No. 91 – 4-Step Secret to Success from Top CEOs

In my executive coaching of 30+ years I’ve worked with over a thousand chief executives from eighteen different countries and in every industry. Once a week someone asks my take on the secret to success in business. I can answer with four points:

1. Smile

2. Ask questions

3. Make decisions

4. Take blame

Smile because you have to look and act confident. An open expression engaging your eyes and your attitude work universally. Lips turned upward make you look awake, alive, and approachable.

Ask questions because everyone dislikes a know-it-all and know one does know it all. You empower people when you ask their opinion, experience, advice, etc. and when you empower them they respect and trust you.

Make decisions before someone makes them for you, because they will. And they likely won’t be the decisions you want. It takes courage to put a stake in the ground and decide but again, someone’s going to do it and it might as well be you.

Take blame early and often when things don’t go well. Do not have a whiff of blaming others even when it was their fault. Find out why they failed and help where you can so it doesn’t happen again. But if you blame them for mistakes you’ll never get their trust or respect.

Successful people take the responsibility to look confident and comfortable so as to make others feel that way around them. Then they ask questions to fill in what they don’t know or confirm what they do so as to make better decisions, sooner. And when things go wrong they take responsibility; when things go well they always give credit to others.

~Debra

P.S.  If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


No. 90 – 18 Questions You Can Ask Prospective Employers to Determine if You Want the Job

Here are some questions to help you determine, “Is this the type of company I would want to work for?” This list of questions is in no particular order, but you can select the ones most appropriate for your conversation and situation:

1. What do you believe someone must know to do this job well?
2. Could you describe the people I would be working with?
3. How is the company organized? Would you draw me an organization chart?
4. What makes you different from your competition?
5. What are the biggest problems confronting your company, and the industry?
6. In what ways do you expect the company to change?
7. How do you market, and how do you sell your product or service?
8. How are employees trained? Who trains them?
9. Where does this job take me if I do an outstanding job?
10. Where does your job take you?
11. How do you recruit people? Within the company or outside the company?
12. If one does an outstanding job, how are they rewarded?
13. What do you expect from this person?
14. Who are your biggest competitors?
15. Do you personally make the final hiring decision? Do you consult with others? Who else do you consult with?
16. What do you like or dislike about some of the people who have worked for you in the past?
17. What is your management style?
18. What kind of boss are you? Could you give me an example?

They evaluate you as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give. Weave these into the conversation while still answering theirs.

You are a valuable commodity, and you have a right and obligation to interview them as they do you.

~Debra

P.S.  If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


No. 89 – How to Evaluate Your Job Offers Objectively, Not Emotionally

Before you start getting job offers, write a list of all the factors about a job that are important to you. List them down the left side of the page. Things like:

-title
-money
-commute
-potential for advancement
-number of people to manage
-budget size
-flexibility of schedule
-outside learning opportunities
-dress code
-culture
-global reach
-foreign assignment potential
-etc., etc.

Then rank each factor from 1-10 in terms of importance to you (with 10 being the most important) to create a template.

Then you are in a position to compare each job offer against your list. For example one offer may have the best “9” money but a “3” in culture when culture is a “10’ in your original ranking.

Before you get emotionally involved in accepting an offer, compare it against your template.

~Debra

P.S.  If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


No. 88 – Anything They Ask You, You Can Ask Them in a Job Interview

A good rule of thumb to remember in a job interview is that anything they ask you, you can ask them. Now you have to reword so as not to sound like a parrot nor should you avoid answering, but later in the conversation you can use their question to you as a question to them. For example :

If they’ve asked, “Tell me about yourself,” later on in the conversation you can as, “I’ve read about your company, talked with people, know you have a great reputation…but you’re on the inside, tell me about the company from your experience?”

If they’ve asked, “What are your strengths and weaknesses,” later on you can ask, “What are you proudest of in the organization now….and what are the biggest areas you want to see change in?”

If they’ve asked, “What do you see yourself doing two-three years from now,” later on you can ask, “Where do you see the company (or this department, division) in two to three years?”

The thing to remember is that whatever they asked you about they are interested in so you should be interested in the same about them to better understand what situation you are getting into.

~Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


No. 87 – Find Out About the Company’s Culture Early

One of the most important jobs of management is to make the organization a decent, enjoyable, productive, and creative place to work – in other words, to foster and nurture a positive corporate culture.

If your most important work values aren’t shared by a company you’re considering, think twice before signing on. This issue is so important that you shouldn’t rely on the accuracy of what you’re told by the hiring executive or recruiter. You need to speak to your own business contacts, present and past employees, and company vendors and customers.

Try to find out:

· How do the company’s leaders describe the company’s culture (in recruiting materials or the annual report, for example)? How does this compare with the way rank-and-file employees, former employees, competitors, customers, and suppliers describe the culture? (A major difference here may forecast trouble.)

· Are employees treated like partners, with respect for their individuality, creativity, and personal needs? Or are they treated like interchangeable parts, “troublemakers,” or wayward children?

· What is the working environment like? What kinds of working spaces do most employees occupy? How great a gap is there between the accommodations of the top executives and those of lower-level employees? How well are shared spaces (meeting rooms, lounges, cafeteria) maintained and supplied?

· What is the mood of the offices like? Does a visitor notice joking, laughing, music, conversation? Or is the atmosphere tense and hostile?

· How do the employees dress? How do they decorate their offices, desks, cubicles, and other working areas? Is there an atmosphere of personal expression or one of regimentation and corporate control?

· How does the company help employees develop professionally? What investments are made in training and education? How are mistakes viewed?

· How do employees at various levels describe their work and the company’s mission? Do most employees regard their work as “just a job?” Do they view themselves as “changing the world?” Or is the prevailing attitude something in between or altogether different?

Compare the company’s self-image with its outside reputation. (The latter is often more accurate.) Both you and the company benefit if the cultural fit works and your values are aligned.

~Debra

P.S.  If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


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Debra Benton Discusses How to Exceed in Your Career