The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘success’

RIDING IN COACH

I was on my way back to Chicago when I was informed that instead of the aisle seat I had reserved the plane had been overbooked and if I wanted to get on the flight I would have to accept a center seat.  I wasn’t a very happy camper – but I thought I could endure the three hour flight without having a tantrum.  As it turned out, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  Sitting in the window seat was “Zig” Ziglar who passed away today at the age of 86.  I recognized him immediately.

Those of you who do not know who Mr. Ziglar was have missed the opportunity to enjoy the warmth and positive attitude that he brought to the world of motivational speaking.  He was truly a genius – and unlike so many people who broadcast one image on stage and another one off, Zig was just as upbeat as a seatmate as he was in delivering one of his famous seminars.  I left the plane feeling that I owed United Airlines some additional compensation for allowing me to sit next to him.

Zig Ziglar was the author of 30 books on the subject of motivation, positive attitude and how to be successful.  I cannot even begin to imagine how many thousands of seminars he conducted and how many hundreds of thousands he motivated to be better people than when they entered the auditorium to hear him speak.  He was truly a champion of the positive.

Born the tenth of twelve children, his father died when Zig was five years old.  He began selling peanuts to help support his family when he was six.  Later he turned to door to door sales, vending pots and pans and ultimately began his career as a motivational speaker.  Here was truly a self-made man – and a man who shared that success with countless others along the way.

There are many Zig Ziglar quotes that I love but perhaps my favorite is this one:

“Building a better you is the first step to building a better America.”

Zig, we’re going to miss your genuine honesty, your upbeat outlook and your never quit attitude.  You were the real deal – a terrific American and one of our most valuable assets as a citizen of the world.

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FINDING A JOB

During the twenty-five years I was in the executive search business, I read a lot of resumés.  I’m guessing the number could have been close to one hundred thousand or so.  As a result, I know a little bit about resumés and resumé writing.

Of course, this was back in the days when people committed their thoughts to paper, typed or “word processed” them with only a limited benefit from “spell check” and then folded this vital document, placed it in an envelope, used the USPS to deliver it and then hoped that the recipient would actually care about the contents of their communication.

People generally share the opinion that writing a good resumé will get you a good job.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But I can assure you that writing a poor resumé will result in your never being called for an interview for that good position.  Allow me to explain.

My normal efforts to recruit for a specific position were to use contacts with whom I had a good relationship and work through a referral network to identify appropriate candidates for a position vacancy.  Sometimes those efforts would come up short and I would run a “Blind Box Ad” in the “Chicago Tribune” to bring in a new field of potential candidates.

During times of economic prosperity, an ad would generally yield about two hundred responses.  During bad economic times, the number of responses might be three to four times that great.  In either case that was a lot of reading.

If I did nothing but read all these responses thoroughly, I would have had no time to address myself to the ongoing management of my business.  So I developed a system for sorting through this correspondence  to minimize my time devoted to reading them.

I thought of it as the “Goldilocks System”.

My essential view of resumés is that they bear a lot of similarity to a striptease.  They should whet the appetite – but not necessarily be all-revealing.  That is the purpose of a personal interview.  So those resumés which were sent to us that were as heavy as the first volume of The Encyclopedia Britannica normally went directly into the circular file without being opened.

On the other hand, there needs to be enough material for the person reading the resumé to make some sort of judgment about the individual’s background  to decide whether to call him in for an interview.  So those resumés which were so light on information that it was impossible to make a reasoned evaluation were also sent into the wastebasket.

This process reduced the number of resumés by at least thirty percent – which still left a daunting number to be reviewed.

Then I applied the “Precision Factor”.  Those resumés in which I found typographical mistakes (sometimes including the misspelling of the name of their current or previous employers) met the same fate as those which failed my first two sorts.

We were dealing with financial personnel and my logic for giving these resumés a failing grade was that if a person were not correctly able to spell the name of the company that wrote his paycheck, what kind of work product would he deliver in dealing with a corporation’s finances?

I was raised in an era in which we were taught grammar and spelling.  Perhaps it is a personal bugaboo but I still believe that accuracy and attention to detail matter.  (This is one reason that my two year stint working for government resulted in my starting my own business.  It drove me crazy watching slip shod, sloppy work pass for a quality product).

At last I was down to the serious business of actually reading and “vetting” the remaining candidates.  I only wanted to interview and submit to our client those candidates who had the capability to discharge the duties of their new position in an effective manner.  I did not want to waste my client’s time by referring people to them who were not appropriate and I had a sense of professional pride in being able to sort the wheat from the chaff.  After all, that’s why my clients had hired me in the first place.

It is within the context of reviewing candidates’ credentials that I began reflecting on the results of the Presidential election of a few days past.  I wondered what sort of an ad I would write were I retained to fill that position and I came up with the following:

OPENING FOR PRESIDENT OF A MAJOR COUNTRY

Our country is in need of a new leader to replace our CEO.  The individual we select will have shown a proven ability to be a problem solver, work with a diverse group of individuals, arrive at simple, effective solutions to complex issues, and will have demonstrated a successful track record throughout his or her professional career. 

Our culture requires a person who has a firm grasp of economic, social and foreign issues and will be able to reach out to our diverse citizen base in an inclusive manner.  A strict adherence to our fundamental governing document, our Constitution, is required.

For consideration, please submit your resumé to the citizens of the United States of America.

Perhaps before the general election in 2016, we can offer a crash course to our voters on how to read and evaluate a resumé.  It might produce a better result for all of us.

Certainly, we could do no worse.

SIZE MATTERS

If you start your own business or work for one that someone else just began, the importance of individual accountability moves out of classroom theory into real world fact.  When you’re doing the work, paying the bills, trying to develop new customers, your life is literally on the line.  And if you have one or two employees helping you it is pretty obvious who is pulling his weight and who is not.

Things go well and a few years later you’ve been able to add a few more employees, and then yet more.  All of a sudden it’s harder for you to monitor how your employees are meeting their goals – and it is easier for them to shirk some of their responsibilities because a larger staff means greater anonymity.  This is a case where size really does matter.

Speaking from experience, the larger the staff size grows arithmetically, the number the problems increase geometrically.   So how do we address this issue?

The normal procedure is that we move from being a hands on supervisor and we start developing policies and procedures.  We take from our experience and write down ways that can enhance the good ones and we look to avoid repeating those that led to poor results.

Then we start to build an infrastructure of employees whom we trust to be able to oversee certain parts of our business to which we cannot devote our full attention.  The successful business owner/manager will, as part of this process develop ways to measure how effectively his employees, both supervisors and those she supervises are doing.

Accountability is essential in this process.

But what if you have an organization that does not have accountability?  What if your employees get paid their regular check whether they do an exceptional or poor job in performing their duties?  In private industry you ultimately have a company that is going to lose market share and if the problem grows large enough, you have a company that ceases to exist.

In government you have the IRS.

A recent story in Yahoo News describes how a huge organization like the IRS can let Billions of dollars get refunded through an identity theft scheme.  Apparently, this is not all that complicated to concoct as their estimate is that 1.5 million fraudulent claims for refunds are going to be processed by that agency.  The story suggests that the IRS may have paid out more than $5 Billion in fraudulent refund requests in 2011 alone.

When people are motivated they will always find ways to “game” the system.  Sadly, that is the nature of some of us and probably always will be.  I do not expect that the IRS, any other government agency or even for-profit corporations will be able to detect and catch all fraud.  But look at these examples of how egregious some of these refund requests were.  Even a novice bookkeeper should have caught some of these.

“In one example, investigators found a single address in Lansing, Mich., that was used to file 2,137 separate tax returns. The IRS issued more than $3.3 million in refunds to that address. Three addresses in Florida, the epicenter of the identity theft crisis, filed more than 500 returns totaling more than $1 million in refunds for each address.”

“In another troubling scenario, hundreds of refunds were deposited into the same bank account — a red flag for investigators searching for ID thieves who may be filing for refunds for multiple people. In one instance, the IRS deposited 590 refunds totaling more than $900,000 into one account.”

“We found multiple reasons for the IRS’s inability to detect billions of dollars in fraud,” J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, said in a statement. “At a time when every dollar counts, these results are extremely troubling.”

For a real life look at how inefficiency runs rampant within this tax collection agency, I refer you to an earlier post.  Everything described in that post happened exactly as I described, (because I am not sufficiently creative to make any of it up).

https://juwannadoright.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/my-morning-at-the-irs/

This story gives new meaning to the old phrase, “Hi, I’m with the IRS and I’m here to help you.”  From the size and amount of the fraudulent refunds being issued, I guess they are fulfilling their mission – at your expense and mine.

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