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Posts Tagged ‘survival’

Mistakes happen. How you handle them is what matters most.

To not anticipate mistakes is futile. It happens. We are human and “to err” is in the nature of being. Shockingly, these statements are coming from a “perfectionist” but I am currently “on the wagon”.  I didn’t think of myself as a perfectionist for a long time. I had “exacting” standards. I demanded the very best from myself (and wanted it from others). Error-free was the baseline. These are just a few of the many statements perfectionists use to justify setting unrealistic targets and expecting unrealistic outcomes. The paradox within my own search for perfection was that although I wanted the very best from others I did not expect it. Why?  Because, of course, I knew that to expect others to live up to my standards was ridiculous and unrealistic. After all, my standards for myself were ridiculous and unrealistic!

For perfectionists, mistakes sound a death knell and then the kicking, head-banging, and wallowing begins. The error takes on monumental proportions and can ruin everything that comes after. We see some of the best examples of this in sports. The player who makes a mistake and compounds it play after play or round after round. We say that he was off his game that day. The player accepts that he was off his game that day. Nonsense! He wasn’t off his game that day. He just didn’t know how to get back on his game.  This same scene is also played out in offices, on work sites, and in homes day in and day out by people who expect perfection when they don’t get it. They beat themselves up in the aftermath of the error and it then affects the next thing and the next thing that he or she does. She’s having a bad day. Again, nonsense! She hasn’t figured out how to recover and move beyond the first mistake.

Recovery is a conscious act. It can be approached in a similar step by step manner used in many counseling programs. It’s a bit more concise than 12 Steps but is just as effective. The first step requires acknowledgement that we are human, errors happen, period. Next, acknowledge the current state just as a fact, placing no judgment on it as good, bad, or ugly. Just the facts, ma’am, as it is. Next, consciously take in that it is in the past now and no amount of “should haves” will change it so don’t go down that path. Next, move forward. Ask what can I do about the current state? What corrections can I make? If corrections are possible, make them. If corrections are not possible, ask what lesson can I take away from this for the future? Internalize the lessons and then move on by letting go.  Don’t continue to beat up yourself. Don’t wallow in it. You’ve corrected it and gained something from it.  It’s over and done.  Let it go.

Take it from a recovering perfectionist, following the steps above will change the way you handle mistakes when they occur and will lessen the amount of angst you suffer over simple human errors. The objective is not to strive for perfection but for excellence. Excellence is progressive and is acheived through learning. It becomes a synergistic process through which one gets better and better. Perfectionism leaves no room for this type of growth. Getting to this point doesn’t happen overnight. I’m still working on it, but it is working.

Best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics.  She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers HR technical expertise including coaching and mentoring (http://morahr.com/HR_Alignment.aspx).  For more information, please call (877) 310-6553, ext. 702 or email her at vivian@morahr.com.

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Here in the United States, we’ve now witnessed the greatest loss of jobs since the Depression. In the past two years, organizations found themselves seeking means of reducing expenses while they watched revenues dwindle. For many (I could probably say most) reducing jobs was one of the primary routes taken in this quest. Some took this route early and quickly while others took every other possible route before making the choice to eliminate jobs. Some companies handled this with skill, diplomacy, and a humanistic touch. Others did not. Tales of email notices and security escorts have run rampant. Organizations eventually reached what they term as efficient staffing levels given the current state of the market. Hmm, it’s the latter part of that statement that will pose the most trouble in the coming year or two as employees embark upon what I can only tritely refer to as The Great Job Hop of 2010.

The Great Job Hop is in the embryonic stage at this point but the signs are clear. The “high performers” that many organizations have worked diligently to retain over the last couple of years are starting to “look around”. For organizations, the traditional break-up line of “it’s not you, it’s me” would be a lie. It is you. However, for some, there is very little you could have done to prevent the pending break-up. You were not the only company to make layoffs and eliminate jobs. The company to which your “high performer” is moving may have made even more cuts than you did. The difference is — he or she did not experience it first-hand with XYZ Company. 

Organizations have done a great job in the past few decades of building cultures that encourage closer associations at work. One of the questions in the ubiquitous Gallup Q12 is “Do you have a best friend at work?” Our associations at work don’t fall along neat little lines where my best friend just happens to be my fellow “high performer” in the next cubicle or nor do all occupants of the “most crucial positions” go to lunch together daily. No, with all these close associations forming at work, many of your high performers watched their BF at work lose his or her job. They then rode the emotional rollercoaster with their BF as he or she looked for work in a very tough market. The high performer’s feelings towards the company that he and his best friend at work loved a year or so ago have changed. There’s probably a high degree of survivor’s guilt mixed in with some resentment.  Now, I’m not a psychologist so that’s about as far as I go into the psyche but I am a sociologist so I can tell you what the resulting behavior will be with a high probability of being correct.  An exit is the course that most will take when faced with this quandary. There will be a great urge to remove oneself from the environment that has brought about these feelings. Fortunately, for them, high performers and individuals occupying crucial positions generally have options when the employment picture begins to change for the better, as is predicted for the coming year. 

Companies who have looked ahead and have seen the writing on the wall are beginning to take steps to “re-engage” with their present staff to help mitigate the potential damage. Organizations who took the humanistic route have an advantage. These companies’ actions will not have caused as much guilt or resentment and may even be viewed positively if separated employees were provided with adequate severance benefits and communications remained open throughout the changes. The re-engagement should be approached much the same way as initial recruitment campaigns were approached. What are the positive attributes that attracted employees to your organization? Do you have a unique value proposition (UVP) for your employees? In business, every organization has a unique value it offers to its customers. It’s the reason customers will want to choose do business with you rather than your competitor down the street. You will need to make certain employees know what UVP you have to offer them and that the attributes which brought them to you are still very much a part of the organization. Do you conduct “internal” marketing? If not, you would be wise to quickly develop your messages and a campaign for getting the message into the ears, minds, and, hopefully, hearts of your most valuable asset, your people. 

If you sincerely want to keep your high performers and crucial staffers in place during the Great Job Hop, the most important part of your messaging will be that it rings true.

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You hear it more often than you want to and maybe you’ve said it at least a couple of times in the past year when faced with a situation that called for an immediate and urgent response. The situation was your “fire” and your response was to jump right in and put out the fire as soon as humanly possible. Going into it, you had little or no time for planning. As you look back over it, in hindsight, you wish you had handled things differently. Hindsight is 20-20.

When we hear or state “Hindsight is 20-20”, it is most often said with a sense of resignation, as if to say that there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’ve just become fatalists destined to repeat this again. We then race off to the next fire that needs fighting. That’s where we all go wrong. Hindsight is 20-20! It should be stated with a sense of optimism! Guess what?! We’ve just been handed a gift! An opportunity to, not only, learn from the situation but to now plan for it!

Hindsight is one of the most useful planning tools you will encounter. Making good use of hindsight means taking stock of the past year (or more) and reviewing the major issues and concerns you encountered. Take a look at how you handled them then consider how you wish had handled them and how you will handle them in the future. Did you notice a common thread or pattern? Ask yourself, what can you do now from a strategic standpoint that will help you prevent or minimize these issues in the future? After you have completed these steps for your various areas of responsibility, you will have a good start on planning for a “fire-free” future. Use 20-20 hindsight to your advantage!

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Darwinism, in the modern sense, is used to describe evolutionary concepts.  Most commonly, when used, it is weaned down to the single concept of natural selection. Of course, Charles Darwin covered way more territory than this but since we are going to discuss “the resume” this is fitting. The resume, after all, is a selection tool. You pull together a collection of detailed information about your career. You format it in a standard fashion. You locate a job of interest. Finally, you send it off to a company to be reviewed along with many others and you hope that from among that group, yours is selected for follow up of some kind.

Now, let’s go back to the concept of natural selection. Natural selection is defined (answers.com) as “the process in nature by which only the organisms best adapted to their environment tend to survive and transmit their genetic characteristics in increasing numbers to succeeding generations while those less adapted tend to be eliminated.”  This applies well in screening resumes because so many candidates permit themselves to be eliminated by simply not adapting to the environment. Every job, which is the “environment”, is different. When you choose to not customize your resume submission to the job for which you are applying, you allow the law of natural selection to go to work in eliminating you from the gene, uh, applicant pool. Yes, it’s more work – more work than merely sending the same resume (and cover letter) for every job. But how’s that been working? By customizing your submission and showing the recruiter or the applicant tracking system (we’ll discuss this) that you are a perfect fit for the job, you allow the law to work in your favor. You get to survive and possibly transmit your genetic characteristics, also known as work efforts, to succeeding generations! The process I described at the end of the above paragraph actually should be applied in this order: You locate a job of interest. You pull together a collection of detailed information about your career based on that job. You format it in a standard fashion. Finally, you send it off to a company to be reviewed along with many others….

All job seekers need to understand applicant tracking systems (ATSs) and how they work.  ATSs are designed to accept your resume in electronic form, then, screen and sort them based specific inputs or keywords which usually come from the job description. MOST companies use these. As an independent recruiter, I use one. Therefore, if you did not customize your submission or, at least, review it for fit against the job description, it doesn’t stand a chance of getting in front of a recruiter or hiring manager. The ATS will eliminate you from consideration before any human can intervene. Put some work in your resume. The strategic use of keywords and position-specific terms found in the job description can get you past the ATS and possibly get you that follow up you’ve been seeking.

Take or leave this nugget of information but remember, Darwinism is always hard at work even it you aren’t. Survive.

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