7 Books That Make Great Gifts For A New Job

My personal graduation party count is in the teens now and I am not done.  Strangely I find myself energized with each new party because it gives me a chance to connect with a graduate, hear some of their plans, and revisit their first 18 years by looking at all the pictures they (or their parents) have posted.  It if fun and scary at the same time.  I always appreciate the graduates that look me in the eye and admit some of those fears.  I get it.

Transitions are like that – fun and scary.  Fun because of all the new things that are presented to us – new people, new challenges, new learning, and new perspectives.  Scary because they often bring us into unfamiliar territory that will challenge our basic beliefs and put us into situations where we will experience failure.

Failure.  It is a word that nobody likes to hear, and yet it is so necessary to learn.  One of the reasons I like hanging around a start-up minded community is they see failure as a way to grow.  You cannot have growth without it.  While graduation is a great thing to celebrate, those graduates that will be going off to their first job in the next several months will need more help.  The help they need is the support from the people around them for a great start in that new role.  In the corporate world it is called, and when it is done well it provides a foundation for success.  The key to onboarding is really after the program(or first 2 weeks), when the work begins.  Being able to step into that work with the right perspective and attitude is critical.

Lets focus on the college graduate that will be starting their first job. As part of any new beginning, it is good to mark that day with a gift.  Here are several books that have the potential to equip people and start some great conversations that will lead to a successful transition into their new role.

If you have read my blog long enough you know that I believe in learning pairs.  My philosophy of giving a book as a gift is simple – keep the books thin(<200 pages) and as part of the gift offer to read it/discuss it with them.  (here are some other helpful gift giving tips)



Helping Talent Emerge

I have spent the last year leading a mid/late career transition program – which puts me in a room with 25-40 individuals that are committed to returning to work after being off between 6 month and 7 years.  I am inspired and learn something new every day.  Here are a few lessons.

  • Add a little confidence, and talent emerges
  • Add a little focus, and talent becomes a pretty compelling story
  • Add a community that give support, encouragement, and feedback and the talent and story just get better
  • Add a chance to actually work and use their talents for 60-80 hours , and the pride and passion that emerges makes the story even better (often a tears of joy kind of story)

It is not always a perfect journey because life happens, and setbacks seem to come in pairs for some reason.

A message for anyone who is not in this position and/or has never experienced this:

  1. Build and maintain a strong professional network (outside of your current company and within an area you are passionate about).  This means pouring into two groups that get you working/interacting with people outside of your company and in an area you care about.
  2. Remember that you will be in this position at least once in the next 10-20 years.  Don’t loose sleep over it, and if you are not doing #1 get ready for a tough-er journey.
  3. Read Linchpin by Seth Godin, then write down two things you will do differently over the next six months.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 yearly.

If you are a leader thinking about what you can do to develop your team, see the first four bullet points.  It is that simple.

I get inspired seeing talent emerge – – it is kind of like spring in Michigan.

FYI – another Shifting Gears cohort starts in 4 weeks.  Here is a link if you know of anyone that would be a good candidate.  There is also a great video so you can hear their stories.



3 Books That Make Great Graduation Gifts

College graduation is coming up, and after last weekend working with 21 students in Michigan through our Governor’s Economic Summit I have been thinking a lot about what I experienced and ways in which all of us can invest in someone starting a career.  While high school graduations might compel us to get something like Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, college is a little different.  Here are three books that would be great gifts for a new grad to help them to success in their first job and connect you with that success:

LinchPin by Seth Godin:  A little longer, but is focused on helping people be purposeful about building their brand and reputation through their work.  It is a good balance between practical advice and thinking bigger.

Great On The Job by Jodi Glickman: This book is targeted at college students.  I have also used some of the advice Jodi gives (especially around getting feedback) with some of the mid/late career transition individuals I coach through Shifting Gears, but she targets the new grad.  Our governor is actually giving a signed copy to each student from our recent summit.

Effective Immediately by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg: I am preparing to review this book and share my thoughts through my TruTips, but in advance I also like this book.  It differs from Jodi’s book in that it provides lots of 1 page tips for individuals.  How I would make this a great gift would be for you to write a note that identified your top 5 and pledge to be a mentor as they read and use this in their first job.

There are other books new professionals should read, but hold off until they get a job.  I actually like one of the chapters in Effective Immediately where the authors give them a list of books to keep in their cubicle and to read.  The great thing about all of these books is they are focused on helping them be successful, and coupled with a pledge from you of some time to read it with them/mentor them – this actually become a great gift.

4 Keys To Successful Transitions

4 Keys To Successful Transitions

Not Cool Robert Frost

If you have not seen the Kid President video on YouTube you should.  It has been played in our house through Apple TV no less than 12 times, with the funniest being watching my 86 year old father viewing it with his grandchildren saying “Isn’t this great Grandpa!”  It might not connect with all generations, but he was gracious. 🙂

There is a part in the video where Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken, is referenced and the kid president talks about how hard that road is with all the rocks, thorns, etc. . .   He then delivers the line – “Not cool Robert Frost”.  That line resonated and has been often repeated by my teenage daughter.  In the last two weeks, almost daily I have found situations where I repeat it.

Not cool Robert Frost

I love transitions.  People.  Teams.  Companies.  There is much to be gained in a great transition, and there is lots at stake because it is not an easy road.  Even in a successful transition there will be moments of failure.  My experience tells me that there are four key things that have to be there for a successful transition (whether it is corporate or individual):

  1. Desire to make the change
  2. Community of support for individuals doing the change (including at least 2 people willing to provide one on one support)
  3. Willingness and ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn (thanks for those words Greg Hartle) as part of the process.
  4. Resilience to do the work, regardless of the conditions (this is leadership)

As I look at this list, I see number 2 and 3 as the things anyone can be working on today regardless of their situation.  In fact, if you are not doing the work of making those a part of your work life, you are guaranteeing yourself / team / organization a difficult journey.

A story.  I was talking to someone who had successfully transitioned to a new role, only to have it go away months later.  The one thing they stopped doing when they landed?  Building/maintaining their community (#2).   Networking and maintaining your community is easy to stop when we are ‘busy’.   But it is the road that will become overgrown if not used at least a little.  It is also the piece that takes time to rebuild.  We create more rocks and thorns for ourselves when we stop doing all of the work of preparing ourselves, our teams, or our organizations for the transitions that will occur.

It is okay to rest, but don’t stop doing the work of preparation.  And when you hit a rock or a thorn, just blame Robert Frost and keep moving. 🙂

Forget your brand. What is your art?


Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient.  the medium doesn’t matter. ~ Seth Godin (Linchpin, p.83)

It is popular now to talk about our reputation in terms of our Brand.  Just this week I received an email touting a class to define and grow your brand.  Coincidentally this week has also been a big week for another brand that is working hard to salvage its reputation.  Have you read anything about Livestrong?

Inherent to every coaching or development conversation I have is focusing on the foundational understanding of who you are, what you bring, and the experience you are creating for others.  I don’t like using the word brand because it is a word that too easily moves into the area of spin and perception.  I follow Seth Godin’s quote (fyi – he is also a world class marketer, among other things) to use the word Art.  Inherently, Art is personal and carries with it a passion for creation and sharing.  In the age of flat organizations, fuzzy job descriptions, and leaders too busy to provide daily care and leadership to their people – the world needs more artists.  An artist sees their gifts and finds ways to practice it because they love it.  An artist finds community naturally because they understand other artists and express sincere appreciation for what they do.

The other quote that Godin shares on the same page is from Roy Simmons ~ Most artists can’t draw.

Quit worrying about your brand.  Worry about your art and your medium.

(If you want to explore this further is to read Linchpin by Seth Godin.  I also use a model called trUYou to help clients frame this conversation.)

For a full list of books/resources I recommend here is my library.

Leadership Journey – Strengths to overused Strengths

They were a year into their first leadership role and the feedback was You do not careHow could that be – because I do! was the defense.  The proof to the contrary was two valuable people leaving the organization and the final expert doing everything they could to help the leader fail.

A universal truth of most people that write about competencies or personality profiles is the simple fact that if we have a strength (example:  getting work done) and if that strength is overused, it becomes a weakness (example:  so task focused that people do not care).  This is and should be one of the number one focuses of developing leaders, and if you look at a leadership program that is laced with classroom time and lite on self awareness/feedback – run.

If you need a second opinion and are not afraid of a 200+ page business book, read Flip Side by Flip Flippen. The Flip Side: Break Free of the Behaviors That Hold You Back

If you are a coach, and you want this conversation in the voice of a coach – read What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful

If I had you at hello with this conversation and you want to jump in and try to avoid the mistake again, here is a simple way to start that conversation and get to an action plan:

  1. What are the reasons you got this leadership role? (list as many as you would like, pick the top 3)  *as their leader, feel free to correct their list after they have created it.
  2. How are these reasons (actually they are strengths) going to help you in this leadership role?
  3. How are these same reasons going to get in the way of your success?  What actions do you need to take to be successful and how can I best support you in this transition? (fyi . . if they don’t ask for help, so at a minimum meet with them weekly for the first 3 months)

The other solution is to speed past this conversation, let the situation play itself out, and try and fix it later.

fyi – Michael Watkins found that 40% of outside leaders hired into an organization fail in the first 18 months.  Brad Smart contends that a bad leadership hire takes 18 months to fire and the cost is 14.6x their base compensation.

Hmmm . . . .

My Top 4 Learning Tools

A thought was shared from Greg Hartle (@greghartle) last week about his impressions of people he meets that are in career transitions.

Many people are perfectly prepared for a world that no longer exists.

One area people struggle with is learning.  We wait for events, programs, our leader to direct us, a performance review, time away from our job to learn, or ___________(fill in the blank).  In a corporate class, experience shows me that 70% of people come to class without a clear objective.  In a personal study I have done, 100% of people who went to Google and typed in a “How do you . . . . ” search question had a clear learning objective.  Email me if you would like the full results of my study. 🙂

My favorite places to learn:

  • LinkedIn – I believe Greg’s perspective can be substantiated based on how someone leverages LinkedIn.  This tool is as much about setting up learning communities as it is about building a professional network.  Joining groups and asking/answering questions on a weekly basis.  This should be a cornerstone of your learning strategy.
  • Inc – I still get a paper copy.  It makes me old school, but the information I get from people trying things out is so valuable for me as an entrepreneur and an advisor to growing companies.  For a close friend it is Wired magazine.  I added that for 2013.  More to come . . .
  • TED – At the end of the day every TEDx video is still an event.  Given that, I am still shocked by how many people I work with that have never heard of this.
  • YouTube – 48 hours of new video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.  (see graphic) I once had a friend with a health issue that needed to start giving himself monthly shots.  He is a bit impatient, so after trying to find someone to help he went on YouTube, found instructions, and did it.  I do not recommend this course of action for everyone – but he is clearly not the person Greg was talking about.

As I watch my teenagers interact with the Internet I realize the line between living and learning is non-existent for them.   The mantra that separates boomers from a millennial is a simple shift from I will outwork you to I will out-learn you.  The hardest worker is not the automatic winner anymore.

What are your favorite places to learn?

Greg Hartle – Wisdom from walking around

I had a chance to share a meal with Greg Hartle.  Does his name sound familiar?  It shouldn’t.

Not that he is not remarkable, but he is not trying to be remarkable and famous.  He is just traveling around the country, making enough, and trying to rebuild his life as he works towards some goals – one of which being to help 500 people.

Really?  After a near death experience and asking himself some big questions, he decided to take $10, a laptop, and some clothes – and go help people.  If you want to know more here is his link. I want to brand him with some statement like – Meet Mother Theresa wearing jeans.  But the truth is that would do a disservice to Mother Theresa and to Greg.  You see, he is just trying to be a better Greg, and that should be good enough for all of us.

I loved listening to Greg.  What hit me was the perspective he has gained from sitting in the living rooms or across the table from over 250+ people across this country trying to help them through their life transitions.  He is focused on micro-micro economics.  In that world the graphs go away and we can talk in names, addresses, and challenges.  He is also one of those genuine people that makes you want to shut out the world for a while and enjoy being present.

Two thoughts he left me with that continue to roll around –

He sees lots of people fully prepared for a world that no longer exists. If you are not ready to personally manage the cycle of learn, unlearn, and relearn – then in a few missed cycles you risk becoming stuck in a difficult place.  Learn, do, do, do, do better, do, do, do, do, do a little better – does not exist.

Purpose + Passion + Skill for their craft.  Many people have purpose and passion, but too often the gap is in the level of skill they have for their intended craft.  You see, the skill piece takes a dedication to something, over the course of time, to work towards mastery.  (see Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule)  Also, see point number one.

The rest of Greg Hartle’s story can be followed on Facebook, or check out the business he just launched at newmethods.org.  He was also a great speaker if you are looking for someone to inspire your group.

Thanks Greg.


Good advice for new or old grads – Effective Immediately Post 1

I am in the process of reading/reviewing a book by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg called Effective Immediately – How to FIT IN, STAND OUT, and MOVE UP at Your First REAL JOB.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments.

As I started through this book I found myself grinning at some of the helpful hints.  Not because they were funny (other than the statement – If someone farts, ignore it), but they were the kind of things that are simple, obvious, and too often lost in the shuffle of starting something new.

Advice I liked:

Under the heading Have Patience – a quote from Sir William Osler (a pioneer of modern medicine): The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well. A great reminder not to get caught in the who is looking and what is the next project.  Just focus on what is in front of you.

Professional etiquette:  Listen more than you talk – Obvious, but how often do nerves translate to communication misses such as talking too much.  Remember that when someone talks about themselves it stimulates the brain in the same way as when someone is eating or receives money.  Get others talking about themselves and listen.

Professional etiquette:  Always clean up after yourself. This one makes me smile, because my first job was in a steel mill where nobody every cleaned up after lunch and expected the janitor to do it for them.  Then I worked for a company that had a cultural norm around this, and every place I have been since I still wipe down the counter in the coffee counter when I leave.  I watch for this habit.

Reality check: Traditional HR departments are either gone or spread thin.  Most new people do not really know the function of the HR department, so they will not miss them.  But this statement is true, and even more true for smaller organizations.  The book goes on to give a list of Macro and Micro items that could be used by anyone to do their own onboarding plan.  For example:  Macro item:  What are the key responsibilities of your job? and Micro item:  Who is your supervisor or boss you report to directly, and who do they report to?

So far I like it.  As with all business books I believe they need to be read with a partner or small groups.  This book is written in short sections that fits that model very well, and is a great reference tool because each short chapter equals a skill.

More to come . . . .


It must be the shoes – Yes and No, but mostly No

First it was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, wearing the ruby red shoes.  Then Michael Jordan did a whole ad campaign that immortalized the line It must be the shoes!

Yesterday, I received my own set of special shoes – Chuck Taylor Superman Shoes.  They were a gift from a group of people in the Shifting Gears Program where we spent over 100 hours together on a career transition journey.  I was part of a great team of people that facilitated the journey, but these 21 individuals did the work.  The shoes became a symbol that we needed to remember what strengths and talent are inside of each of us.  I love the shoes.

Performance can be attributed to a lot of things, but in the end it is about confidence and commitment to learn/grow through the peaks and the dips.  It is also about being in community with people, giving to that community, and leveraging the the strength of that community to celebrate the peaks and to climb out of the dips.  For 21 people in the Shifting Gears program, it was about coming together on 13 different days, spending 80+ hours working at a real company on a real business need, spending another 100+ hours networking/rebuilding a resume/mock interviewing and other work to move towards a preferred future.

One individual shared the story – I went back to a familiar place (my old company), but as I entered I could feel that it had stayed the same and I was a different person.

Is it the shoes?  No, it is what is inside of us that we need to see AND to unleash on something that we are passionate about.

But I do love the shoes. 🙂