The week@work – U.S. unemployment at nine year low, Rosberg and Schultz exit roles on top, and “mother nature needs her daughters”

If you weren’t paying attention, you would have thought the major story this week@work was about the 800 folks who will retain positions at Carrier, a division of United Technologies. You might have missed the news that U.S. unemployment reached a nine year low @4.6%, adding 178,000 jobs in November.

In ‘departures’, newly crowned Formula One champion, Nico Rosberg announced his retirement and Starbuck chief, Howard Schultz, will be stepping down from his position next year.  Seventy-six women scientists have embarked on an expedition to Antarctica to focus on climate change and women who work in the sciences.

Ana Swanson reported on the U.S. unemployment news for The Washington Post, Wonkblog.

“Data released on Friday showed a sharp drop in the unemployment rate from 4.9 percent the previous month, driven partly by the creation of new jobs and partly by people retiring and otherwise leaving the labor force.

A broader measure of unemployment, the U-6 rate, which includes those who have given up looking for work and part-time workers who would like to have full-time jobs, fell to 9.3 percent, the lowest reading since April 2008. The figure still remains elevated from average levels in the 2000s.”

Paul Weaver covered the announcement of F1 champion, Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from racing five days after capturing the title for The Guardian.

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“Nico Rosberg has stunned Formula One by announcing his retirement, just five days after the 31-year-old became the sport’s world champion…

He said he had “climbed my mountain”. Now he is going out at the peak.

Rosberg said he first started thinking about retiring when he won the Japanese Grand Prix in early October and realised the title was within his grasp. “From the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became world champion,” he wrote in a post on his Facebook page announcing his departure.”

At the other end of the career spectrum, the visionary leader of Starbucks, Howard Schultz announced he will be stepping away from his leadership position at the company he joined in 1982. Andrew Ross Sorkin reported on the change at the top for The New York Times.

“I wanted to build the company my father never got to work for,” he said.

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At an all-hands employee meeting at the company’s headquarters on Thursday, Mr. Schultz was greeted with tears and a standing ovation. “For me, perhaps there are other things that are part of my destiny,” he told them.”

Mr. Schultz said he intends for Starbucks to “maintain our moral courage.” And he defended efforts like the company’s “Race Together” campaign to spur a conversation about race relations, saying that it “was not a failure. I’d do it again.” He said such campaigns are deeply embedded in the company’s brand of “challenging the status quo about the role of a public company.” He is excited by the question, “Since we have stores in every community in America, how can we use our scale for good?”

How do folks successfully transition from one phase of their work life to the next?

Adam Bryant‘s ‘Corner Office’ interview with Nyansa chief executive, Abe Ankumah provides a hint.

“Be a lifelong student. That doesn’t mean go enroll in a bunch of classes all the time. It’s a mind-set. It means continuing to push yourself to learn rather than saying, “I’ve got this degree in this, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

The other thing is not to become too comfortable in a role. Chances are that if you’re comfortable, you’re not learning, you’re not pushing the envelope and you’re probably going to get stagnated.”

The last story this week@work is an example of pushing the envelope, for the greater good.

On Thursday I received a tweet from BBC Australia about an expedition of women scientists traveling to Antarctica. The tag line of their sponsor, ‘Homeward Bound’, is “mother nature needs her daughters”.

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From the BBC  Australia story – “They call Ushuaia, a cold and windy port city in Argentina, the end of the world.

It’s from here that the largest ever all-female expedition to Antarctica will depart, with more than 70 women with backgrounds in science set to spend 20 days at sea.

The voyage is part of the Homeward Bound initiative, an Australian programme aimed at increasing the representation of women in top science jobs across the globe.

“We’re missing half the voice at the leadership table,” says Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas, who along with entrepreneur and management expert Fabian Dattner, came up with the idea.

The pair met during a leadership development course run by Dattner, and their frustration at the challenges faced by women in science quickly became a bold idea.

Two years later, the first of what is hoped to be several voyages is about to depart.”

We talk a lot about ‘dream jobs’ and whether ‘finding your passion’ is attainable. For those of you skeptics out there, I close with the closing paragraphs of Fabian Dattner‘s blog post, co-founder of Homeward Bound, who as I write is on her journey south.

“So, right now as I work with a group of leaders in my day job, my mind wanders effortlessly to what lies ahead – now only a few sleeps away – and I am finally lost for words, carried forward – as with all the people involved – on a deeply felt sense of rightness: right purpose, right time, right people, right outcome.

I know what ‘flow’ means now; I know what purpose, autonomy and freedom mean. I know what it means to lead and be led. And I know in my bones what is possible for humans, when leaders act on behalf of the greater good.

Stay with us on this journey. It’s for all of us.”  @HomewardBound16

 

Photo credits: Antarctica expedition – Homeward Bound, Kevin Johnson/Howard Schultz -Starbucks Newsroom

The week@work: terror on the way to work, a factory fire anniversary, values-based leadership@Starbucks, a millennial workplace, & a new job benefit

 

How do you share work thoughts when so many were killed and injured on their way to work on Tuesday morning? Apparently, we go on. I have to agree with the sentiment expressed by writer Pamela Druckerman in today’s New York Times ‘Je Suis Sick of This’.

“To Europeans, Brussels was supposed to be a dull place that you didn’t have to think much about until you had to change planes there. There’s a parlor game in which you stump people by asking them to name 10 famous Belgians. “Brussels, the anti-fanatic attacked by the fanatics,” French journalist Laurent Joffrin wrote in Wednesday’s Libération. “Brussels, a cousin whom one is content to know is there.”

Right after an attack it’s easy to say that everything feels different. People are horrified. Parents keep their kids home from school. Newspapers run headlines like “Europe at War.” There is the sad, familiar search for a slogan: This time, I prefer the Belgian frites arranged to make a rude gesture resembling a finger, and the banner reading, “Je suis sick of this” followed by an expletive.”

We don’t stop working. Maybe we are a bit more vigilant, the slogan ‘If you see something, say something’, temporarily gets more attention.

Journalist Druckerman continued, “Despite the inevitable false positives, it’s hard not to be on guard. I’m constantly making a series of mundane existential calculations: Is it worth it to risk going to a movie? Should I let my kids ride the metro to soccer practice? Daily life has a chiaroscuro quality: One minute you’re riding a bus and enjoying a view of the river; the next you’re wondering about the fellow with an unusually large backpack.”

There were other stories this week@work.

Friday was the 105th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. It resonates with workers today because it was a story of immigrant workers, and led to changes in U.S. factory regulations and safety.

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Joseph Berger summarized the events in a 2011 article.

“A block east of Washington Square, not far from the neighborhood’s boutiques and chic restaurants, was the site of one of the nation’s worst industrial disasters. Many New Yorkers might be unaware of this.

Some labor advocates are trying hard to change that. They have organized an effort to build a memorial to the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, in which 146 workers died. Most of them were young immigrant women from Eastern Europe and Italy, and more than 50 jumped to their deaths from the factory’s ninth floor.

Two years ago, Tom Marshall posed the question, “Can disasters make life better for future generations?”  He went on to draw a parallel between the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire and the 2013 garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“In both cases, inspectors visited and filed critical safety reports, but scores of people still died while making clothes for others. The American disaster is now hailed as a turning point that led to safer workplaces and broad support for a minimum standard of workers’ rights, while the Bangladeshi disaster’s impact is less certain.”

This week@work Starbucks chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz spoke at the annual shareholders meeting, and expanded on a conversation begun two years ago on the role and responsibility of a for-profit corporation. “What is the role and responsibility of all of us, as citizens?”

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“Viewing the American Dream as a “reservoir” that is replenished with the values, work ethic and integrity of the American people, Schultz said, “Sadly, our reservoir is running dry, depleted by cynicism, despair, division, exclusion, fear and indifference.”

He suggested citizens fill the reservoir of the American Dream back up, “not with cynicism, but with optimism. Not with despair, but with possibility. Not with division, but with unity. Not with exclusion, but with inclusion. Not with fear, but with compassion. Not with indifference, but with love.”

“It’s not about the choice we make every four years,” Schultz said. “This is about the choices we make every day.”

One of the ‘most read’ articles last week, ‘What Happens When Millennials Run the Workplace?’, provided one more illustration that work issues are people issues, and it really doesn’t matter how you generationally identify.

“Joel Pavelski, 27, isn’t the first person who has lied to his boss to scam some time off work.

But inventing a friend’s funeral, when in fact he was building a treehouse — then blogging and tweeting about it to be sure everyone at the office noticed? That feels new.

Such was a recent management challenge at Mic, a five-year-old website in New York that is vying to become a leading news source created by and for millennials.”

The workplace is changing and the 80 million millennials @work will make a significant impact on work/life and the global economy. As a group, the 40 million with college degrees enter the workforce taxed with student loans that are the equivalent of a mortgage. Fidelity Investments announced a new employee benefit last week to address student loan repayment.  Tara Siegel Bernard provided the details.

“Fidelity will apply up to $2,000 annually to the principal of its employees’ student debts.

Fidelity is one of the more prominent employers to announce the student loan repayment benefit in recent months, a policy that seems likely to gain traction. The benefit helps address what some employers describe as a challenge attracting and retaining younger workers, many of whom can’t see beyond the burden of their student debt. Most employers that are offering the new perk also cap their costs at, say, $10,000 total per employee.”

At the end of a difficult week, spring wishes and Happy Easter!

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What question would you ask? Interviewing for POTUS

Not all of us have the opportunity to interview candidates in our workplace, but when we do, we want to get it right. We want pose the question that elicits a response providing a hint to how this individual will perform if selected.

Tonight, in California, the  candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president will participate in a debate. In reality, they will be answering interview questions posed by journalists. What question would you ask?

If you don’t know where to begin, Adam Bryant’s weekly executive interviews column in The New York Times is a good place to start. In an interview last month, Greg Schott of software company, MuleSoft shared his hiring philosophy.

“First off, we’re looking for someone who’s a good human. That is defined by high integrity, being a great team player, and they want to win as a company first, team second, individually third. The next thing we look for is people who are whip-smart. The third thing we look for is a clear track record of achievement.

And I also work hard to understand the decisions they’ve made along the way, like why they left a certain job to take the next one. You learn all kinds of things from why they made those job transitions. I’ll also ask what they’ve done that changed things for their organization as opposed to just doing the job that they were asked to do. What did they do that nobody asked them to do?”

We definitely want someone who’s a good human to be president. I would like to know why they left their current job to take the next one. Why have some not left their current job yet? What have they done above and beyond the job description? Integrity, smarts, record of achievement all good.

Maybe I’d add a question about flexibility, dealing with ambiguity. Describe a belief you held for a long time that with some education and experience you changed? Being president requires leading the folks you don’t agree with along with those who voted for you.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shared his opinion on the election process and the responsibility of those elected to represent us to act differently, and posed his questions for the candidates.

“Every one of the candidates offers grand promises about new leadership and new solutions. But where do they stand on working with their rivals? Regardless of who wins the presidency, the odds of the same party controlling a filibuster-proof Senate are slim. If we want to turn the nation around, we have to act differently. Save for the most rabid partisans, most people don’t want one-party rule. They want Democrats and Republicans to work together.

Americans who are tired of politics as usual should demand a clear answer to a simple question from every candidate: What will you do to unite all of us?”

Stewart Butterfield of communications service company Slack discussed his interview process with Adam Bryant.

“I used to always ask three short questions — one math, one geography and one history. I didn’t expect people to get the answers right, but I just want them to be curious about the world. The first is what’s three times seventeen. Then name three countries in Africa. You’d be astonished by the number of people who can’t do that. And what century was the French Revolution in, give or take 200 years.

I don’t do that anymore, but I do ask everyone what they want to be when they grow up. Good answers are usually about areas in which they want to grow, things they want to learn, things that they feel like they haven’t had a chance to accomplish yet but want to accomplish.”

This is what I want to know. What did these folks on the stage at the Reagan Library want to be when they grew up? Ok, they wanted to be president. But it’s not enough to want. What do they still wish to learn, to accomplish? What does their world look like at the end of a successful presidency? The answers will give me the information I need to make a decision.

And, I would like them to name three countries in Africa.

Can ‘YouTube’ be a mentor?

If YouTube videos can teach us how to wire a smoke detector, can they also teach us how to lead? That may seem like a ridiculous question, but in our evolving ‘conversation adverse’ culture, are we turning to videos to provide guidance in the workplace?

Think about your first job, your first day at work. Aside from the anticipation, you might as well have been visiting another planet. Perceptions collided with reality as you navigated your way through the first days; an amateur anthropologist alert to  any clue to success in this new society you had joined. Who could you trust to advise you on your journey?

That is the question we all ask at some point in our first weeks at work. All is new and colleagues seem equal. Then the sorting begins as you filter conversations and observe interactions among colleagues and the leadership team. A picture begins to emerge of the culture, the influencers and the business problems to be solved. For most of us, we wing it. We take our experience, as limited as it may be, and experiment. We offer solutions. Find they are not well constructed. Go back and revise and then venture back with the edited proposal. It’s a process of trial and error as we independently craft an answer.

We find ourselves at a turning point. We need help. Where do we go to find it?

There are thousands of articles that define the role of mentors, how to find one, how to manage the relationship, but it was the first paragraph of an article I read a few weeks ago that introduced a significant hybrid approach to how we learn to work.

In early August, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times on the topic of servant leadership, putting others first and leading from the heart.

“From the earliest days of Starbucks, I’ve been captivated by the art of leadership. I was mentored over three decades by Warren G. Bennis, the eminent professor and scholar on leadership. I’ve gathered insights from peers, and I’ve drawn inspiration from our 300,000 employees. But nothing I’ve read or heard in the past few years has rivaled the power of the image I viewed on my cellphone a few years ago: Pope Francis, shortly after his election, kneeling and washing the feet of a dozen prisoners in Rome, one of them a young Muslim woman, in a pre-Easter ritual.”

In one short paragraph, the CEO describes a combination of activities that build upon each other to form his leadership style. He relies on a mentor from outside his business, gathers insights from peers and employees and in the end it’s an image from the internet that provides the inspiration for his leadership view.

Can YouTube be a mentor? There is no substitute for human interaction and advice. Learning to work is a lifetime quest and hard work. But the ability to access online courses, TED Talks and podcasts provide an essential element in our professional development.

The week@work – Stock market volatility, workplace violence, effective hiring tactics and the best jobs require you to be a ‘people person’

This was probably not the best week@work with stock market volatility and one of the most horrific incidents of workplace violence broadcast live on the morning news.

The first shock of the week came in the global stock market and created an opportunity for one corporate leader to step out from the cable news apocalyptic babble.

In response to the crisis in world financial markets, Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz sent a email to his employees both to ease worries about the impact on Starbucks’ business and encourage them to understand the mood of their customers. The email was met with mixed reviews outside the Starbucks organization, but was consistent with the Shultz’s style and the culture of ‘servant leadership’.

“Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and–as you always have–remember that our success is not an entitlement, but something we need to earn, every day. Let’s be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.”

The second shock of the week arrived with breakfast, in Roanoke, Virginia. Two journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward were murdered @work early Wednesday morning, doing what they loved. Their deaths will be added to the global total of 42 journalism deaths since the beginning of the year.

CNN political commentator, Errol Louis responded with a thoughtful opinion piece, ‘The real issue behind on-air killings of journalists’.

“According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency, while workplace violence has dropped in recent years, it is still startlingly frequent. Nearly a decade ago, according to the agency, 20 workers were murdered every week. A more recent report shows the tide of violence declining, but as of 2009, 521 people were killed on the job and 572,000 non-fatal violent crimes took place, including rape, robbery and assault.”

“…we have to stop treating workplace killings as sporadic, one-time bursts of irrational behavior.”

Workplace safety has to be a priority for CEOs. It effects all aspects of organization culture, beginning with the ability to attract and retain talent.

Two additional stories from the week@work focus on talent@work: finding it and nurturing it.

How do you find people who will be successful in your organization? CEO Richard Sheridan of  software design firm, Menlo Innovations, shared his company’s approach.

“Menlo hires people in mass auditions conducted several times a year. The process is designed to mimic the company’s operations. Our staff spends their days working in pairs, with each pair collaborating on a distinct task, sharing a single computer. So when applicants show up for our auditions, we pair them up and give each pair a single sheet of paper and a pencil. Then we set them to work on a task, Menlo style.”

“Candidates who make the first cut return for a test of skills that–like the mass audition–is an immersion in our process and culture. The candidate comes in for a full paid day working on real projects. She pairs with one Menlonian in the morning and a different Menlonian after lunch. If both give her a thumbs-up, we offer a three-week trial contract. We make special arrangements for those who can’t risk taking time away from their current situations.”

The selection and retention of candidates who become contributing members of an organization’s community is a major challenge for leadership. Each week you can find articles on creative ways to recruit. In a world of algorithmic forecasts, maybe it’s time to get back to basics and invite candidates into the reality of the workplace with the first interview.

Andrew Flowers reporting for ‘The FIveThirtyEight Economics’ finds ‘The Best Jobs Now Require You To Be A People Person’.

“To land a lucrative job today, hard skills in math and engineering, for instance, may not be enough. As technology allows us to automate more technical jobs, new research shows that people skills — communicating clearly, being a team player — matter more than ever. And women appear to be the ones capitalizing on this shift in the workplace.

“The days of only plugging away at a spreadsheet are over,” David Deming, an associate professor of economics at Harvard, told me. Deming is the author of a new working paper, “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market,” which shows how today’s high-skill, high-paying jobs — like consultants and managers — increasingly require interpersonal skills.”

You can’t land your first job and relax. It’s the beginning of a lifelong learning experiment interacting with customers, investors and colleagues. And you will need an array of communication skills to advance. Which brings us back to the first story of Starbucks founder Howard Schultz. It’s his emotional intelligence combined with his business savvy that has led to his success and ability to influence the national conversation on work and workers.