The week@work – A ‘fumbled’ transition @ABC, a second chance for Cho, the Class of 2016 & the ‘Secret Shame of the American Middle-Class”

When is the right time to share news of a career transition with a colleague? This week@work, the communication of Michael Strahan’s move to ‘Good Morning America’ provided a lesson in what not to do. In other stories: Jerry Seinfeld stepped in to mentor fellow comedian Margaret Cho, the Class of 2016 enters the job market, and the middle class continues to live paycheck to paycheck.

‘Kelly Ripa’s Absence From ‘Live’ Points to Rancor at ABC’ was the #1 most read New York Times business article this past week. #8 on the list was ‘Michael Strahan, Switching Shows, Is Headed to ‘Good Morning America’. Leadership lesson: the reaction shouldn’t be bigger news than the announcement.

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Why did this story resonate with readers?  Because it’s a story about fairness @work, professional respect among colleagues, and being left out of the loop. We have all been Kelly and many of us have been Michael.

Both GMA and Live fall within the Disney brand portfolio. It might be time to send the management team to the Disney Institute for a ‘values’ refresh. Jeff James, president and general manager of the Institute, often writes for INC. Here is a sample from April, 2014.

“Walt Disney said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

To achieve success, leaders should consider these three concepts to motivate and inspire their team:

  1. Vision and Values. At Disney Institute, we believe every leader is telling a story about what he or she values. These values must be aligned with the vision for an organization or team… 
  2. Behaviors over Intentions. Individuals within an organization will look to a leader as a model to develop their own behaviors and decisions… As a leader, it is essential that your behaviors reflect your values and your vision… 
  3. Purpose before Task. When assigning new projects to a team, it is important to discuss the purpose behind the task… if a team understands the common purpose behind individual responsibilities, they will be more inspired to own the tasks as well as the goal.

Tomorrow morning Kelly Ripa will return to the ‘Live’ studio to resume her hosting assignment. In anticipation, Ned Ehrbar of CBS News asks “Is 9 a.m. too early for popcorn? Because this should be good.” Stay tuned.

There was a small story last week about second chances.

“Last month, the stand-up comedian Margaret Cho had a bad set at the Stress Factory in New Jersey. It happens. O.K., it was worse than usual since a clip of Ms. Cho being booed by the crowd showed up on TMZ. But for a comic, bombing is part of the job. What’s less common is getting a second chance with the same audience.”

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We’ve all been there. We prepare a presentation complete with all possible tech bedazzling, and imagine kudos from a receptive audience. However, the execution doesn’t quite match the expectation and we experience an epic fail.

Recovery for the average worker is a combination of coaching, training and perhaps client feedback. It’s extremely rare for an entertainer to revisit the scene of a bad set. Enter Jerry Seinfeld.

“In an invitation sent to all the ticketbuyers from her late-night show in New Brunswick on March 26, Mr. Seinfeld wrote: “At most workplaces, if there’s a problem on the job, there’s a conversation and usually some sort of outcome. But when a stand-up show doesn’t go well, the audience and the comedian both go home unhappy, sometimes not really sure what went wrong.”

Then Mr. Seinfeld made a proposal: “So as I was talking with Margaret about this show last week during the taping in L.A., we started wondering, wouldn’t it be something if we could go back to New Jersey, back to that club with the same audience and try to make things right? Have a discussion where both sides — comedian and audience — could talk about what happened? And then both of us could do a show — a sort of redo for the audience?”

When the jacaranda trees begin to bloom in Southern California, you know it’s time for commencement, and the string of news stories on the job prospects for the Class of 2016.

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Lydia Dishman reported on the Economic Policy Institute’s analysis of work prospects for this year’s grads.

“Members of the class of 2016 are about to take their first steps on career paths. While no one can predict how they will do once they become part of the workforce, the Economic Policy Institute analyzed employment, enrollment, and wage trends to determine their economic prospects.

A paper, titled “Class of 2016,” found that this cohort has better job prospects than members of last year’s graduating class. Thanks to the steady economic recovery, these young people are expected to do better than any other class since 2009.”

The Economic Policy Institute’s paper is not an optimistic read, but a well researched study on the impact of nonexistent wage growth and a volatile economic future.

“Graduating in a weak economy has long-lasting economic consequences. For the next 10 to 15 years, those in the Class of 2016 will likely earn less, and have more spells of unemployment, than if they had graduated when job opportunities were plentiful.”

Saving the best for last, Neal Gabler‘s courageous, must read article in The Atlantic Magazine, ‘The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans’.

“Since 2013, the federal reserve board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?

Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.”

In an interview with NPR last week, Gabler spoke of “the shame of financial impotence”.

“That shame weighed on me — and I am not overstating the case — on not only a daily basis, but an hourly basis. It keeps you up at night. It is ruinous for relationships, the shame is so great. The ongoing sense of shame, that in a country where we are told anyone can be successful, and where, as Donald Trump has told us endlessly, if you don’t make it you’re a “loser.”

So, yes, did I feel like a loser? You bet I did. But what can you do with that sense of shame? You can’t share it with anybody, because to expose it is, like sexual impotence, something you just don’t want to talk about.”

 

Fear of public speaking is #1

Tonight the cast of the musical ‘Hamilton’ will officially ‘open’ on Broadway and ten Republican candidates competing for the U.S. presidency will debate on a stage in Cleveland, Ohio. Across the globe thousands of professionals in their respective fields will stand in front of an audience and present their expertise. What do all these folks have in common? Stagefright.

Joan Acocella, the dance critic for The New Yorker magazine wrote about stagefight in this week’s issue.

“Stagefright has not been heavily studied, which is strange because, as Solovitch tells us, it is common not only among those who make their living on the stage but among the rest of us, too. In 2012, two researchers at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Karen Dwyer and Marlina Davidson, administered a survey to eight hundred and fifteen college students, asking them to select their three greatest fears from a list that included, among other things, heights, flying, financial problems, deep water, death, and “speaking before a group.” Speaking before a group beat out all the others, even death.”

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld‘s joke about public speaking echoes the research.

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

There are famous examples which Ms. Acocella cites in her article.

“…Barbra Streisand, singing in front of more than a hundred thousand people in Central Park, one night in 1967, repeatedly forgot her lyrics. For twenty-seven years thereafter, she refused to perform live except at charity concerts.”

“Two years ago, before undertaking a one-woman show on Broadway, Bette Midler told Patrick Healy, of the Times, that she had wanted to be a serious dramatic actress but had faltered for lack of courage. “I have that terror,” she said. “Will people like you? Will they ask you back? Did I make the cut? That’s always on my mind.” To hear the brash, funny, commanding (as far as we knew) Midler tell of worrying whether people would like her is painful. But, in every group of artists, the insiders can tell you who, among them, should have had a bigger career but, for some reason, was held back.”

For most of us, our career depends on our ability to convey our ideas credibly in a variety of public venues. It’s great to know we have something in common with Barbara Streisand and Bette Midler, but what we don’t have is an alternative to make a living.

How do you transform the fear into confidence?

Before you step up to a podium, stand in front of your local school board, or pitch an idea to a potential investor, do your research. If you know what you’re talking about, you are halfway there.

One technique that has always worked for me is to come up with three things I want people to remember when they leave the room. Structure your presentation to start with these three things, elaborate on each one and summarize the three at the end.

Avoid too many visuals. If they don’t complement your points, you create a distraction.

Rehearse, but don’t practice you personality out of your pitch. Your audience is there for you and your expertise.

Seek out opportunities to present. Public speaking is a talent that requires nurturing. Your comfort level and confidence will increase in proportion to the frequency of your speeches.

None of these suggestions eliminate the initial terror of being in the spotlight in front of strangers. Just remind yourself why you are there and what you want to accomplish before you leave the stage.

Ms. Acocella found that the fear is not always viewed as a negative.  “Sometimes, when performers speak of stagefright, one senses that they do not actually wish it gone—that, for them, it is almost a badge of honor, or, at least, proof that they’re serious about their work.”