A closer look at STARR answers


In interviews, you are sometimes asked to give an example of how you have demonstrated that you are good at a specific competency. Other times you may be asked to explain how your skills have been useful to teams or organizations in the past. The principle is that the experience you have in specific competencies would have been demonstrated by situations you faced in the past.

It is these examples that the interviewer would be looking for when they ask you to provide your answer in the STARR methodology. Using this approach is your best way to give an example that clearly outlines for the interviewer how you faced a situation, recognized what you needed to do, took action, and achieved good results or outcomes.

The acronym represents 5 specific topics you need to cover in your answer and if you imagine that 5-star picture in your mind, you may be able to more easily formulate your answers and examples during an interview. It is always a good idea to prepare some examples you can think of before the interview, but you may sometimes need to come up with an answer you did not prepare. Hopefully, this picture and explanation help you succeed with that!

The Acronym

The STARR method works on these headings (in sequence) [it is an acronym for these words]

Situation (when, where, what setting)

Task (what you needed to do, which responsibility you took on)

Action (what you did, which way you used a personal strength or competency)

Result (what was the outcome of your action?)

Reflection (looking back at how it went, what did you learn from it – what went well and what would you do differently if you faced the same situation again?)

Approach

Starting at the top of the star with the letter S, which represents the Situation you were in. This relates to the time when you were able to demonstrate through your actions that you have good proficiency in a specific competency. Once you have completed describing the Situation, you move clockwise to the next letter T. Once you have covered the questions under the letter T, you move clockwise to the next letter, A for action. And so you continue until you finish by including answers to the questions shown under Reflection.

Each of the topics under the STARR letters in the graphic above shows some bulleted questions which will help you ensure you cover the key aspects of that particular term when it comes to your example. from the past.

Example

Here is an example showing how using the questions under each of the topics in the STARR model can be useful in preparing your answers for interviews.

If you need a template to use in formulating your STARR – style examples, click on the link below.

Note:

When you are giving examples, you have to be specific instead of staying with general examples, which is often not convincing to those listening to your answers. . Make a story out of your example and base it on some real event that happened in your past to highlight how you were able to demonstrate a specific skill. Using the STARR methodology makes your story more credible and easier for those listening to you to get a full understanding of the capabilities that you have successfully demonstrated in the past.

Conversation Topics


Want to get to know your colleagues or teammates on a project? These may give you ideas for topics to ask about and discuss. Perhaps you are looking for a novel way to get to know your friends or family members better?

Some people have trouble with knowing what to talk about or which topics to ask others about to go beyond the first level of getting to know someone – if we assume the first level would be obvious topics like where are you from, what did you study, what kind of role you are in now, etc.

Pick just a handful of topics at most to avoid the other person feeling interviewed. You could also pick perhaps one to two to ask someone you work with or talk to mostly about work on a regular basis – perhaps just before or after a meeting. It could also be useful during a coffee break. Who knows what surprises you may have in learning to understand someone better?

Be sure to pick the right options for people you barely know – some of the topics are better suited for discussions when you already know someone – like friends or family members. I am sure you will apply common sense and wisdom in selecting fun topics that would match the situation and the person you plan to talk to.

Some of these questions can also be used in group ice breaker exercises or as a fun leg-stretching exercise in the middle of a long day of training or meetings.

Some recruiters like to use a question like these to see how candidates might respond. So, read through these, who knows when you may need to come up with an answer to one of them? 😊

Topics

Mentoring Agreement


Mentoring usually takes place between someone with experience and someone who needs advice and training in specific areas. Starting the process of mentoring duos sometimes skip the step where they talk about how we agree to go through this process together. What is important to you? What is important to me? What can each of us commit to in order for this to work well for both of us?

This free template below helps you to structure a conversation around what the mentor and mentee specifically agree to commit to. How many hours per month/quarter would we like to spend talking through specific topics?

Feel free to add additional items which would be important to discuss during the first meeting when you (mentor and mentee) agree on how to proceed. This kind of discussion may seem unnecessary, but covering these items upfront can save a lot of disappointment and misunderstandings later when items you might have imagined would be obviously included in your mentoring agreement vary from what the other person may have thought. It is not a contractual agreement as much as it is a summary of what you do or don’t want to commit to for the duration of the mentoring relationship.

When it comes to time commitments, it is also advisable to agree for the mentoring process to have a set time period – 12 months or 18 months. And when that time comes, review what has been achieved and learned and whether it makes sense to continue the mentoring relationship or to agree to end it at that time.

Clearly defining the development objectives to be addressed helps to steer the direction of mentoring discussions. What is it that the mentee needs to know, needs to be able to do, and would like to be able to understand? The more detailed this section is, the easier it might be for either the mentor or the mentee to recognize when the mentoring relationship has helped to achieve those outcomes and it may be time to evaluate whether it makes sense to end the mentoring relationship or continue it with new development objectives.
Considering the agreements discussed during the first section, are there any other expectations that each has of the other and which are useful to mention specifically? For example, the mentor may have the expectation that the mentee would devote time to read specific books or articles every week. Are those expectations realistic for the mentee? If he or she has other obligations which may make it difficult to meet that expectation, it is best to discuss them early on to avoid a misalignment later on in the mentoring relationship.

The full template can be downloaded below – it is a *.pdf file and it can be imported into MSWord for edits.

This file can be very useful to ensure that mentors and mentees are aligned early on in their association which gives their mentoring relationship the best chance to be successful!

Rotational Development Assignments – an Example


This post assumes a few starting points. For one, it assumes that you have a few leaders whom you would like to develop using a few specific developmental areas. When you review this example, you will notice that the areas shown here are typically associated with development of first-time or mid-level leaders. This example can help you take your own leadership development ideas a step further by defining specific steps, and processes which would make it easier to communicate your vision to stakeholders at your company – offering a well-considered program that includes all the elements that are important to developing leaders, their managers, executives considering succession planning, and also new recruits with dreams of building a great career at your company.

Defining outcomes

Which observable outcomes – behaviors – are important for successful leaders to display at your company? Can you define this per competency? Understanding what exact outcomes that your program strives to achieve makes it easier to select the right people for the program (those with development needs in these areas), evaluate the progress of developing leaders in your program (learning to lead with desirable behaviors), and also to understand where specific leaders may need more support with their own personal development plans.

Here is an example of defined outcomes and you will notice the columns to the right have spaces to insert names of possible program candidates. This would be a way to consider nominations when they are discussed by the program committee to decide on the next intake of leaders for the rotational assignment program.

Governance & Structure

Before you start to implement your ideas, take a moment to consider who are the key participants and stakeholders in this program? And have you thought of how you need to support each stakeholder’s needs and prepare them for their expected participation?

Basic processes would include:

  • Selection (nominations could be an additional process if you would not pre-select possible candidates using seniority or other criteria) – on what basis will multiple raters who know candidates propose and support nominated candidates?
  • Performance evaluation process – before the program starts and also at key stages during and at the end of each assignment.
  • Promotions and salary increase eview processes for program participants – checking thatyou are at least paying them at or above local market rates to ensure you are not endangering their retention.
  • Mentoring process for the benefit of participants – supporting developmental goals.
  • Performance feedback process to participants and the oversight committee in general.
  • Orientation process for managers whom program participants would report to during their rotational assignments.

Executive Sponsor for the program

It is important to understand who would be the sponsor at the executive level – involved in ensuring that the program meets strategic objectives and delivers on the agreed benefits. These would be the reasons why the program would be approved for funding and resource allocation like for example a program coordinator etc. Build a relationship with this stakeholder and ensure that he/she has all the information needed to feel comfortable with the progress you are making with the implementation or maintenance of the program on an ongoing basis.

Oversight committee

This may be a group of operational leaders, some group support (functional) leaders, and perhaps a mentor or two. The oversight committee may also be involved in the nomination and/or selection of participants and may also be a part of the audience when program participants are asked to conduct presentations about their projects as part of the program, The oversight committee might also at least annually evaluate possible risks to success and may suggest mitigating actions or improvements to avoid or manage risks to successful outcomes of the program.

Mentors

If you have dedicated internal and/or external mentors meeting with program participants on a regular basis it would be important to involve them by giving them an understanding of the strategic and operational expectations of the program. They would also need to be familiar with the measures of success and how they are defined and evaluated. The success of developing leaders would be very reliant on this group of people offering key support to them. For this reason, mentors should also be asked for (at least) annual feedback on their experiences as mentors and be able to share improvement suggestions and possible risks that need further consideration and action. Mentors should also be able to informally meet with the program manager to monitor program outcomes – understanding how the program is progressing in terms of outcomes achieved, number of development goals closed, number of participants being mentored, number of successful placements in higher roles for those coming out of the program, etc.

Managers of participants

There are aspects of a rotational program that differ from someone having a new team member to support departmental or divisional performance objectives. While the expectation is that these managers would invest their time and resources to accelerate the learning of participating leaders, these program participants will be expected to leave the managers’ groups at the end of the assignment. This concept may be challenged on a regular basis and common arguments include program particianpts being instrumental to maintaining successful client relationships (the client asked for him/her to be on the next project) and how their departures may pose risks to current projects (without his/her key knowledge on this project we cannot guarantee successful outcomes). Such issues would need to be resolved and escalated as needed to avoid participants getting stuck on one rotation.

Program participants

Not everyone considered to have the ability to function at higher leadership levels aspires to those outcomes. It is important to understand the drivers, ambition, and engagement of each participant being considered for participation in the rotational development assignment program. This, on top of his/her performance and development needs being identified and documented in a development plan. . Once a program participant has been confirmed the communication process starts including the next steps, the program contents and objectives, the processes, and what would be required from him/her while on the rotational assignment program. Being introduced to those who are involved in the process would also be important – the new manager for the duration of an assignment and the assigned mentor would be two important links to make. Ensure a feedback loop to understand the success and risks of the program seen from the eyes and experience of program participants.

Annual process(es)

In this example, the annual processes are relatively simple and include an annual intake of new participants, formal communications, obtaining feedback from key stakeholders, presentation by participants about projects they worked on, and talent review discussions on the development of each leader in relation to succession planning objectives and strategies.

Developmental Roles

In general, rotational roles fall into these four categories (see graphic below).

Commercial roles could include sales support, marketing, external communications and sometimes includes roles that have direct interfacing with key customers – account roles. A key objective of commercial roles would be to ensure participants understand how money is made, reported, and the levers which could improve profitability, and the processes that are involved in converting operational success to money in the bank. This rotational assignment also provides an understanding of the level of customer satisfaction and where clients would like to see improvements or innovations. For more senior roles in a commercial function, the development objective could include understanding risks and opportunities and establishing a high-level plan to address both with internal initiatives and even external solutions like a merger or acquisition to address challenges and risks to customer satisfaction and the ability to deliver on customer expectations – given observed and expected changes in the marketplace, competitor offerings, etc.

Operational roles usually offer the ability to understand the daily activities and decisions which could lead to meeting or missing operational outcomes. This usually relates to impacts to the Profit and Loss Statements of a company. In these kinds of rotational assignment roles, participants learn to understand the challenges that project teams experience in delivering products or services that are attractive in the marketplace. They also learn how operational delivery can lead to optimal profitability. Concepts like LEAN, Circular economy, and agile are often concepts that are learned during assignments in operational roles.

Strategic roles are often assigned at one of the larger offices or to shadow a senior or executive leader involved in strategic projects and initiatives. During this assignment participants usually learn more about risk management, organizational strategies, and projects. Sometimes they could be involved in supporting due diligence activities for a possible merger or acquisition and may be exposed to considerations regarding organizational structure changes or changes to the legal structure of a company. During these assignments, participants understand how the company evaluates its internal and external strengths and opportunities along with possible organizational weaknesses and risks. In that landscape, the company will set strategies in motion to improve its competitiveness, its financial outcomes (P&L, Cashflow and/or balance sheet), and its ability to outmaneuver the competition in key areas. This could be as a result of acquiring and/or launching new innovative solutions or getting closer to the customers and how customers’ wishes are being met.

Group Support roles are often either in Human Resources or possibly in Procurement or any other group support (functional leadership) role where that specific participant can learn to more fully understand the challenges of balancing the needs of its shareholders, customers, employees, and supply chain partners.

How to start

Putting together a Rotational Assignment Program can take some time during the early stages and it would be very important to understand the strategic needs and objectives of the company when it comes to succession planning and key skills needed by the leaders of tomorrow. Talk to as many possible stakeholders as you can to build a successful business case and change plan addressing all concerns and needs of key stakeholders in the success of the rotational assignment plan. Talk to experts who have developed a program like this to garner any tips regarding pitfalls that they needed to navigate. Finally, commit to continue learning as you go. Get feedback and act on it and use the data gathered to drive continuous improvement activities. Use the feedback to ensure the program continues to deliver outstanding benefits in a fast-changing world which impacts your ability to attract and retain key talent on a continuous basis.

Useful posts to help with the preparation and communication of stretch/developmental assignments:

Onboarding Plan Template


Onboarding Plan Template

One of the key reasons that companies lose new hires with some experience is that they fail to support these new hires adequately during their first few months. In some companies, it can be quite hard to understand how things work there, how to fit in and be successful, feel valued and included. Having a written onboarding plan from the start is a great way to bring more clarity to the person and also help them understand expectations during the crucial early months in their new roles in the new company.

The onboarding plan can be written as early as during the recruitment process. In one best-case scenario, it was shared with a senior executive right after his interview with the CEO. It was such an unexpected and appreciated action that the executive commented how refreshing he found the transparency and it made him see the hiring company as head-and-shoulders above the competition which led to him accepting the offer and joining the company a few months later.

The Process

While the plan can help clarify the set-up and structure for a new hire, it is important to set up review meetings with the newly hired managers or key hires. In some cases, reviews with an HRBP could be useful to understand for example how performance management is organized and how the process works. Such review moments could also clarify talent development programs and processes, which is useful to know for the new hire regarding his/her own career but also for helping the new hire manage the development actions for those who report to him/her.

Review meetings with the manager that the new hire reports to could help identify priorities and understand where to connect with more people or build additional internal or external relationships. The manager can also answer questions about activities planned to ensure desired outcomes are achieved after 30-days, 60-days, and 90-days as captured in the onboarding plan.

The people side of success

The template captures not only the tasks and activities needed to succeed in a new role but also identifies people with whom to build relationships. These are important relationships and contacts that the new hire would need to establish and maintain to ensure his/her success in the long run. They could be key client contact personnel or contacts from key suppliers or subcontractors. They could also be internal – people who know how things work and who can advise on the best course of action to get something done at that company.

And it is also important to identify people who can be trusted to keep things to themselves and who could advise on who to talk to before moving in specific directions for changes the new hire would like to implement. Either the HR Director/HRBP or the new hire’s manager may be helpful to identify who those contacts may be.

Note that confidants or advisors may also be external people such as professional coaches or consultants.

Accountability

While it is important from a company’s perspective to ensure key new hires are provided with onboarding plans, completing the details and setting priorities to accomplish the outcomes defined in the plan lie with the new hire. The success of the new hire is only partially dependent on helping him/her get up to speed faster by having review meetings and an onboarding plan and giving him or her access to professional helpers and advisors. The new hire remains accountable for his or her own performance and following through on the items recorded in the onboarding plan.

When both the process of onboarding works well and the new hire holds himself/herself accountable for the outcomes produced, the risks of failure due to onboarding gaps are lowered and retention success is more likely in the medium to long term!

Useful posts for new employee/ new manager onboarding and orientations :

https://jo-anngarbutt.org/2015/09/15/new-employee-on-boarding-checklist-template/

https://jo-anngarbutt.org/2016/03/01/starting-right-new-managerleader-and-team/

Manage Risks of Early Promotion


Staged Promotions – Accelerate role-readiness using focused development with check-ins

Leaders are not always ready the moment you need them to step into a new role. An inexperienced leader can increase risks in continued customer satisfaction, operational / execution risks, and employee satisfaction and retention. Using a a staged promotion could be a way to mitigate risks, while ensuring that leadership development is accelerated and monitored with defined targets on knowledge gained and skills and competencies gained during each period within a specified timeline.

Process and Timeline

The graphic below outlines the process and shows an example of running the process over a 9-month period. The duration of such a process can vary but watch out for making the period too long – longer than 12 months. It can lead to process fatigue and demotivation of the leader. It is important that the process starts with an orientation to ensure the leader understands how the process will work and what is on the other side of the development period. The leader should be clear on what he/she is signing up for.

Defined learning path

During the development period, there needs to be a few concrete check-in points whereby the leader is demonstrating knowledge, skills and insights gathered and learned over the period. Instead of making the check-in points being general discussions, it is useful to select a few key focus areas for a presentation to be delivered at the end of each of the development periods.

Each check-in event needs to result in specific feedback being captured and shared with the developing leader. The feedback helps him/her to further focus and improve on their learning approach for the remaining learning periods.

The final check-in is usually the final decision-point where the executives present are willing to confirm the promotion of the leader – ending the interim nature of the assignment.

The example below shows how a project or facility leader can be assigned specific areas to learn about over the 9-month period. Each of the areas are important for the normal day-to-day activities of the developing leader and the focus simply means nothing is missed in helping the leader perform well in the role in future. It helps to include the strategic and the “why” part of a role since a new role is often mostly or mainly about the “what” to get done.

Notes

  • The orientation step which helps the leader understand the design of the development path, the role he or she has and also how to ensure his/her own success making use of available internal and external development resources. Before the orientation session, a leader has typically already understood from his/her manager that they are offered the development opportunity on an interim basis and the leader has agreed to proceed. The leader also needs to know what happens if he/she does not succeed at the end? Will they get a different assignment and what might that be?
  • Preparing the executives before the check-in events (when check-in events are set up to be a presentation followed by questions and answers). Executives need to understand the design of the development path, the purpose of the focus areas, the development needs of the leader and how they are to capture their feedback to be presented back to the leader after the event.
  • Feedback to the leader should be specific and be a balance of activities that are good to maintain, which ones to develop further and which ones to start or stop going forward. Specific examples of desirable behaviors or results should be highlighted. A discussion on risk identification and management may also be useful to help the developing leader understand how to adjust own focus to best mitigate and manage risks associated with own development as a leader as well as risks associated with the role..
  • This process is very useful to help a leader understand what the new role would include when they are meeting all expectations of stakeholders. A leader who feels uncomfortable meeting all those expectations will typically ask to be taken off the development path before the end having realize it is not for him or her. And this allows for re-assignment and solving the leadership vacancy in a different way.

Listening to a presentation by the leader on the assigned topics goes a long way towards providing executives with a sense of comfort (or alarm!) in terms of what can be expected from this leader in this role going forward. While these check-in points should not be the only determinant of how the leader is performing in the new role or estimating future behavior, it is a great way to understand the reasoning a leader applies in making business determinations and decisions and how the leader approach problem-solving when faced with adverse situations.

4 Common Disconnects on Multi-Cultural Teams


Working on multicultural teams you may have had moments of wondering what he or she just meant by that comment? Or why will he or she not make a key decision so an activity can move forward? Cultural perspectives and ways of life may be one of the reasons that could explain those incidents.

It is fun to meet people from other cultures and learn about their lives and experiences. And at first it may be interesting to learn how their cultures vary from your own, but once you work on a project together and it is remote working, including long hours and tight deadlines those differences can start to cause friction on the team. This can slow down progress and impact team morale. Being aware of the most common inter-cultural disconnects can prevent team members from blaming it on a person and instead enter into a discussion to unpack the root cause of a lack of action, lack of decision-making or the exact opposite – too many fast actions without thinking or making decisions without considering consequences.

4 Areas of misunderstanding that can impact inter-cultural teams

Some things are smart to do in order to ensure the team understands required project outcomes and approaches to use. Aspects would include clarifying the definition of done, outlining project phases and deadlines, assigning roles and responsibilities and having regular meetings to monitor and understand progress and resolve issues that are hindering progress or pose a risk.

Some aspects may need additional attention if your team consists of a few members from very different cultures.

1. Managing to deadlines

This relates to how important team members believe deadlines are. Some may see them as a guideline while others will suffer anxiety and will work longer hours to make sure the are met. In some cultures, there is a strong emphasis on being for example exactly on time for an appointment while in other cultures it may be okay to be a few minutes late for business meetings and perhaps even a few hours late for a social engagement.

Cross-cultural impact:

  • Make sure all team members understand the consequences, knock-on effects and penalties which may be triggered if the team missed deadlines. Monitor progress and have follow-up conversations if team members are falling behind to ensure they understand the importance of their activities being completed on-time.
  • Ensure team members understand the priorities they should place on various aspects of the work that needs to be done by the deadline. Ensure it is also clear exactly what “done” means. Do you expect quality checks to be done too or just a first draft of the outcome to be available? Should it be print-ready or just ready for an internal review or further discussions?

2. Clear Role Expectations

There are differences in cultures around the meaning of “in charge” or the Subject Matter Expert (SME). In some cultures, it is customary to take the word of such a person as a mandate to perform a specific task or action exactly according to what he/she said. In other cultures, SMEs and leaders are considered more “accessible”, and dialogue is welcomed when one does not agree with a requirement or task assigned by the one “in charge.” This difference can cause confusion on teams including many different cultures. To what degree can and should instructions be discussed and challenged vs accepted? Are those in expert roles or roles with authority prepared to deal with challenging discussions and comments – if the project team will operate in a culture of open discussions?

Cross-cultural impact:

  • Have a role discussion at the start of the project and include what would be great questions to ask each role and how interaction is expected to take place on the project to maximize positive team outcomes.
  • Be sure to have further discussions highlighting best-practices during the project and as new team members join, who may have missed the original discussions around the different project roles and how to best interact with them.

3. Conflict resolution

Conflict shows up differently in each person – some people speak up and go to the “max ” to be heard and understood while others take their thoughts, feelings and especially resentment underground and do not speak out. This means that conflict can be hard to resolve and to feel comfortable that all thoughts and concerns are on the table and discussed before decisions are made. Some cultures are more likely to speak up and make sure their opinions are voiced while others might patiently and politely wait to be asked for an opinion and speaking out of turn (from their perspective) may be seen as impolite or disrespectful. In some cultures open disagreements are best avoided to maintain a cordial/good relationship with others on the project.

Cross-cultural impact:

  • Use more than one channel to check in with team members and get feedback – ask in meetings, but also check in with individual team members between meetings to understand if there is any part of the path forward chosen which concerns them.
  • If any team members are especially aggressive in voicing opinions, perhaps a quiet word might help that person to still voice opinions, but possibly in a less forceful way to avoid antagonizing anyone from a culture where a forceful (overly enthusiastic ) communication style might cause discomfort.
  • Provide training in non-violent communication and voicing messages with a healthy balance between listening and advocating. Help team members to constantly improve in understanding each other’s styles to help communication and collaboration efforts on the project.
  • When a conflict does occur, address it in a culturally-sensitive way if the disconnect could be related to a cultural difference in perspective. The objective should be to solve and address project issues in a helpful way without causing negative impacts to collaboration on the project.

4. Navigating with many languages

We all know of situations where people from the same country with the same language find it hard to communicate successfully with understanding and openness. When a team consists of many different cultures, this can be so much more confusing and frustrating.

Cross-cultural impact:

  • Agree from the start of the project to follow a few guidelines such as: For the chosen project language, native speakers are to slow down and use simple ways to bring their points across. And native speakers of the main project language will be patient with non-native speakers trying to get their thoughts across. If there is a large language ability gap between the native-speakers and other team members consider some language classes to bridge the gap.
  • Consider asking presenters/speakers at planned meetings to send out specific agenda items and a summary paragraph of the issues to be raised and discussed at least a day before the meeting. That would help non-native speakers to prepare ensuring they understand the issues and are able to fully participate in the conversation at the meeting.
  • When there are significant differences in levels of language abilities on the team, meetings may take longer, and collaboration may also be a little harder especially in a virtual/remote environment. Be sure to take this into account when planning project timelines and deadlines.

Plan ahead to succeed

Knowing you may be starting up a project with a multi-cultural team, schedule team-building activities for team members early on. This will help them get to know each other as humans/people. Establishing trust early on, can avoid frustration turning into conflict and delays in reaching project team deadlines.

Create team opportunities to get to know more about each other’s cultures. This could bridge the gap in understanding each other’s perspectives and avoid labeling, misunderstandings, and internal team misalignments..

Set continuous learning as one of the core values of the team and live it, encourage it and keep bringing the team back to what can be learned from successes and failure as the project progresses. Having a curious and learning mindset is a great way to avoid major disconnects between team members as they will engage in inquiry and advocacy vs judgment and labelling as a default behavior.

How to get your next job through your network!


Knowing what kind of opportunity you would like to pursue next, you can wait for the perfect role to show up online or… you could actively work through your network to get further!

Think about this:

  • The high level of competition for the role if you apply for a role online! Your experience and education and the design of your CV/Resume would have to be better than all other applicants to get through to the end of the recruitment process!
  • They estimate that 70% of roles are not advertised, but instead are sourced through networks! This means you could be invited for a discussion or interview just based on the fact that someone recommended you or introduced you to a decision-maker!
  • Every person you know from past roles, from school or college days, people you met and talked to at conferences, family, friends – could possibly know someone who is connected to a role that would be great for you!

Getting more contacts and making a positive impression on those you meet is important. It is not about pretending or lying, it is more about showing respect and genuine interest in those you meet. When people like the encounters they have with you, they want good things to happen for you and they might be keen to ask people they know to meet you or have a discussion with you. And this is all you need in many cases to get to the next step – a consulting project or a new job!

What does your network look like?

If you take a blank sheet of paper and you try to draw out this graphic below, perhaps you will be able to jot down people’s names for each of the circles and be able to create your starter list. This means the list of people whom you will start with – making contact with them.

The groups of people you know the best are most likely:

Friends, Family members, Classmates (now or from years before), ex-colleagues or trusted current colleagues, neighbors (now or from an earlier address where you lived at one point).

The next level of people you may want to contact include:

People you have met or interacted with on a sports team, or a social organization you joined, or a hobby class you took at some point, people you met and spoke to at a conference.

Priorities:

Looking through the names of people you listed in the worksheet (download available below), who might know people at the companies you are hoping to work for? Who knows about the kind of work you are good at and want to do? Who has the knowledge or experience to help you in your search? Who am I most comfortable talking to? (start there!)

How can your network help you?

What do you tell them ?

  1. When you talk to someone who already knows you, you do not need to introduce yourself. When talking to a contact of someone you know, introduce yourself.
  2. Make sure your message is complete: why are you talking to him/her? What exactly do you hope to get out of the conversation?
  3. Be specific about what you are looking for – i.e. role in sales, working on electric installation projects, etc.
  4. What are your training, certifications, experience, and skills to explain how you plan to successfully deliver in the role mentioned above? (the short version – only mention the most important ones!)
  5. Have your questions ready and be ready to rephrase any questions that are not easily understood by the person you are talking to.
  6. Give the other person time to think about their answers by being quiet after you asked.
  7. Show genuine interest in their advice or suggestions.

Questions to ask

The questions below can be used as a guide as you create your own list of questions to ask your contacts. Do consider how strong your history and relationship is with each person you talk to before you ask any of the questions. Rephrase any questions to allow for cultural differences and preferences and also to match the formality required for your conversation.

Depending on the role of the person or his or her expertise/experience, you may choose different questions for each conversation. Note the specific questions you want to ask each person before you contact him/her. Limit yourself to a reasonable number of questions – something you can fit into a 30-minute call would be best when you talk to someone whom you have not met yet and who is giving you some of his/her precious time for this conversation.

  • Are you aware of any job vacancies which would fit my skills/experience?
  • Would you help me by looking out for opportunities you might become aware of and which might be useful to me?
  • Do you know anyone who might be planning to change jobs where I might be a possible role replacement candidate?
  • Do you know any companies where my skills and experience may be sought-after?
  • Are you aware of any new companies moving into the area and/or whom I might be able to contact about a role there?
  • Would you be willing to help me get an appointment for a discussion with a recruiter at your company?
  • May I ask for your help in preparing for an interview (given your contacts/knowledge etc)?
  • Would you be able to help me with more information about a company I would like to target for an unsolicited application?
  • How would you advise me to proceed with my interest in THIS role or getting a role at Company X?
  • Would you be willing to be a reference for me?
  • Would you be willing to review my resume/CV and give me any tips or improvement suggestions?

How do you plan your approach?

Using the attached workbook below, start filling in the names on a sheet

Note contact details you might have or if you are connected with any of them through social media

Start with the people you know the best and explain what kind of opportunity you are looking for and listen to their advice or ideas of who they might know and would connect you with.

After the discussion, capture their suggestions in the worksheet in the “Advice/Next step?” column.

Follow-up on these, contact the person they suggested or introduced you to and ask for a meeting to discuss your interest in the company, work they do, etc.

DOWNLOAD file for this exercise:

Each of the tabs in this worksheet (see file above) contains a table for you to capture the names of people you thought of while looking at the groups of people you are connected to. Complete the table for each of the groups you have considered as far as you can. (see example below for someone who identified 3 friends, but has not yet contacted them).

Follow-up

To keep your momentum, monitor your follow-up actions which could range from contacting a suggested person or calling someone another time as agreed during the previous conversation you had with him or her. Set targets for yourself per day and per week to avoid procrastination or letting a contact “go cold”. This could happen if you call too long after the initial call and the person you are contacting may have forgotten that your mutual contact had introduced you to each other.!

Tips:

Networks of contacts and human connections can be a fragile environment and it is important that though your need for them to act on your behalf is high, you need to also maintain a good relationship throughout and continue to be someone whom they would like to help. Very few people HAVE to help you, they will because they want to. Your attitude and way of talking to them will determine how much they will be willing to help you.

  • Be firm and confident, but not pushy. Sometimes there is a very thin line between those two. And the difference is often the strength of the history of your relationship with that person. If you know him or her for a long time and you have spent a lot of time together, you may be able to be a little pushier to get him or her to introduce you to someone else. When you have had only one or two conversations with someone at a conference, you would not likely have a strong enough relationship to be overly familiar or strong in your approach.
  • Always be thankful. Even if you have known someone for a long time, if they introduce you to someone or give you a handy tip that leads to a conversation, do let them know how thankful you are for their help.. Also thank people for taking the time to talk to you regardless of the outcome.
  • Only contact people from a conference or a class you took in the past if you actually spoke to them. It would be quite unusual to simply use a conference or class attendance list and email or contact each person on it regardless of whether you actually spoke to them at the time. Most people might disregard requests for calls or discussions in such cases.
  • Do not expect your contacts to call you back when they have more information for you. Ask if it would be alright for you to call back within a week or two.
  • When you had a great conversation with someone, why not add him or her to your list of future contacts? You never know when you may be able to introduce them to a new client or opportunity that fits into their business model!

Top 10 Reasons Why Communication Fails


We all had times when we were misunderstood or simply did not feel we truly understood what someone else was trying to say. When you have communicators from different national backgrounds, the chances of misunderstandings increase. If you also throw in the fact that only a handful of people in the room have English as a first language, the chances of misunderstandings are magnified even further.

Here are the top 10 reasons why messages may be understood by your intended audience:

What can you do about it?

Wisdom is realizing there is only so much you can impact or control, other factors you may be able to influence, but not change or control. Focus on what you are able to do.

Cultural impact: Whereas you may not be able to impact where someone grew up, you can learn more about the cultures of others on your team to correctly anticipate any possible impediments to your messages being understood or interpreted correctly.

Not my Language: Knowing how many of your team members do not have English as a first language can help you prepare your messages using simple sentence structures and more common words to avoid confusion.

Distractions (obvious): Ensure that there are no distractions to people being able to pay attention to and maximize their ability to understand you correctly during meetings. In remote settings, having participants on mute where ambient noise causes a distraction on the video call. You can also ask everyone to turn on their cameras to improve engagement during a remote call.

Fake news – Source reliability: Ensure that any data you plan to use is sourced from reliable sources – reputable research companies or institutions. Making the resource material or reports available to team members may further positively impact your ability to avoid your message not being accepted due to doubts about the source of key facts presented during your meeting.

What they know: Ensuring that intended meeting participants have enough pre-reading to help them fully engage with the topics you wish to discuss may avoid spending time filling in knowledge gaps that some may have on the topic. Where your topic may be controversial, do not shy away from mentioning opposing views and why you do not support those perspectives.

What they prefer: If you have a high number of team members who prefer to have material available earlier to study it and form their opinions, consider sending key reports out before the meeting. This will improve chances of having an engaging discussion about the topics you plan to cover in your meeting.  Some intended meeting participants may focus more on the financial data, or operational data etc. Be sure to have relevant information available to address predictable questions in these areas.

Judgement before you said a word: If there is something unusual about your appearance of name, consider mentioning it up front or tell a story about it to neutralize the observation and get their attention. Make sure you dress for the occasion to avoid interfering with your own messages.

The last four categories are not easy to impact since they are closely linked to everyone’s psychological make-up or habits. Based on past experiences, personal beliefs and values, people will naturally be drawn towards or away from agreeing with your perspective on a range of topics. Knowing your team or those who would attend your presentations, might help you avoid the pitfalls. Other than that, you may need to use pre-engagement and post-engagement activities to give your messages a higher chance of being correctly interpreted and understood.

The Checklist

Click below to download an excel checklist to help you do a quick check – where can you be more effective when you communicate? Perhaps the checklist shows areas impacting your communication with a key team member. Talking about specific areas impacting your communication success, you may be able to improve your ability to correctly interpret and understand each other’s messages.

Smarter after Covid


Finding better ways forward

Before Covid most companies with international interests had several people flying and traveling to other offices and locations to attend meetings, lead initiatives, or train others. While most of us have pretty much remained “grounded” in our countries without the option to travel, company activities continued (as far as it was possible). Something seems more obvious now than perhaps in 2019: We are getting pretty good at training, meeting and mentoring remotely using technology and internet connections. Yet, when we can, will we continue previous practices of sending our leaders and experts to remote locations on a regular basis like we did before? It is said that Ireland lowered carbon emissions by at least 6% during 2020 and some companies have seen business travel costs more than halved over 2020!

Some challenges that companies try to address by flying in leaders and experts from HQ:

  • We do not have people in all locations with the right experience and skills and HQ experts are needed to support local teams on a regular basis.
  • We are not exactly sure what the true status of projects are and we would feel more comfortable having one of our trusted staff regularly visit remote locations.
  • We are not sure that local people understand our strategies and truly commit to realizing performance targets, which means someone needs to visit with them on a regular basis to ensure they do understand our strategies and then review with them how their efforts support these.
  • We are finding it tough to source local people with the right skills and experiences and those we can find are too expensive in terms of compensation expectations.
  • The local people speak a different language and their English language skills are not great, which makes it hard to know for sure what they are trying to convey during our calls. We need to see the project/work to understand more clearly what is really happening there.
  • The local people may not be forthcoming with bad news relating to projects in remote locations and they may possibly favor being cordial over risking our dismay.

The list is not exhaustive, but it does highlight some of the opportunities to find better ways going forward to avoid going back to the level of business travel we previously considered normal.

The term Glocal means to Think Global and Act Local and it is said that Akio Morita of Sony Corporation was the first person to use the term which became popular in the business world in the 1990s. How to think about the big picture and over-arching strategies goals and still be sensitive to local conditions and needs when you implement those big picture ideas? A balance would have to be created and it would be an ever-adjusting type of balance which is not fixed in place. To incorporate (for example) shifts in local legislation or new diversification strategies from HQ. Finding a way to keep this balance in place may lower the need to return to pre-covid business travel levels.

There are at least three ways to address this:
  1. Focus leadership development in a few key areas,
  2. Better teams – adjusting selection and development of staff, and
  3. Better use of technology – making more use of technologies to facilitate remote collaboration.

Better leadership

Having the judgment, problem-solving and decision-making skills to navigate in the space where one has to constantly balance global strategies and goals with local situations and conditions means leaders have to be comfortable with ambiguity, be constantly on the look-out and actively engaged in learning new skills and understanding how others have succeeded or failed in addressing what lies before the leader. Learning how to proactively include all team members including those who are “different” and to do this successfully leaders at HQ and remote locations need to understand their own biases and stereotyping. This will ensure that the skills of the entire team is leveraged in achieving performance goals. Lastly, leaders also need to have the ability to easily shift their perspective from global thinking to local acting and back in order to maintain the balance needed for the decision they need to make at that moment.

Better teams

Working on a diverse team with some team members in remote locations is something we have learned to do successfully over the last year. And this new skill has brought opportunities to get better results through teamwork without having to be present in an office or with the entire team. Will we ask – does this person have to be in the office every day of the week? Or will we consider hiring talent where we find it without feeling he or she needs to be relocated to HQ in order to be an effective member of our team?

To help existing teams be more inclusive and effective some specific or additional training may be needed around diversity. This training can include developing an improved understanding of cultural differences and perspective differences (for example among provinces or states in a country). It often comes down to increasing awareness of own biases and stereotypes that may have settled in our perspectives about groups of people who are very different from our own backgrounds.

Recruiters and hiring managers also have to start including additional skills in requisitions to fill vacancies. Skills like additional language skills – not only English – experience such as having lived and/or worked in a country other than their home countries.

When creating teams to work on performance improvement projects (action teams) – why not include people from different functions, locations and cultures on the team? It is a great way to increase your internal network of employees collaborating and communicating across locations.

All of these aspects can help a team become more global-minded and inclusive while making smarter choices working on local projects which impact broader strategies or targets in the company.

Use technology

In addition to tools for video-conferencing, there are tools which can help monitor progress or quality without having to travel to a location.

1. Hololens2: click this link to see short video of what it can do across various industries – there are ways for clients and HQ personnel to connect with someone using this technology at a remote location.

2. Realwear: click this link to see a short video of how it can be used to get input and advice from a person located remotely.

3. Some locations use drones to get an understanding of general progress on large construction projects and provide overall updates to managers at HQ. Drones can also be used to inspect hard-to-reach places safely.

4. Use a centralized electronic storage solution for files meaning all local files can easily be viewed from remote locations without needing to travel to a site.


While working smarter in these ways is also a way to lower pre-covid GHG and carbon emissions, many employees appreciate the flexibility of remote working options and combined with lower business travel needs it adds to having a better work-life balance. The amount of quality time spent with families and friends has also increased for most. All of which adds greatly to employee well-being. Looking for ways to leverage what we have learned by having to work remotely during 2020 can benefit companies and employees in greater ways than we may be able to realize now.