01 August 2016

Why Good Paying Jobs are Elusive

Good jobs, like good people, are still hard to find.  This despite the current unemployment rate of 4.9% the end of June 2016 (versus 9.5% in June 2009). 

The struggle for many is simply not having the right skills, experience and education to match jobs which are in demand.

Here are the top ten job categories in terms of earnings growth, inflation adjusted, from 2004-2014 (average annual income, 2015):

  1. Physicians assistants ($99,270)
  2. Occupational therapists ($81,690)
  3. Financial managers (($134,330)
  4. Marketing managers ($140,660)
  5. Medical and health-services managers ($106,070)
  6. Computer- and information-systems managers ($141,000)
  7. All other computer occupations ($87,310)
  8. Sales engineers ($107,160)
  9. Administrative-services managers ($94,840)
  10. Family and general practitioners ($192,120)
Most in the workforce don't fit these and other occupations where above average pay and benefits create higher disposable income.   

The job situation helps explain why seven in ten surveyed adults believe the U.S. is on the wrong track, according to Real Clear Politics average of eleven polling firms.  That number reflects, in part, a high level of anxiety and resentment from those with little or no formal education and training. 

A new analysis by McKinsey Global Institute shows that 81% of the U.S. population is in an income bracket with flat or declining income over the last decade.

To see where job growth is taking place take a moment to read, "The Short List of Jobs with High and Rising Pay."   It's an eye opening look at the U.S. economy and America's growing divide in the standard of living...


Job and Employment Source:  Indeed, Bureau of Labor Statistics


Have a safe and renewing summer.


Russ Bredholt, Jr.

rbredholt@strategist.com
www.strategist.com

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01 July 2016

What Makes a Good Life?

"True happiness is not attained by self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose."

--Helen Keller


From TED Talk archives... 

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken.

As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.  Over nine million views to date.

Click here to view Dr. Waldinger's presentation.


Have a safe and renewing summer.

Russ Bredholt, Jr.

rbredholt@strategist.com
www.strategist.com

(C) Bredholt & Co.

01 June 2016

Summer Reading


"No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to chosen ignorance."  

--Confucius

It's summer time and the living isn't so easy anymore. 

Years ago there used to be a break in the schedule.  September through May tended to be full.  However, June, July and August offered a lessened pace. 

Not any more.  Conference and meeting schedules now fill the calendar year round.  And those who remain after much restructuring are thankful for the work. 

Rest, recreation, and reading are victims of a quickened pace. No downtime eventually takes its toll.

Here are three books to consider for summer that may edify some of your leisure moments:

The Power of Habit, by Pulitzer-prize winning author, Charles Duhigg.  A best-seller that focuses on this idea--the key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.   Looking to change yourself or the organization? Read this book.  Or better yet, listen to an audio version.

Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, by Douglas Rushkoff.  Protesters shattered windows of buses carrying Google employees to work.  But their anger was misdirected, says Rushkoff.  The true conflict, we are told, isn't between the unemployed and the digital elite.  Or the 99 percent and the 1 percent.  It's that technological improvements have spun out of control leaving humanity out of the equation. 

They Told Me Not to Take that Job, by Reynold Levy.  At some point businesses and nonprofits require turning around.  Therefore, it's helpful to include case studies in our management library reminding us just how complicated it can be to move individuals in a different direction.  Levy is a skilled story-teller bringing the reader into descriptive daily conversations and decisions required to take the venerable Lincoln Center in a new direction.  This book is not just about a cultural icon.  It's also about the time-consuming effort required to keep people informed and motivated about the need for change.  And to follow through on its implementation.


Have a safe and renewing summer.

   
Russ Bredholt, Jr.

rbredholt@strategist.com
www.strategist.com

(C) Bredholt & Co.





01 May 2016

Calculating Risk

"Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled."

--Howard Stevenson
Professor Emeritus, Harvard University


Recently someone asked the following question:

"What three things should an entrepreneur do once they decide:  Okay, I'm starting a business." 

Getting started 

The few who start businesses and succeed don't take risks.  They take calculated risks.  Having started two businesses since 1980 (consulting and research) my first thought was to reduce financial exposure by making sure, to the extent possible, there was a reasonable chance of succeeding. 

For example, in selling market research I asked for a 50% deposit and worked off of other people's money (OPM). Then required the balance upon delivery of the final report.  In the digital age those transactions could all be online. 

The deposit approach came to our attention while reading about the creation of Encyclopedia Britannica, first published in 1768, Edinburgh, Scotland.  To get working capital founders Colin Macfarquhar, Andrew Bell and Archibald Constable used deposits from customers to provide cash flow. 

This illustration of accessing capital by sharing risk seems quaint by today's "unicorn" investment standards ($1 billion market value for tech start-ups), but it was a business model right for the times.

Entrepreneurship in decline

According to The Washington Post research shows the U.S. rate of new business creation, which peaked about a decade ago, plunged more than 30% during the 'great recession' and has struggled to regain its footings.

That's going in the wrong direction since the 25-55 age category, a prime demographic for starting new businesses, is rapidly expanding according to the Kauffman Foundation.

Fewer start-ups means fewer new jobs.





To back up these trend lines look below at business closings:





One more chart. 

This time tracking long-established businesses which are an increasing percentage of U.S. firms.  Those in business for more than five years account for just over two-thirds of companies.  The proportion of companies of every age from one to five years old has decreased over the past 35 years, based on the Post report.


Kauffman believes that Millennials have the best opportunity to turn these numbers around, but they aren't starting businesses.  Their demographic, 20-34, shows a sharp drop in new formations since 2010 even though they have higher levels of education than previous generations, says Kauffman.

A survey by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise of 13-17 year-olds found that the entrepreneurial drive for Generation Z sets in around 29, the average age which 79% of teens expect to be ready to lead or found their own company.

What to do

Back to our checklist of three things someone might consider doing if they are dead set on moving ahead:

1. Study the definition of an entrepreneur at the top of this post.  Come to terms with the reality that you're not likely to have all the resources at hand when you launch a product or service, yet you still move ahead.  If you need full funding up front then you're likely a bureaucrat, not the venturesome type. 

The definition from Professor Stevenson is a reminder of how little control you'll have over the start-up process, and beyond.

2. Look at yourself carefully.  Who are you?  Entrepreneurship is about people, first, and ideas, second.  Investors look closely at background and character, investing as much or more in individuals with promise as ideas on paper.  There should be flexibility in your human wiring as the need to adjust and transition is ever-present. 

As someone once said, "If you don't bend, you'll break." 

3. Be accountable from the beginning.  To someone or some group.  I created an advisory board and had several mentors who, over time, exhibited wisdom and good judgment.  A corporate attorney and CPA were essential to starting and managing the business.     

Even though this new enterprise should be fun, entrepreneurship can take a toll physically, mentally, and financially.  Take care of yourself, family, and employees.

The power of incubation

I include in No. 3 the possibility of getting into an incubation program sponsored by a nearby university, state, or nonprofit association. 

If you can survive long enough to get out of the house or garage, having an office in an incubator, where you can mix with peers, develop a disciplined work schedule, and gain access to professional resources, is all for the good.

Something to read

Finally, I would consider reading, Breakthrough Entrepreneurship, by entrepreneur and teacher, Jon Burgstone and writer Bill Murphy, Jr.  What you learn is how to find and fill unmet customer needs. 

For as Peter Drucker once said, "The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer."    


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01 April 2016

Is Leadership Overrated?

Question during Dutch TV interview to management Professor Henry Mintzberg: 

"What would you recommend for leadership in the 21st century?"

Answer from Professor Mintzberg:  "Less of it." 


When you Google "leadership" and 735 million responses show up in 0.41 seconds it's safe to say that is a topic of great interest.  Yet leadership is not just a subject to explore or a position on an organizational chart.  It's an industry, and sometimes a self-serving one at that.

Consider the following

Almost $14 billion is spent annually by U.S. firms on leadership development programs.  Global expenditures make that enhancement cost go much higher. (Leadership Development Factbook 2012) 

Colleges and universities offer hundreds of degree courses on leadership with customized programs from elite business schools costing as much as $150,000 for each participant.

Those funds are often expended, reports the McKinsey Quarterly, without regard to context (one size fits all), understanding the root cause of behavior, or measuring results from the significant financial investment in programming. 

An inversion

As Daniel Askt wrote in the Bookshelf column of The Wall Street Journal, "There appears to be an inverse correlation between the growth of the leadership industry and the quality of the leaders we've seen in business as well as public life.  Perhaps instead of reading books that purport to instruct on leadership--offering up more cliché than wisdom--would-be leaders would do better to delve into books about individuals who have grappled with the challenges and ordeals of guiding an army, a nation or a daring enterprise."

The late historian and Pulitzer prize-winning author, James MacGregor Burns, once observed:  "If we know all too much about leaders, we know far too little about leadership."

We make lists

Too often leadership is reduced to a subjective list of traits (honest, forward-looking, competent, inspiring) none of which show up equally in any one person, and seldom include anything having to do with wisdom or clear thinking.  Along with traits come management concepts (just-in-time inventory, core competence, excellence, zero defects) and jargon to reinforce behavioral norms (buy-in, empower, move the needle, alignment). 

An example of adapting jargon from other industries comes from General Electric.  An article in the current Bloomberg Business Week Magazine draws attention to CEO Jeff Immelt's use of the word "pivot" when it comes to reorienting GE's strategy toward industrial information technology.  Pivot, a term borrowed from Silicon Valley, replaces "idea jams" in the GE management team lexicon.

Speaking of, what's the relationship between leadership and teams?

Is it a coincidence that The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni, has been on a variety of best-seller lists for 18 years? 

The upside of leadership

We believe that leadership, with noble character and strong moral principles, is a valued quality.

The right leadership at the right time in the right place makes a big difference in the climate, progress, health, and success of any organization.  However, those at the top often have limited impact on the everyday practices of their firms. 

Perhaps the greater impression on subordinates is found in a leaders symbolic role such as inspiration and motivation.  Indeed studies show that middle managers who worked for a company whose CEO seemed more determined and better at communicating and articulating a sense of mission and vision, were more committed to their companies. 

There's a direct correlation between a CEO with self-transcendent values and how employees respond to uplifting moments.   

When a CEO secretly harbors selfish values (i.e., high on self-enhancement), and it doesn't take long for hidden thoughts to be revealed, middle managers were not much motivated and committed to the firm whatever the CEO said or did.  (Academic Journal Science Quarterly)

If leadership is overrated, what's underrated?

Where's the imbalance?  There are three distinct areas which are underrepresented by proponents of leadership:
  • Management performance (getting things done)
  • Marketplace (customers have a big say in your success)
  • Followership ("Whither wilt thou lead me?"--William Shakespeare's Hamlet)
Management visionary Peter Drucker blamed the excesses of corporate America on the "bloated concept of leadership."   He believed businesses have more than enough leaders; what they really need are competent managers who can do the hard work of decision-making, planning, and coaching.

What's missing in the conversation?

Writer Joshua Rothman explains in greater detail why the focus on leadership dominates our discussions.  His essay is worth reading if you aspire to improve your organization's culture, working relationships, and operational balance.

Below is a link to Rothman's thought-provoking article about the potentially dangerous obsession with leadership, and why, to quote Professor Mintzberg, we may need "less of it" in the future: 




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01 March 2016

As You Thinketh

"Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him."

--James Allen (1864-1912)


One of my favorite books to pull from the shelf and read again is, "As a Man Thinketh," by James Allen, a British philosophical writer, and first published in 1903.  "Thinketh" is an example of how a small book (52 pages) can yield great understanding. 

The essay is a reminder of how leadership development courses could improve their outcomes by focusing some time and attention in the direction of "thought."  That's because most organizations come up short in teaching the importance of a sound mind when managing the complexities of corporate life.      

It's hard to draw just a few insights when Allen's writing is manifestly insightful.  Which means we will come back to this book of renewal in future posts. In the meantime, here is wisdom worth pondering in a hurried, distracted, and often unfulfilling, world:

1. The premise of the book--to stimulate men and women to the discovery and perception of the truth that, "They themselves are makers of themselves." 

By virtue of the thoughts they choose and encourage; that mind is the master weaver, both of the inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstance; if you have been weaving in ignorance and pain, you may now weave in enlightenment and happiness.

2. A person is literally what they think--their character being the complete sum of all thoughts.

3. A noble and Godlike character is not a thing of favor or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with Godlike thoughts.

4. We make or unmake ourselves; in the armory of thought we forge the weapons by which we destroy ourselves.

5. The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears.

6. Men and women do not attract that which they want, but that which the are.

7. Individuals are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.


Source:  As a Man Thinketh, James Allen


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01 February 2016

Start with Why

"Why" is one of the great questions of all time. 

When we're young it's often a response at being told to do something.  As in it's time to brush your teeth; it's time to do your homework; or, don't stay out too late.   

Asking parents for an explanation may or may not get you anywhere. That's a shame because these kinds of exchanges have the potential to be teachable moments for children and adults.   

Conditioned behavior begins at an early age. Not getting answers to simple questions causes curiosity to go away.

That's unfortunate.  

Asking "why" inside corporate cultures can sometimes be a career decision.  Employees are often hesitant to seek explanations or clarifications even though their performance depends on clear expectations of a given task. 

What has been learned through poor hiring decisions, business closures, accidents, and loss of life, such as the shuttle Challenger explosion (30th anniversary was 28 January 2016), is that failing to ask the right questions, before not after the fact, is the greater problem.

In the book, "The Machine that Changed the World," we hear about Toyota's technique of asking up to "five whys" when something breaks down on the assembly line.  Is that approach applicable to the executive suite?

Leaders attempting to introduce change into a business often start with "what" is supposed to happen, not why.  That approach delays the ability to successfully implement the change, whatever it is. Employees need to know why the latest great idea is being introduced or the corporate system, which they run day-to-day, is being restructured (many times without their input).   

In a seminar I attended several months ago the audience was referred to the TED Talk, "Start With Why."   There's a book by the same name.   I thought you might benefit from the teaching of Simon Cinek.

Cinek, a writer and commentator for such publications as The New York Times, Inc. Magazine, and Bloomberg Business Week, makes the point that leaders with the greatest impact are those with the capacity to inspire.  In his research, Cinek has discovered some remarkable patterns about how they think, act and communicate and the environments in which people operate at their natural best.

He has devoted his life to sharing his thinking in order to help leaders and organizations inspire action.  Simon Cinek is best known for popularizing the concept of starting with  "why" and for the talk he gave on the subject that became the second most watched talk of all time on TED.com.  

Viewed by over 25 million, here is his TED Talk on how great leaders inspire action--and the case for starting with "why."



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