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Neels & Company - Strategic Business Communication
Trusted Advisor
Gretchen Neels
Gretchen Neels, President, Neels & Company

Dear Trusted Advisor

My firm has had two rounds of layoffs and I’ve got my fingers crossed that there won’t be any more. What can I do to ensure I won’t get a pink slip should a third round ensue?
J. P. New York, NY

Dear J. P.,
Make yourself indispensible to your firm by doing great work with a great attitude. In addition, arrive early, stay late and ask for additional assignments. It won’t hurt to dress a bit better, either, which will send the signal that you are serious about your job. If your firm doesn’t have a lot of work at the moment, ask about doing projects, pro bono work or research. Keep busy and resist the urge to kvetch with co-workers about how bad things are.



Last month, Gretchen was a featured guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio's "Making a Living with Maggie,” where career coach and host Maggie Mistal sang the praises of The New Professional’s Guide to Success. This 90-minute audio program complete with User’s Guide continues to help employers ensure their newest hires land on their feet. Click here for more information about a corporate license.

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kill the bonus

Last month's Trusted Advisor on eliminating bonuses struck a chord with many readers, and more than a few asked how they could recognize candidates who are more motivated by purpose rather than a paycheck.

One resource that came immediately to mind is “The EQ Interview – Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence,” by Adele Lynn, an authority on the subject of emotional intelligence. Briefly, Lynn takes the behavioral interviewing model one step further by showing readers how to uncover the motivation behind one’s accomplishments.

I had the distinct pleasure to interview Lynn, founder of The Adele Lynn Leadership Group based in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, and ask her about Wall Street, EQ and Purpose:

GN: Despite the promise of huge bonus payments, many on Wall Street performed miserably last year. Do you believe this had anything to do with hiring the wrong people to begin with?

AL: Not necessarily. I think the problems may be more related to the focus and direction set by the leaders of the firms. The individual performers may have delivered quite different outcomes if they were directed differently. Performance follows what is measured, observed, and rewarded. I'm more inclined to believe these firms directed people to take the risks that they took. The problem seems to me to be more related to a flawed strategy rather than individual performance.

GN: Those working in professional services must be able to build rapport and trust with clients in order to be successful. However, most people are hired because of their IQ and fall short when it comes to relationship building skills (EQ). How would you suggest firms rethink their hiring criteria?

AL: Extensive evidence exists to build the case for hiring professionals with EQ or relationship building skills.* Most firms should include relationship building as part of their performance competencies and then include interviewing questions that factor in a candidate's skill at relationship building. Assessing candidates for this competency will separate the average performers from the great performers. And, it's the competitive advantage that firms will need to survive in the future.

GN: You speak a lot about having purpose and passion for one's work. How might someone go about finding his or her purpose if it's not clear to them?

AL: Pay attention. It's a matter of self-awareness. When is time just flying? When are you in the state sometimes called “flow?” How do you choose to spend your discretionary time? What kinds of things come easily for you? Typically, our strengths are good indicators that we're working in a realm that is near our passions. Also, ask, What about my current (or past) job duties do I love to do? What do I dislike? When you are most willing to get out of bed in the morning? This kind of self-analysis will give you an indication of what your life is drawn toward. True purpose feels like a calling.

Take advantage of the lull (you know it’s just temporary) in your hiring activity and reassess the interview process at your organization. Because relationship building skills are so critical to a professional’s future success, may I suggest going forward you look for people who:

  • Enjoy meeting new people and trying new things
  • Have strong verbal and written language skills
  • Are generally in a good mood, optimistic, and help others
  • Have high levels of self awareness and self control (the foundation of EQ)

*In complex jobs, a top performer is 127% more productive than an average performer (Hunter, Schmidt, and Judiesch, 1990). One-third of this difference is due to technical skill and cognitive ability, while two-thirds is due to emotional competence (Goleman, 1998).

© 2009 Neels & Company, Inc. - All Rights Reserved

We are the leading provider of soft skills training to professional services firms, covering all areas of business communication.

Neels & Company, Inc. – Strategic Business Communication
P. O. Box 623, Boston, MA 02117
800-975-7031 ext. 701
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