know thyself: mbti

December 11, 2009

by anne lueneburger

“If one is estranged from oneself, then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I was having lunch with a relatively new acquaintance, and two minutes into the conversation (she was 20 minutes late) she was sharing her life with me. Veronica[1] charmed the waiter, was quick to tell me that the restaurant needed to be re-decorated and – over the course of our one hour conversation – enthusiastically covered six different (pretty much unrelated) topics.  Based on our brief exchange, my hunch was that she was an ENFP…

What’s an ENFP?!  An ENFP is one of 16 ‘types’ that were developed in the 1940s by a mother and daughter team.  The types are known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Based on the theory of Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung (who observed that differences in people are not random but rather the result of an individual’s innate preferences) and through subsequent research Myers and Briggs developed four components of the MBTI: Extraversion versus Introversion (where do you get your energy), Sensing versus Intuition (how do you take in information), Thinking versus Feeling (how do you make decisions) and Judging versus Perceiving (how do you operate on a day-to-day basis).

One of the most interesting aspects of the MTBI is the identification of a person’s dominant mental process or the area of their greatest cognitive ability.  The indicator differentiates between two kinds of perception: Sensing (the ability to perceive details and seek the fullest possible experience through your five senses) and iNtuition (seeing the big picture, seeking the furthest reaches of the possible and the imaginative), and two kinds of judgment: Thinking (being objective and deducing, seeking rational order through the non-personal logic of cause and effect) or Feeling (stepping in to the situation, taking an empathetic view and seeking rational order in accord with your key values).  All of us use all of these processes, but in a different order and at varying levels of competence. Your dominant function is often seen as the ‘captain’ of your personality, while the other functions serve the captain’s goals.

The MBTI is today the most widely-used personality measure, with over 2 million indicators administered annually in the U.S. alone. It is used globally and has been translated into over 30 languages. As a certified MBTI career and executive coach, I frequently work with my clients on developing hypotheses as to their particular personality type. A significant amount of research exists around the careers that people of particular personality types tend to enter, as well as about the tasks that those with a certain personality type tends to enjoy.

Questions my clients ask:

What can taking the MBTI do for me as a manager and leader?

O Further my career

The more you know about yourself, the more you will be able to direct your career to where you can add the most value through playing to your proven competencies. You will have more insight as to which roles ‘replenish’ you, and which drain your energy.  This, in turn, will enable you to adjust how you work and help to reduce your stress levels. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will also help you to relate to others from a position of self-assurance, strength and confidence. A 25-year longitudinal study shows that higher self-confidence boosts income levels and career satisfaction[2].

O Recruit the right talent

Understanding typology is useful when it comes to hiring the best person for a job.  In addition to checking for competencies and skills, understanding psychological types will enable you to ask the right questions, cut through the hype and ‘work out’ the person sitting across from you more quickly.

O Maximize employee retention

Matching an individual’s talents with job requirements is a powerful means of maximizing your employee performance and their job satisfaction. Understanding your employees’ needs, and their strengths and weaknesses (and letting them focus on their strengths), can boost employee engagement levels by over 70 percent[3].

O Manage conflict effectively

Focusing on challenges in typological terms (rather than interpersonal ones) will build relationships in a constructive way, allowing individuals to recognize, accept and value the differences in people. It allows for different ‘typological’ points of view to be heard, and for individual needs to be met.

O Optimize goal setting

Including a broader range of different perspectives, needs and ideas promotes the setting of more realistic goals that are more likely to be accepted in an organization, giving you the needed buy-in as a leader.

O Build strong teams

The best teams, the ones that produce results, are not the ones where all members have the same preferences and strength profiles.  The best teams are well-rounded; bringing in a mix of different strengths. Encouraging differences rather than judging them allows individuals to maximize their contributions to the team from a position of strength. Bringing transparency to this process helps to build teams that will work at their optimum performance.

Where can I take the MBTI?

There are a number of variations of the assessment.  The most comprehensive  is the MBTI Complete, a 60-minute assessment that requires 93 responses, as well as ‘self-understanding’ questions.  A shorter version is the Form M assessment which focuses on the core 93 items and takes 20 minutes. Stay away from ‘pseudo MBTI’ sites… If you look for trusted sources, I recommend that you either contact CAPT or CPP, who both offer the MBTI and can also refer you to a certified MBTI practitioner to go over the results in person (highly recommended, read my reply to the next question).

Why is it important to consult a certified MBTI practitioner?

O To verify your results

The MBTI is one of the most reliable and valid self-report personality inventories: but no psychological assessment is infallible. It is possible that your MBTI results and your ‘self-estimated’ preference type differ on one or more of your preferences. You could be going through a particularly stressful time in your career or life that makes it difficult for you to determine your normal way of functioning, for example, and a certified practitioner should identify this. You may also have had difficulty with developing a clear preference on one or more of the preferences, or you may struggle to answer questions which relate to who you really are; there is the temptation to respond to the questions in terms of how you behave in particular situations (‘learned preferences’) or how others want you to behave or be.  Take the example of a client of mine who was an excellent public speaker. Perhaps unsurprisingly he undertook the test and came out as a ‘slight extrovert’.  When we went through the verification step, however, and tested the hypothesis of him being an extrovert, we found (after some probing questions) that he was actually a moderate introvert, who got most of his energy from working away from an audience. Through exercises and insightful questioning, a certified coach will help you to clarify your preferences and ensure an accurate assessment.

O To develop insights and concrete take-aways that will help you be(come) a better leader

Determining psychological type through the MBTI however, is only the beginning. You must learn from and apply the findings of your MBTI: the next step is learning how to use the strengths of your type and also to be aware of the ‘blind spots’ of that type. Through establishing your type – and through working with a certified coach to understand this – you can develop this self-awareness, realize peak performance, improve communication and relationships, and clarify goals and life purpose.

Coming back to Victoria… at the end of our lunch she wanted to know more about me, and what I do.  I explained and a few weeks later she gave me a call: she needed some help with her career, as she was struggling with her transition from corporate finance to interior design. As part of the process of defining her values and motivations, she took the Myers-Briggs. Her four letter result was: ENFJ.  We tested this hypothesis, and after she had learned about the specifics of her ‘type’, she confirmed that it rang true. She was a clear extrovert, highly intuitive, very much saw the potential in people and often functioned as a catalyst for individual and group growth. It transpired that she was very sociable and could be an inspiring role model, and she was (in contrast to my initial thoughts!) highly structured in her approach and very methodical and systematic in how she organized her day-to-day schedule as well as her long term plans.

This said, with her new insights and the self knowledge that she developed as part of her consultation, she was more aware of her strong points and blind spots, and was able to push her ‘dream career’ forward.  She is now enrolled in a prestigious program in Manhattan, and is enjoying her ‘new life’.  A happy ending!


[1] Not her real name

 

[2] Judge, T.A., & Eirich, G.M., 2008, How the rich (and happy) get richer (and happier): Relationship of core self-evaluations to trajectories in attaining work success, Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 849 – 863

[3] Source: Gallup Organization

by anne lueneburger

Ever had this happen to you?

Joking aside… Interviewing for a job goes both ways: the company wants to be sure that your qualifications and persona fit the role and the overall organizational culture.  But – more importantly – as part of your search for that perfect role, it is crucial that you assess whether the company’s culture is aligned with your personal values and your work style. Not getting the cultural fit right risks suffering organ rejection!

Here are five powerful questions you should ask:

1: Which attributes do you most value about your organization?

2: In your company, what is really important?

3: What type of person tends to get promoted?

4: What type of behavior is rewarded?

5: What is true of people that joined your firm but ultimately didn’t fit in?

In addition to listening to what the organization responds to your questions – be observant…  Start off by looking at the parking lot: how are spots assigned, is it hierarchical or random? What is the reception area like? Is there a dress code? How do people communicate with each other? Does the interview process mirror what you are being told? How are you being treated? Who is involved in the decision-making process?

And be diligent: research outside of the organization, Google the company, read news, publications. Speak with former employees. Get the inside scoop: see if friends or previous associates work or know anyone who works in the organization and are willing to share their insights.

If the answers that come from your investigation don’t align with your values, think again.  Some people love working at Goldman Sachs, others at The World Bank; you may like the daily turbulence of a fast-moving start-up or value the reliability of a multinational Fortune 50 company.  Either way, the ‘best job’ is still part of the general organizational fabric – and if this doesn’t sit right then it could be time for a rethink…

what is success to you?

December 3, 2009

by anne lueneburger

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

I just spent an hour at La Guardia, waiting to board a flight to Chicago. I had brought my laptop to work on a proposal, but found myself distracted by the frenzy around me.  The lady next to me was waiting to fly back after a meeting with one of her key accounts in Manhattan. She was a senior marketing exec with Abbott Labs; we got talking and she wanted to know more about what I do, I explained and her first question was:

But, what does success in a ‘north of neutral world’ mean?

Good question!  I explained to her that ‘north of neutral’ equates to life beyond ’good enough’… Life that exceeds ‘acceptable’.

But, she asked, “what makes it more than good enough, and how do you define success in this context?”

In a north of neutral world, you find success through utilizing your strengths and enjoying what you do: your career in particular and life in general are both meaningful and fulfilling for you, and you feel optimistic about your future.

Your ‘True North’ however, may look very different from what society commonly defines as success…  People have different expectations and means of measuring their success: some want financial success, others to be referenced in reputable publications or achieve a high-profile promotion.

As Harvard professor, Joseph Badaracco, writes in his book on leadership Questions of Character:”The basic problem with the flow of success is that life can look very good when it really isn’t.” He goes on to describe how executives and leaders can become victims of their achievements or celebrity standards through essentially becoming actors in a role created by their inner critic, their peers or by society at large: “we learn the ways in which success works as a psychological and emotional anesthetic. Its victims don’t know their inner lives have shriveled and their healthy instincts have grown dull.”

In order to define what success and a True North life looks like for you, take a step back from everyday pressures and from the seductive concept of success as it is generally defined. Take your own pulse: what are your strengths and your talents? What do you look forward to doing most? What roles or responsibilities feel most authentic to you? And, what do you want your legacy to be?

Once you’ve done this: you have taken the first step towards making success your own.

And the good news is that all it takes is time to think – maybe next time you’re waiting for a flight?!

north of neutral dialog

December 1, 2009

by anne lueneburger

Olivier Tardy, Senior Partner & Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Paris

I first met Olivier Tardy in 1998 at an INSEAD reception in Fontainebleau, France. Already a partner with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) at the time, he had made the one-hour car trip from Paris to meet with faculty. Three things struck me about Tardy. First, his modesty, despite his accomplishments; second, his sincerity, especially in listening to others’ points of view; and third, his inclination to find a lesson in any situation, good or bad. Currently, Olivier Tardy is Senior Partner and Managing Director at BCG Paris. In a recent conversation, we discussed the ingredients of his success.

The journey

Olivier Tardy grew up in a family of entrepreneurs in construction and design on one side and medical doctors on the other. Following a typically French path for gifted math students, he enrolled in one of the country’s elite engineering programs at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris. Following an 18-month training program as a naval officer and a four-month stint in private-sector accounting, he subsequently attended UCLA’s MBA program, with the intent to move into investment banking.

While he admired the eclectic mix of smarts and unpretentiousness of leading banking specialists such as George Boutros, one of his classmates at UCLA and today Managing Director at Credit Suisse, he felt that the finance industry was dominated by a fairly aggressive, self-absorbed culture that did not appeal to him.

He vividly remembers a business school lunch, hosted by a leading investment bank. The firm’s representative proclaimed: “If you do not get a hard-on reading the financial columns of The Wall Street Journal, don’t join us.”

It prompted Tardy to take a very close look at what type of industry and organization he would thrive in. One of his passions had always been sailing. As a result, he signed up for a summer job with Lear Siegler, a consortium owning renowned yacht manufacturers such as Jeanneau, Cal and O’Day. Over that summer, he got to know Xavier Fontanet, then CEO of Beneteau, a leading sailboat builder whose President Annette Roux was an industry legend.  Fontanet, a former partner with BCG, strongly encouraged Tardy to explore the world of strategy consulting. He saw a natural fit in Tardy’s training as an engineer to solve complex problems, his keen thirst for knowledge, as well as his unassuming yet competent approach to interactions with others.

“After meeting with the top three strategy consultants at the time, I fell in love with the personality of consultants I met from BCG—their diverse backgrounds, their collegial attitude as well as their entrepreneurial and visionary approach to work truly inspired me.”

The payoff

Olivier Tardy has been with BCG for 23 years, one of the less than five percent of consultants who start out in top strategy consulting firms and make it to senior partner.  He is highly regarded in the firm and worldwide topic co-leader on Sales and Channels within BCG’s Marketing and Sales practice. He continues to enjoy the core of his work: “client service—to build trust, to reflect on a client’s challenge and to help decision-makers move towards sustainable solutions that have a real impact on bottom line, ultimately creating business value.”

Moments of pause

Not surprisingly, over the span of nearly a quarter of a century with BCG, there were moments when Tardy thought about leaving: “It seems to happen every four to five years,” he chuckles. More often than not, the stimulus was external: Clients impressed with his work would make tempting offers. There were also a few internal changes in BCG’s culture over the years that gave him pause. For example, he recounts, “Some years ago a number of key thought leaders and mentors retired from the firm, and it took me a while to regroup”. But he stayed because of the continued excitement coming from working with clients and younger team members, as well as the seamless fit between his role, BCG’s culture and who he is. Having said this, Olivier Tardy will leave BCG one day … no doubt. Part of his plan: “Do a bit of teaching as well as build my own boat and sail the world.”

Why he did not change employers: organizational fit

Possessing the right educational degree, knowledge, skills and industry experience only partially explain why people succeed in their job. More often than not, individuals thrive because their values, interests, and communication styles fit within their organizational culture. In short, it’s good chemistry!

Olivier Tardy’s natural curiosity and passion for learning aligns well with BCG, which views thought leadership as the defining nucleus of its business model. He thrives in an environment composed of diverse and highly educated peers and demanding client cultures that promote his dedication to excellence and keep the learning curve steep. The “intrapreneurial” structure of the partnership furthermore meets his desire for independence. He appreciates the lifestyle that he has thanks to his firm. More importantly, however, he thrives on seeing that his work makes a difference for his clients and their organizations. At the intersection of these elements, Olivier has found a partnership model that resonates with his desire for a collegial culture.

Organizations have recognized the importance of person-environment fit, which offers an employer substantial benefits, such as talent retention and tenure. Tenure of top talent, not surprisingly, is positively correlated with ROI for hiring talent. As a result, these firms are moving beyond conventional hiring models to take a holistic look at their hiring practices. Getting this fit right is the secret of leading corporations. Olivier Tardy’s experience with BCG is testament to the power of organizational fit.

happy thanksgiving!

November 25, 2009

by anne lueneburger

As a European living in the United States, I have come to appreciate the North-American holiday of Thanksgiving. I treasure this time among friends and family, and savor Thanksgiving’s traditional dishes… My favorite by far: mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, absolute bliss!

Within my vocation (as a career and executive coach partnering with clients in their search for their “True North”), ‘thanksgiving’ in a literal sense is a powerful tool. In its broadest sense, it is an appreciation of ‘what is’, of what is good in the present and what has made it so. Research shows that there is a causal relationship between expressions of gratitude and mental and physical health: positivity builds optimism and resilience; fosters good relationships, and supports a healthy and thriving career and personal life[1].

Try this: Write an ‘appreciation letter’ to a colleague, a former boss, or any other professional contact to whom you owe a debt of gratitude.

Be specific about what they did for you and how it positively affected you and helped to develop your career. Let them know how often you reflect on what you learnt from them, and the effort that they made. Ideally, hand-deliver the letter and read it out to them.  If this isn’t possible, maybe give them a call or email your message.

In fact, research shows that even if you write but never send such a message, it will still help you to reflect and will have a positive effect on your life.

Having done this, get in touch with me at anne@northofneutral.com – I would love to hear about your personal experience after you’ve expressed appreciation to someone!

Have a great Thanksgiving!


[1] Lyubomirsky, S., ‘The How of Happiness’, Penguin Group, 2007

 

by anne lueneburger

Do you remember being at college and exploring possible careers options by taking on special school projects, or signing up for an internship?  I always thought it was great fun and a fantastic way to get a genuine taste of a particular vocation…

Jumping forward  – with your career well underway – and ‘test driving’ a job or volunteering (with a view to exploring a potential career change) becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible. Time, as we know, becomes a rarer commodity…

This is where ‘informational interviewing’ can come in.  Essentially informational interviewing involves (to use a shopping metaphor): “trying on jobs for size”.

The term – coined by career expert Dick Bolles – may be a little misleading, however. A more accurate term would be ‘informational networking’ or ‘expert interviews’, as its primary purpose is not to find a job: the objective is to get credible first-hand information about a particular role, organization or industry that extends beyond standard research from general occupational sources, company brochures and Google.  Informational networking can also prepare you for a meeting that you’ll have at a later stage with a future employer.

One of my clients, Ryan, was straight out of an Ivy League MBA program; he had been 100% certain that he wanted to work in strategy consulting. He short-listed the industry leaders and, after some preliminary research, he set out to network with alumni of his school who worked in these organizations. The more he learned, the more he realized that strategy consulting –  working with a broad range of industries with a broad range of problems – did not particularly appeal to him.

Ryan’s ‘take-away’ from his research was: consulting as a profession – with its fast paced environment and range of talent and experience – continued to attract him, but not as a generic strategy consultant.  He started exploring boutique consulting firms in the organizational development domain – an area that genuinely interested him. Through speaking to stakeholders, and going the extra mile in his research, he may have saved himself years of being stuck in a job that he found unfulfilling.

Informational networking can help you:

O Explore careers

O Clarify career aspirations

O Expand your professional connections

O Build insight in a particular role or industry, which may come in handy during the interview process later

O Understand whether a particular role would play to your strengths

O Practice networking

O Save you years of working in the wrong job

In practice…

In general, most people like to share their knowhow and thoughts with others. Most people are flattered to be asked their opinion and for advice. However, in order for you to be an effective informational interviewer, bear these rules in mind:

Rule 1: Prepare

If you do not know where to start, begin by understanding yourself. What motivates you? What skills do you enjoy leveraging? What is important to you? What are your interests? Next, look at industry trends in relevant publications, maybe The Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal. Look up occupations that may interest you on Onet.

Then: identify your targets.  Which industries/companies/roles do you find appealing? Which jobs could you genuinely see yourself in?

Consider contacting your alma mater and ask for alumni contacts. Speak with friends, family, neighbors, peers, acquaintances (anyone!), and ask if they know people who work in this sphere. Then prepare your questions. Once you’ve narrowed your target audience, make sure you learn all that you can about the role or organization that interests you. Prepare a list of questions that you’d like to have answered.

Rule 2: Connect

Briefly, in writing (email or letter): introduce yourself, explain who you are, what you are interested in learning more about, how long you’d like to spend talking (20 minutes?), and that you’ll be calling.

When you follow up with your phone call…

Is this a good time for me to call you?”

No: “When should I call you back?”

Don’t call back: “Is there someone else you recommend I contact?”

Yes: “Great. I emailed you on [date]. I am hoping to speak with you about [topic]. When would you be free?”

General Tips for the phone:

O Prepare a call script. But don’t read it out, practice it beforehand and have it at the ready to remind yourself of key points that you want to address during the call.  Check everything’s covered before you hang up.

O Call before 9am or after 5pm, Tuesday through Thursday.

O Don’t leave a message. Wait until you get hold of someone.

O Smile while you speak.

O Briefly re-introduce yourself, then get to the point quickly.

O Be courteous. Exude confidence.

O Take notes and put them in your networking log.

Rule 3: Meet

Explore the possibility of meeting in person first.  Admittedly, this may not often be possible or practical. On the day of your meeting, arrive on time. Thank your interviewee for taking the time to meet and then start by finding out about them and their professional journey. Begin with covering basic questions:

“What does your job entail on a day-to-day basis?”

“How did you get to be where you are now?”

“What key competencies have you developed to succeed in your role/company?”

“What do you enjoy about your role?”

“What are the challenges?”

If there’s time, follow-up with some more in-depth questions… But stick to the time you agreed to take up. If you run over, point it out: “I’d love to talk more but I’m mindful of your schedule.” Often they’ll be keen to carry on, otherwise thank them very much for their time and leave it there.

An important rule: NEVER ask for a job during these informational interviews (if the other party mentions this, thank them very much and say that you’d love to explore this further once you’ve finished your research). At the end of the interview thank them, and ask them whether they know of anyone else it might be useful for you to talk to.

Rule 4: Follow-up

As with any liaison (especially if someone is effectively doing you a favor): always, always send a thank you email within a couple of days of the meeting.

Then, if appropriate, follow up on a regular basis and keep them informed as to how your research is coming on – maybe recommend a publication that you’ve come across that might be of interest to them.

Remember: even if you don’t take their advice – or decide to go into another sector or role – networking is a cornerstone of career development, and you never know which connections could prove invaluable for future career developments.

So, expert interviews can be an invaluable tool for gathering information about a job and – especially if you are already working full-time – provide a great means for efficiently gathering information about another sector, or just giving you ‘food for thought’ about a career change. And without overstretching yourself or committing too much time…

why zebras don’t get ulcers

November 16, 2009

by anne lueneburger

imagesWhy don’t zebras get ulcers–or heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases–when people do? In a fascinating look at the science of stress, biologist Robert Sapolsky presents an intriguing case, that people develop such diseases partly because our bodies aren’t designed for the constant stresses of a modern-day life–like sitting in daily traffic jams or growing up in poverty. Rather, they seem more built for the kind of short-term stress faced by a zebra–like outrunning a lion.

With wit, graceful writing, and a sprinkling of Far Side cartoons, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers makes understanding the science of stress an adventure in discovery. “This book is a primer about stress, stress-related disease, and the mechanisms of coping with stress. How is it that our bodies can adapt to some stressful emergencies, while other ones make us sick? Why are some of us especially vulnerable to stress-related diseases, and what does that have to do with our personalities?”

Sapolsky, a Stanford University neuroscientist, explores stress’s role in heart disease, diabetes, growth retardation, memory loss, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. He cites tantalizing studies of hyenas, baboons, and rodents, as well as of people of different cultures, to vividly make his points. And Sapolsky concludes with a hopeful chapter, titled “Managing Stress.” Although he doesn’t subscribe to the school of thought that hope cures all disease, Sapolsky highlights the studies that suggest we do have some control over stress-related ailments, based on how we perceive the stress and the kinds of social support we have.

get your ‘I QUIT’ right

November 9, 2009

by anne lueneburger

non

Liam F., a senior partner in a law firm, was generally considered to be at the peak of his career.  Yet he felt tired, burned out and frustrated with his current employer. After some reflection, he decided to change gear and direction and to look for something that he found meaningful and fulfilling.

I worked closely with Liam around which path he should take and – after four and a half months – he had been made an attractive job offer. The only thing left to do before starting his new role – and hopefully his new, happier, life – was to let his firm know that he was leaving.

But although Liam had succeeded in the incredibly challenging process of finding his new professional calling, it was this exit interview that he was dreading. It wasn’t that he was questioning his decision to leave – he was struggling with two other issues, one: it was the first time that he had given notice as a senior professional and he was not quite sure how to best approach it, two: the person he would have the exit interview with was his boss of a number of years, a charismatic but also moody individual who he had a feeling wouldn’t react positively to the news. Moreover, Liam was struggling with the question of whether to share his frustrations as to how things – he felt – were poorly managed by the firm, and where he had felt badly managed over the course of his 8-year tenure.

We looked at what he could do to make ‘quitting’ a success:

O Let your boss know first

Share your decision with your immediate supervisor, regardless of your relationship with them. This will ensure that your boss feels ‘in the loop’ and you are more likely to have their support in your final weeks.

O Do it in person

This sounds obvious but, throughout my career, I’ve seen professionals write a formal letter or email before seeing their boss face-to-face.  Assuming you’re ‘top talent’ and an asset to the company: you’re delivering bad news, and bad news should always be delivered in person.  No exceptions.  You can also avoid any misunderstandings and resolve any queries about the process right then and there.

O Leave on good terms

Not burning your bridges is highly beneficial: you allow yourself to move forward on a positive note; you leave the door open for potential future collaboration; you give yourself the best chance of a good reference and – most importantly – you prove that you’re the true professional that you want to be…

Leaving on good terms involves:

Be transparent. The moment you have your new contract in hand, let your current employer know you are leaving.  Giving organizations ample lead time to find a replacement will always work in your favor.

Be assertive, but considerate. Anyone who has ever left a job before knows: there is a subtle shift in power. You and your boss become equals for a while. It is important that you treat this change in your relationship tactfully.

Be gracious. Everyone in the office is aware, without you stating it, that you see a brighter and better future somewhere else. There is no need to ‘spill your guts’ as to what went wrong and what you disliked about the job. Instead, focus on what was good and how it allowed you to move on to ‘pastures new’ and your new responsibilities. Consider thanking your boss for what they have personally done for you during your time with the company. This also holds true if you need to follow-up with a resignation letter.

Look for win-win possibilities. Your new role or responsibility may allow you to continue to be of service to your old employer. If appropriate, discuss this option during your exit interview.

Give constructive feedback. Occasionally, an exit interviewer will ask that you share your experience with the company, and any insights as to how the firm can improve. Make sure you come prepared. Have a short list of two or three key points that briefly highlight a problem area and focus on suggestions that promise to better the situation. Remember: focus on facts only, no finger-pointing allowed!

north of neutral dialog

November 2, 2009

by anne lueneburger

Linda Rafoss, Partner & Managing Director, DRIVER TV, New York

The current role

Linda Rafoss-Samios is Partner and Managing Director at DRIVER, a full-service production firm with offices in Los Angeles and New York City. DRIVER manages the creation of media on behalf of advertising agencies, corporations and entertainment firms, and clients include blue chip players such as Coca Cola, Delta, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, and Toyota.  Linda’s role is comprehensive: it involves business development, key account management, as well as talent sourcing and development.

The journey

Upon graduating with a BA in Economics and English from the University of Richmond, VA, Linda joined the newsroom at NBC as a junior producer. This was the beginning of her close to 20 years in the agency and post-production world. She has worked for big players such as J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy and expanded the global reach of smaller platforms such as Version2 Editing and VFX. Her strong sense to attract and develop talent led to a number of awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Now a partner at DRIVER, she shares her long-term goal of “producing a film on a story of my favorite author, Ayn Rand”, and, adding a smile: “I am just getting started”.

The professional is but one part of her journey. The other is her private life. Linda is mother of three young children, ranging from age six to twelve. Her children are well-adjusted, happy individuals. She and husband Scott have been together since their college years and live in a home just outside Manhattan. They regularly socialize with their wide circle of friends, and this past summer they spent one month commuting between a summerhouse in the Hamptons and work.

‘What have I done’ moments

Linda does experience moments of doubt when she leaves in the morning to catch the train to the city: “Is this the right thing that I am doing, leaving my kids for a job?” She describes having a sense of guilt when she works from home as it can blur the lines: “I don’t want to be a Blackberry Mom”. She continues to work on fine-tuning on what constitutes the right balance.

How to positively transform your work-home balance

Linda is a natural when it comes to the balancing act between career and family. Part of her success is the result of a positive disposition, a high level of energy (not surprisingly, zest is her number-one signature strength) as well as a love for both worlds she lives in. Part of her success, however, is due to some sensible approaches to make it all work. Here are some insights that evolved during our dialog:

O Be mindful: respect the moment

This is probably one of the most powerful but also one of the most difficult rules. When you are with family, be there 100%: physically, mentally and emotionally. When you are at work, the same rule holds: focus on where you are and the tasks at hand. Tempted to discuss issues at work over the dinner table?  Off limits! Been working on a client presentation, and realized that your thoughts were wandering off to your twelve year old’s report card? Stop. The secret of Linda’s success in both worlds is that she is mindful of and engaged in the space she occupies.

Occasionally, Linda’s senior role requires her to bring work home. In these situations she will continue to uphold the rule of not mixing the two worlds: “I will be on my laptop for a set number of hours, but then I will also close it and focus fully on my private life and forget about work”.

O Lose the guilt

Working mothers notoriously struggle with an underlying sense of guilt. Traditional points of view argue that children are better off with a mother at home and a father as the sole breadwinner. Research shows: this theory is a myth. As long as children have a secure attachment to their parents, they will flourish, whether they are for part of the day with a qualified third party or with their parent [1]. Linda’s nanny Liz has been with the family for many years and the children have built a strong bond with her.

O Build a support network

The saying goes: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Starting with good childcare, dedicated schoolteachers, qualified doctors or engaging soccer coaches: many ‘hands’ are involved in successfully bringing up kids. Aside from that, a strong social network offers a powerful resource when bottlenecks or emergencies materialize. Being in the film and creative industries, Linda frequently needs to travel in the U.S. and abroad, but with an extended family close by and a broad network of friends, she has ample help at hand.

O Live a true partnership

If both parents work, it is crucial to embrace an equal partnership model between husband and wife: responsibilities are shared at home. You may not always be able to equally divide the tasks, especially if one of the partners has a more rigid work environment. Key is to sit down and discuss who can and will do what. Linda’s husband Scott, who has a career in business development and marketing with a web software provider, is very involved on the home front. “We are 50-50 partners”, Linda shares, “and we both pull our weight. At the same time, we never sit down and keep tabs nor do we dwell on problems, but we work together on fixing them”. Whenever possible, Linda and Scott are joint parenting; most mornings, for example, they drop the kids off at school together.

A true partnership also implies that you make time for the relationship: Linda and Scott make it a point to hire a babysitter and to meet up with friends in Manhattan, to watch an Indie film or to cook and entertain together at home.

O Forgo perfection

We learn in our professional life about the importance of prioritizing as an element of effective time management. Parallel to this, working parents need to prioritize what is important and what is ‘nice to have’ on the home front. Linda does not hesitate to forgo a spotless home for quality playtime with her kids.

O Manage expectations at work

Being a parent means that you will need some flexibility in your work schedule. As long as you deliver, employees and clients tend to be accommodating. The best approach is to establish an open line of communication with your organization in general and your boss in particular. Linda’s frank communication style, her ability to build strong rapport with her peers as well as her contributions to bottom-line have resulted in her ability to telecommute and to create a flexible work schedule with days off in between.

O Pamper yourself

Even if you love your work and your family (and you are entitled to love both), chances are that you will need some down time to yourself. “If I am ever in a lull, I love nothing better than reading a good book in bed for a couple of hours on the weekend or cooking, which totally relaxes me and helps me show love for friends and family by feeding them!” Linda reflects when I ask her how she regroups and recharges her batteries, “And occasionally I get in a 30 minute run….”


[1] NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2005

by anne lueneburger

salary blog

My work takes me to Columbia University’s Business School several times a month, where I run sessions coaching executives. MBA graduates – especially from top-notch programs – are notorious for seeking out the highest paid positions from the most prestigious institutions. After all, isn’t this what they came to business school for?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working long hours or aiming for high compensation packages – as long as you enjoy what you do and it is aligned with your desired career path and with who ‘you’ are.

Generally, MBA graduates don’t yet have the constraints of a family of their own; they appreciate the steep learning curves of entry-level executive positions, and they find the significant financial rewards intrinsically motivating and exciting.

The scenario only becomes problematic when, in order to maximize revenues, you either:

  • Spend the majority of your working life in a professional role that does not fulfill you.

Or

  • Work in an organizational culture that is inconsistent with who you are.

If (as is often the case with MBA graduates) you are ‘a performer’, it can be a challenge to break out of this ‘upward spiral’ of receiving promotions and higher compensation packages.  Not a bad way to be, you may think, but: at what cost?

The MBA philosophy encourages you to ask: “what can I do next?”  I.e. what is the most that I am capable of doing next?

Whereas, as we’ve seen over the last couple of blogs, the north of neutral philosophy encourages you to approach the question in a more holistic fashion; to check your values, interests and strengths, and to ask the more pertinent question: “What do I want to do next?”

So, take the opportunities that present themselves to you, strive to improve yourself and further your career, but look at opportunities in balance; weigh up the financial rewards with what you are giving up ‘of yourself’, and think about your strengths, values, motivations and interests and bring these to the table.