that won’t work! So how can you decide whether or not to move ahead in a particular direction, return a call, schedule an interview, take a promotion, mail out a resume, etc.? I suggest that you apply what I have termed my “WHY NOT?” Principle(tm): simply stated, if you cannot answer “No” to a question (e.g., Should I consider taking on this new project?), the next answer is always “Yes.” In other words, until you can make the case for “why not?” – why you should not investigate the opportunity – you should move ahead at least one more step. After all, no answer will come to you if you just sit there!

Let’s investigate some scenarios where you can apply my “Why Not? Principle(tm).”

1.   You’re called by a company for an interview. The position under consideration seems to be significantly below your qualifications, but they still want to see you. Do you go in to see them or not?

WHY NOT?

No good answer. You don’t have adequate information to make an informed, intelligent decision. Perhaps the position is better than it seems from the outside. The company may see your skills and identify a better fit for you in the organization (this really does happen!). This is not the only position that will ever open up in this organization, and you have the opportunity to make a positive contact with the company.

  • Check it out. You have nothing to lose.

2.   A longtime friend provides you with a lead to a job that does not interest you at all, nor does it allow you to use any of the skills and experience you want to bring to the job market. Do you follow up on the opportunity?

WHY NOT?

Following up on a situation that you have no interest in is a waste of the company’s time and yours, as well as being dishonest towards your friend. It would be much better to thank your friend for the advice and the intended opportunity, explaining why you would not be interested and helping your friend better understand your career targets and employment goals. Also, you could damage your relationship by not telling your friend the truth.

  • Be kind but honest. Thank them but help them to help you better.

3.   Your company is pressing you to interview for a position that you know has no relationship to your career goals or personal interests. You know you can do the job, but don’t really want to! Do you go for the interview or not? After all, isn’t every promotion a good move?!

WHY NOT?

Wasting their time is not a good way to use yours. Some people might consider this a “no risk” opportunity to get some interview practice, but I see it as a disingenuous act, wasting the time of a company that obviously only wants to see  interested applicants. Here’s an additional concern: since you’re not under pressure, you may interview very confidently and end up receiving a promotion offer you didn’t want in the first place! THEN what do you do?

  • Politely turn down their kind offer, using this opportunity to help your organization better understand where your interests and best abilities to contribute lie.

4.   An acquaintance in the community wants to meet you for lunch to help you in your career development. This is someone you know to have no “clout” or real connections with any “heavy hitters.” Do you schedule or work up a believable excuse?

WHY NOT?

No good answer here, either. Everyone knows someone. You may think this person is not connected (and you may be right), but some of the best opportunities for serendipitous, extraordinary surprises can come from the most unlikely situations. It’s nice that this person wants to help. Give him or her the time and the benefit of the doubt. Remember: you don’t have to take all of the advice you get, just listen to it. The relationship you enhance may be much more valuable than any information you may get!

  • Have lunch with them and listen to what they have to say. There is no way of telling what opportunities could result.

Try employing my “Why Not Principle(tm).” It will press you into more action, reduce your second-guessing, create serendipitous possibilities and perhaps even help you to see more results.

“WHY NOT?”

The best path is always the positive one. I owe the following parable to my dear Grandma Lucy Matilda Rhoads Davis. She’s in Heaven now, but thoughts of her always bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Here it is…

Old Saidie, an aged widow in a sleepy little town, always had a nice thing to say about everyone she met. She didn’t seem to have a negative bone in her body, and was consistently able to point out the good side of people.

Well, the town drunk died. This ne’er do well had never held a job in his life. His entire existence consisted of scaring toddlers, taking advantage of others or bumming money for cigarettes and alcohol. As he had finally passed away, the entire town showed up at the funeral, if only to find out what Saidie would have to say about a man who seemed to be totally lacking any good qualities in his entire life.

As Saidie shuffled up to the casket, one brave soul called out, “Hey, Saidie! What did you think of Mr. Johnson?!

ImageWithout missing a beat, Saidie smiled and exclaimed, “Oh, couldn’t he whistle?!”

Let’s be more like Saidie, finding and celebrating the Best that’s around us. We just have to pay attention to find it!

Thanks, Grandma Lucy!