How do you communicate passion over practicality in the workplace?

Man holding a red woolen heart concept for valentine's day, busi

By Mark A. Leon

I grew up with an overwhelming amount of imagination. I was the youngest of four and for the most part my parents loved me, but didn’t feel like going through the motions of involving me. From a very young age, I have been on my own to discover the world. This most likely has contributed to my nomadic and creative persona.

For the last decade, I have been motivated by a world of possibility. Not quite in the Houdini manner, but I look at organizations and I see potential outside the walls of accepted practice.

A number of years ago, General Electric (GE) coined the term “boundaryless”. That term has stuck with me throughout my career.

In 2008, the idea of a corporate community page on Facebook was taboo. In 2009, creating LinkedIn groups focused on building a skill specific talent community was silly at best. In 2010, a career experience blog highlighting individual success stories and telling the cultural story one person at a time was shunned upon. “What is the value added?”, “How is this going to help us hire people?” – These were the questions posed by the senior leadership or the naysayers.

In 1998, we had a challenge: How do we support our growth in Engineering and Product Development as a result of a major decade funded government contract? The solution: Let’s show them what we got. The idea was formatted for an on-site career fair and expo.

Here was the pitch:

  1. We reach out to the professional sports teams, museums, theaters and radio stations asking for donations and participation.
  2. We do a picture collage of the last 80 years and focusing on the number of generational families that have worked here.
  3. We show off our state of the art 3D simulation studio.
  4. We have hiring managers on-site to answer questions and do same day interviews.
  5. We offer an inside look at the future of military design and development with plant tours.Impossible they said. You won’t get buy in from all the departments. We can’t interview people right off the street. This will be overwhelmingly expensive.At about $600 per attendee and 21 confirmed hires, this was a raging success. The answer was simple; we brought passion, culture and a very intimate personal touch to the candidate experience. If you drove by our facility, we looked like an old manufacturing plant gated in with no clue what was going on inside. Invite them in and they will come. They sure did. Almost 300 attendees on a Saturday morning.In the last 15 years, I have updated my resume once and have not seen the light of day of a job board. I am approached and on occasion I listen.The career choices I have made have been because of a few common trends.

    1. The recruiter provided me with an incredible candidate experience. Quick follow up, education on the role, deep interest in my background and love of their company.
    2. The hiring managers challenged me. They weren’t looking for a body with some technical or soft skills to fill a role. They were looking for individuals to partner and contribute to the growth and innovation of their teams.
    3. A set of values that were demonstrated in the words and actions of the team.

    I am very good at what I do and I know I have limitations. I work extremely well as an individual contributor, but thrive with a team that shares expertise and values support.

    We all have good and bad days, but the minute it becomes a regiment of mental clock in and clock out the passion dies and the wall come tumbling down.

    Do we need process? Absolutely
    Do we need checks and balances / QA? You bet
    Do we need mandatory training? Hmmmm, I suppose
    Do we need structured hierarchy? No always.

    What companies truly need is a human capital element that thinks and acts with emotion. The ability to care about your team, clients, supervisors, subordinates and cross functional groups is a gift. That gift will reverberate and send positive shivers down the spines of all you are in contact with.



    Start each day with positive electricity and energize those around you.


Dear Millennials, life and employment are not an entitlement


By Mark A. Leon

I was having lunch with a friend recently.  It was BBQ.  No real value added to the story; just wanted to provide a better visual to help paint the textual canvas.  She told me her father retired just days after he hit his retirement eligibility age.

This man had worked for BMW for most of his adult life.  Loyal, dedicated, focused and passionate about work and his company.  This is not the personality of the type of person who would pack up just days after the door opens.  His daughter asked quite candidly, “why are you retiring?”.  The damn millennials.  He described them as lazy, unfocused, unable to see things to completion and standing on a pedestal with a sense of employment entitlement.

He had quite a bit to share with his daughter on that day.

With no statistical analysis or trend theory, I want to reach out personally, professional to millennial and provide some advice that I hope some of you will adhere to.

  • Remove the communication device – There was once a time not too distant in the past, where the value of a sunrise, an extended morning embrace in bed, a long warm shower, a hike outside the signal of any type of communication or the enjoyment of a meal without the need to share the food was the everyday life we knew.  The only thing on the restaurant table was a napkin, silverware, plates, glassware, condiments and conversation.  I know this is hard to believe, but we didn’t have phones to put next to us waiting to react to the next update.  Here is an exercise:  Take a few hours, a day or even two days to go without your phone.  I would suggest a week, but pushing too hard too soon could become dangerous.  Plan an escape to a cabin, without phone or internet and get in touch with the energy of nature and life.
  • Measure the value of your actions – What does that mean?  It is a profound statement and one that could have you rethink all things.  Take a two day period and record all the time you spend on everything.  A study released three months ago indicated that grade school children check social media 120 times per day.  I remember being ten and I am pretty sure my life wasn’t that important.  In fact, still isn’t.  You can record in fifteen minute increments to make it easier.  Look at home much time you look2are on Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc…  Once you have done that, put a grade value based on value added.  For example:  If you volunteered as a homeless shelter for two hours, your value added to the better good of society would be an A or A+.  If you commented on Instagram about how cute outfits are for two hours, your grade would be F.  If your overall grade is less than a B- than we need to make some adjustments.
    • Sample:  Facebook status update review (looking at pictures of nephew) – 7 Hours – Grade D+
    • Sample:  Completed a five year business plan (Focused on future growth) – 20 Hours – Grade A+
    • Sample:  SnapChat of me singing One Direction in front of my mirror and sending it to 20 friends – 30 Minutes – Grade: D (Some creative effort)
    • Writing a letter to friend who is sad – 45 minutes – Grade: A
  • ADHD is not an excuse.  It is a great way to get pills, but not an excuse.  Too many of you have it.  Starts to make the rest of us a little suspicious.  Focus!!! Focus!!!  When you take on work responsibility, put your reputation on the line.  Think about how your actions affect others around you.
  • Start a journal.  Write something meaningful once a day.  Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, write something.  Create something of substance (song, poem, story, personal letter).  This may help you get in touch with your spiritual side.  Yes, you all have one.
  • Look up.  This one is the simplest one and perhaps the most difficult.  Relationships are the most wonderful gift we have in this world.  They give us trust and love and let us know that there are others out there to help us when we are in a time of need.  They aren’t on your IPhone or Galaxy.  I assure you of that.
  • Gaming is not the next Olympic Phenomenon – Finally, no matter how hard you pray, Playstation and XBox will never be an Olympic sport so you can stop training so hard.

When you are making decisions that affect others in your workplace or your personal life, think about everyone around you.  We share this planet together.  It was built on hard work and if we want to maintain it for generations to come, we need to continue to work hard and together.


Biggest Roadblock to Your Dream Career…..YOU!

I have found great satisfaction in providing coaching and consulting on personal brand strategy development.  The idea of matching personal interests and passions with a career that is rewarding, challenging and yields a sense of fulfillment each and every day is worth the price of all the hard work.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.  We live in a world where some countries have a 25% unemployment rate, poverty is at record levels, jobs are less frequent and pay even less than adequate for most and basic survival is taking precedent over pursuit of happiness.

I would be misleading you if I took all the negative economic impact that is hitting the world employment market and made it the sole blame for so many of us wandering through life aimlessly paycheck after paycheck, so I won’t.

This piece isn’t about our current economic situation or the cyclical downturns we have witnessed for hundreds of years.  This is about a bigger tragedy in the true pursuit of professional happiness.

Its you!!  The person that truly wants to find a career that makes them happy and impassioned.

Isn’t that just truly ironic.  Alanis Morisette; you can take that to the bank.

I have been approached through referrals about helping clients find a job.

My initial response is always very similar, “Do you want a job or a career that truly defines you?”  Almost 100% of the time, I get an enthusiastic yes.  The next question often becomes a hiccup for most.

“What are you truly passionate about, what makes you great and what are your true talents?”
If I told you the amount of silence or how many times the phrase “I don’t really know” comes right after that question, you would be astonished.

I love taking on the challenge of shaping, engaging and building a personal brand with the ultimate goal of the perfect career fit.

Of course, I give homework and deadlines.  I have to keep you on task.

Generally, here is what happens:

  • Have the client define their personal passions and interests.  List their talents.  Identify the type of work and daily activities that keep them energized.
  • Define the culture that helps them thrive
    • Teaming / individual contributor
    • Start up / Mature organization
    • Business owner / part of an organization
    • Small, medium or large company
    • Local, regional, national or international
    • Long term goals
    • Types of products or services you want to provide the community
  • List the top ten things they love about your current or previous roles / List the top ten things they did not love
  • List current digital footprint – What networks do they subscribe to or are members
  • How engaged are you? – Do they engage in discussions, start discussions, publish posts or share your expertise with like individuals?
  • Get engaged – Join more professional talent networks, share your talents, make strong connections

Some of you are wondering why I haven’t even mentioned a resume or a CV.  Pointless.  It doesn’t define you, it summarizes you.  That will not win your perfect job.  It may not even get you in the door.  You and you alone will win over your future employer because ideally, when you step foot in the door, you are the square that fits in the square hole.  You just need to shine and show them why.

Back to the list….

  • Obviously reviewing the resume/CV is a necessary step.
  • Write a business plan for individual success.  So many of us go into a job search unfocused.  Many even do the throw it and see what sticks approach to applying.  A little secret:  Employers can see right through that.  If you apply to 25 jobs, they will know and that will never goes away (applications are archived).  Putting together a structured short term and long term personal business plan along with your list of passions and interests will build a case for where your journey will go.
  • List the top ten companies you think you are fit for and why.  That is the big one.  If you know the type, size, services/products, environment and culture you will excel in, this part should be easy.

All that being said, I must go back to my earlier point of why this fails so often; yes you.

Typically, I lose 75% or more on step one.  They walk away with the homework, they commit to delivering the results to me and then gone.  Going, going, gone!!!  I follow up and get the list of excuses:

  • I’ve been really busy
  • I keep setting time aside and things come up with the family
  • I’m not sure where to begin
  • I know I have no excuse, but I promise to do it

The moral of the story is that ideas and motivation are great starting blocks, but if you are looking to build your dream house, you have to see it through to completion.

Are you aggressive enough to kill for that job? (Not Literally)

Exhibit A: The Eager Beaver. She is energized, willing to learn and a true sponge in every sense of the word. You give her a task and she will embrace it and learn it.

Exhibit B: The aggressive go-getter. No need to direction. This one is self-sufficient and seeks out challenges and solutions.

Who do I want to hire?

Candidate A who shows the promise to learn and grow, but will need a tremendous amount of hand holding or Candidate B who is a self-directed work horse.

The only question I need to ask myself as a hiring manager is this: Which candidate will advance in this organization and drive positive results?

Yes, every single reader got that right. But that isn’t the lesson here. The lesson isn’t for the hiring managers or the recruiters, but the candidates.

Cultural Fit

• Personality + soft skills = Cultural Fit
• Soft skills + technical skills + adaptability + cultural fit = Long term loyalty
• Ambition + innovation + research and execution + leadership skills + project management skills = Priceless. You can’t buy that kind of talent. Actually you can.

The formula for success is not mapped out on a flow chart or a process document. This is not a long complex equation built out by a PhD at Stanford University (No intent to snub M.I.T.) nor a detailed research white paper. The formula for success is understanding your business, building a business model that promotes creative and innovative thought management and providing the resources and tools for success.

The heart of this formula is the right talent: the mix of diversification that will bring it all together. In any organization you will have your strong and weak performers. It is the nature curve of life. That doesn’t dictate that you cannot move the curve in favor of the strong.

There is an old adage, surround yourself with good people and you begin to see good results. The principles of the laws of attraction can be applied to the workforce. Find the common thread and build on it.

The common thread is culture. Find people that compliment your culture and you will shine.

The Hiring Manager has made a decision

Back to Candidate A and B. They have been sitting in the lobby sweating bullets waiting for feedback and all we are doing is talking about how to populate your organization with good people.

We know who we are selecting. Do you think they do?

Unfortunately, so many of the eager beavers don’t even realize what is right in front of them. They are nice, energetic, adaptable, flexibility and so willing to learn. Poor saps. The truth is that the big bad business wolf doesn’t want to huff and huff and blow the house down. Translated: they don’t want to put the time and effort into training. They need doers. Hard-nosed and successful doers. That is the business world today.

I was asked once, “How do I get from Wisconsin non-profits to silicon valley?” My response was, “You are adorable. I want to package you up and put a ribbon on top. You are incredibly intelligent and know you stuff, but you are a sweet talking soft spoken Midwest girl. You need a hard shell and soon. The world won’t ever see how much you can contribute unless you assert yourself in that world.” She is now a senior HR leader in the San Francisco bay area.

To all the Exhibit A’s out there, it will be hard to find companies that want to hold your hand in the workplace. Find your direction, develop a strategy and get there.