Category Archives: 2022

Good Foundations

Category : 2022

Any competent structural engineer will tell you—a skillfully designed, and properly constructed foundation is a big deal. A good foundation—
• Creates the map for a building’s construction.
• Supports the constant and variable weight loads of a structure.
• Stabilizes a structure to withstand movement when external forces shift.

When purchasing a house in Texas, discussing the building’s foundation is more than an academic exercise . . . Seven of the top 15 U.S. cities with foundation issues are in Texas.

Some foundations are historic for their engineering genius—
• The Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago sits on 114 reinforced concrete caissons set in bedrock and reaching 100 feet below ground.
• The Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai reaches 163 stories into the sky while resting on 192 five-foot in diameter piles, buried 164 feet below ground.

Other foundations are well-known for what they failed to do—
• When the Canadian Pacific Railway constructed the 13-container Transcona Grain Elevator in Winnipeg in 1913, inadequate accounting for the clay soil resulted in the structure sinking one foot within the first hour of filling the containers and tilting by 27 degrees within 24 hours.
• Construction of South Padre Island’s Ocean Tower halted two years into construction when builders discovered the core of the building had dropped 14 inches. The implosion of the 31-story structure provided a short-term economic boost for the south Texas town.
• As construction of the iconic Tower of Pisa began 840 years ago, the builders spotted immediate problems with the structure’s stability. While the tower continues to settle, tourists continue to gather, much to the delight of Pisa businesses.

Enduring careers are built on solid foundations as well—consistent results, measurable impact, and quantified contributions to the people served by an organization. Without these, an executive’s career journey is as unstable and unpredictable as the gumbo clay of north Texas or the sandy uncertainty of south Florida.

Executives positioning themselves in a current role and planning for future opportunities are wise to invest attention and energy toward ensuring the supporting elements of a professional foundation are in place as well—
• An engaging biographic profile that tells the executive’s story in a compelling and informative way.
• A results-focused resume that provides as much value to the executive as it does the market, by pressing a leader to quantify his or her success at creating cashflow, improving profitability, leading growth, and developing people.
• An engaging presence on social media that aligns with and supports the executive’s market position, role, and brand focus.

Without purposeful attention, these three dimensions of a career foundation are often approached like a neighbor’s home remodeling project in a community without a HOA. A room is added here, a window is added there, a slab for another car is poured beside the standing garage until the home begins to look as much like a Rube Goldberg contraption as a house.

Like a well-designed structural foundation, the bio, resume, social media triad—
• Creates the map for telling an executive’s story and keeping that story fresh as a career journey progresses.
• Supports the executive by ensuring a personal brand is properly positioned, well-supported, and accurately clarified through organizational changes—like finding out the world’s richest person suddenly deciding to buy the company where you work.
• Stabilizes an executive to quicky adapt to the market, prepare for an unexpected change, or orchestrate a late-career innovation in response to the external forces that buffet every organizational leader.

If the first four months of 2022 have told us anything, it is to prepare for another wild ride. What is ahead will look vastly different from the pandemic-driven roller coaster of the past two years. The market volatility, economic uncertainty, and a responding need for personal adaptability will be greater than ever.

If your foundation isn’t as solid as you’d like, call Leapfrog Executive Services. We’re experts in career strategy, executive coaching, and creating the piers that support a foundation of executive success.

About Your Photograph…

Category : 2022

If a picture is worth a thousand words, some people don’t know when to stop talking.

A review of photos professionals select to represent themselves across social media prompt this brief and candid reminder about first impressions, lasting influence, and annoying incongruence. Thanks to social media, your personal and professional lives are no longer separate—you have a life. Anyone anywhere anytime can dig into your life and draw conclusions about you without ever meeting or interacting with you.

Multiple experiments by two Princeton psychologists determined we form an impression from someone’s face in one tenth of a second. The traits assessed most quickly are attractiveness and trustworthiness. While you may not be able to do much about the first factor—you can do a lot to impact the second.

The dynamics of first impressions compound when creating the impression online. Jeremy Biesanz, Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia engaged with over 1,000 people exploring the accuracy and bias of first impressions formed under differing circumstances. Biesanz found the accuracy of impressions varied little between mediums, but impressions formed on-line tend to be more negative than those created in-person. Another study found that after forming a first impression, people tend to hang on to the impression, even after they are given facts that contradict what is believed.

A casual scan of LinkedIn profiles shows glamour shots, avatars, a Hollywood character’s photo, wedding photos, a shirtless weightlifter, and someone slugging their way through a Tough Mudder. Here are tips to help ensure your immediate impressions are as positive as possible.

Avoid location shots: It appears that when some people were told to update their LinkedIn photos, they jumped in their cars, grabbed their phones, and posted what they got. The result is an arm’s-length image that stirs reminders of wet soccer clothes and stale French fries. Unless you are Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercial, the interior of your car is a lackluster setting for a business photo. Slightly better (or worse) is an image shot by a friend for whom photo composition is not a marketable skill.

Watch the background: The background of a professional photo should align with your profession, not your hobbies, weekends, or causes you support. An online image shouldn’t raise a question you don’t have an opportunity to answer. A plain background with colors that contrast your hair and clothing makes you stand out—instead of raising questions about what you do in your spare time.

Fly solo: Your online image isn’t the place to highlight your ability to crop a picture. Capturing a slice of yourself from a picture taken at a family gathering looks efficient—and cheap. That treasured photo of you shaking the hand of a famous person is memorabilia, not good marketing.

Keep it current: Your visual images are part of your brand. Like houses, brands show their use over time. While the structure and character remain solid, the visual aspects can begin to shout, “dated.” An executive in his 50s that dresses like he did in the 90s screams “update needed” as much as a 30 year-old house with the original wallpaper. If you are past 40 and your professional photo is more than five years old, it is time for trip to a professional photographer. Few things spell awkward at the start of a networking meeting or interview more than, “Oh, you look a lot different than your picture on LinkedIn.”

Clothes, like people, often lose their shape before they wear out. “This still looks okay,” is not the mantra of a personal brand that shouts relevance. A professional on the back nine of their career shouldn’t dress like a mid-life crisis waiting to happen. Neither should that person look like the last suit they bought was the year John Molloy’s “Dress for Success” started making its way to the shelves of Half Price Books. As we all emerge from various forms of pandemic-driven isolation, none of us should look like we spent the past two years tucked safely away in a cave.

Align the platforms: While LinkedIn is used more for professional networking, what you post on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are part of the package. It is undeniable that surveying social media often occurs in a hiring process, and in other circumstances. Facebook and Instagram postings often leave little room for imagination and too much space for interpretation. While photos inspired by the moment make memorable family photojournalism, they also become part of your public record and should be posted with discretion.

We may not get a second change to make a first impression and it can take a lot of work to undo a first impression after it is made.

If you want to explore how to create a congruent and effective personal brand message, give Leapfrog Executive Services a call.

Reminder: Charting A Course Through Desperate Times

Category : 2022

Skilled mariners know there is no margin for error when charting a course. Careful review of a map’s scale, notes and corrections from other sailors, GPS positions, and visual and radar fixes are critical data points for any sailor wanting to reach an intended destination. Marine Insight states that, “The safety of navigations depends upon the quality and reliability of chart plotting . . . A wrong course line or position can mislead the vessel and . . . make way to accidents.”

Charting a course through relentless market and business uncertainty requires the same planning and attention to detail required to sail across an ocean. Our last blog Desperate Times mentioned the lodestar to which an executive is wise to chart a course–market your expertise, not your experience. This fixed point of reference helps ensure a leader is not bringing yesterday’s solution to today’s challenge.

Here are two more navigation points that will help a leader sail with certainty throughout the new year.

Give more attention to your systems than your goals.

Carefully worded goals are like navigation points for a mariner. Goals tell us where we are going. They define a desired outcome. They articulate the intent of a vision or mission. Goals are woefully inadequate at ensuring their own achievement. Atomic Habits author James Clear captures this reality by simply stating, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

In this insightful book, Clear points out that many people want to be financially stable but cannot create or are unwilling to follow a system that will make that goal a reality. Masses of people say they want to “get in shape” while never finding or following a system that can result in a long-term change in behavior. If having a goal of writing a book was all that was required, publishers would be overwhelmed with worthy submissions from new authors.

An executive wanting to sail through the high seas looming on the corporate horizon will invest time in evaluating, adjusting, or building a system that ensures relevance and articulates expertise through a clear brand message that is effective across all channels of personal communication. A prepared leader will proactively identify roles and opportunities not yet defined, where she/he can bring value.

Separate yourself from the status quo without threatening those whose survival depends on it.

Any executive wanting to create opportunities at any port-of-call faces the dicey challenge of separating from the status quo that is carefully nurtured and protected by those who depend on the homeostasis of the present to survive. An emerging leader charting a course into the future may discover someone who built an enterprise, to whom a leader owes much of his/her early success, now cares more about personal survival than proactive succession.

By 2025, Millennials will comprise 75 percent of the workforce. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be age 65 or older. The average age of a Fortune 500 CEO is 57. Knowing these three facts, it is not an exaggeration to predict a dramatic shift in the power centers at many enterprises during the next 5-7 years. It is worth considering that the reason some boards and senior teams aren’t giving more attention to thoughtful succession planning is they are happily rowing in the waters of denial, or they aren’t confident they have people ready to assume the leadership of an enterprise. Executives wanting to accept greater levels of responsibility will purposefully and carefully find ways to demonstrate they are ready, capable, and can be trusted to lead a company without destroying what previous leadership birthed and nurtured.

William Ward reminded us, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” As businesses emerge from the financial tsunami of a global pandemic, it is time for leaders serious about their futures to set sail, navigate a course, adjust for the winds, and plan for a wild ride to a positive outcome.

If you would like help exploring some new seas, connect with the skilled mariners at Leapfrog Executive Services.