Monthly Archives: February 2018

Connecting the Dots

Marriage as we know it used to be viewed as a business relationship. Arranged by the families of a young couple, such partnerships were formed for the value they could bring to all parties. Some benefits included financial stability, securing class status, and prestige. The concept of love relationships is relatively new, even in the Western World, where arranged marriages were a part of mainstream culture well into the 19th century.

Why discuss arranged marriage in a career forum? Because today, the concept of working for love – or landing one’s dream job – is perhaps as controversial — and misunderstood — as was marrying for love in the 20th century.

Those of us who married for love probably shared certain romantic notions as we searched for our life partner. We looked for someone smart, attractive, with similar values and shared interests. According to a recent poll on iVillage.com, 98% of respondents thought it was important to marry your soul mate. The term soul mate can lead to unreasonable expectations, as does “dream job”, its closest parallel in the world of work.

Merriam-Webster defines a soul mate as “a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament.” More romantic notions of twin souls hold that two people were destined, before birth, or many lifetimes ago, as each other’s true match. By finding and partnering with your soul mate, presumably, you would live happily ever after.

Dream jobs are the working world’s equivalent to marrying for love. The idea of working for love, perhaps unheard of in the mainstream during the industrial revolution, is a romanticized notion many modern professionals share. Yet the number of people who actually love their jobs is disappointingly low. A 2008 Gallup Poll found that less than half of U.S. workers, or 48%, were “completely satisfied” with their work. To top it off, that figure marked an 8-year high, and may have been positively influenced by the recession, during which many people are just grateful to have a job.

To demonstrate the perils of romanticizing a dream job, let’s return to the dictionary definition of soul mates, which prescribes a perfect match in temperament. First, it’s difficult to imagine what that would even look like, for how can one temperament be exactly like another? But more importantly, the absence of struggle is implied in this definition. How, if we don’t struggle, are we supposed to grow?

The old testament offers a useful definition of a marriage partnership as an “opposing helpmate.” This, to me, is an honest view of a soul mate relationship, in which one’s partner spurs the other to grow and evolve. Often this growth is accomplished through opposition, not necessarily through resistance, but through modeling a more evolved behavior. If there is no one to show us how we need to evolve, we are often unable – or unwilling – to recognize those needs in ourselves.

And so it is with a dream job. While we may believe that our ideal job will meet all of our needs, it won’t always translate to a harmonious experience.

The content of a dream job – by its very nature – must be well-suited to a professional’s talents and interests. However, the ways in which it makes us grow may initially seem like drawbacks.

A challenging boss, for example, teaches us the need to manage up. A lack of recognition or promotion may teach us the art of self-advocacy. A lack of social support or mentorship may spur us to build our networking skills.

The bottom line? Dream jobs and soul mates have much to offer us, and it is deeply fulfilling to feel passionately about one’s spouse as well as one’s job. But dream relationships are not defined by a lack of conflict. On the contrary, inherent in conflict are often our greatest opportunities for growth.

Attraction in Loving Relationships

Law of Attraction and Love and Family. Whilst there are three areas in life that are important to people – health, wealth and love – it is usually the latter two that they are most focused on – trying to earn more money or finding the love of their life or increasing the love and prosperity for their loved ones. When it comes to love and family, how does the law of attraction fit in – can it help to create a loving relationship and even mend broken ones?

Of course it can! Everyone is sending out energy, emotional vibrations, at an unconscious level. And since like energies attract more of the same, if you begin to send out positive energy they will respond in the same way. After an argument, it doesn’t matter who is the first to say sorry and begin doing good things for the other (sending out positive energy) for the other to soon have no choice but to do the same – they have no choice – they will not be able to help themselves.

If we look at the family situation we’ll find that there are already bonds in play that can help to make the relationship better than ever before. We all know that it is not uncommon for families who share the same space to compete over the bathroom, for example, or for siblings to argue about computer games, TV – the usual domestics!

But, the bottom line is that there is usually an element of love in the family, even at the root of what seem impossible relationship problems. Where do you start? I’ve just said that there is always an element of love in the family, right? Then that is where you begin. For some, however, the disharmony may have been going on for some time and so the subconscious is sending out all the wrong emotional responses (because over time it’s been conditioned to act that way). Ok, you’re going to fix this problem and mend the relationship – but first, you have to be absolutely convinced that you want to do this, because the first person you have to start with, is YOU! You have to convince your own subconscious first, before you have a chance with anyone else.

Lip service is not enough – you really have to WANT things to change, right to the very emotional foundation of your being. You have to be 100% committed to change. First thing to do is to forget all the bad stuff – stop focusing on what they did that drove you up the wall, round the bend – however you want to put it – stop focusing on it right now. Why? The law of attraction! If you still harbor thoughts about the things they did to irritate you, what are you focusing on? Being irritated! Guess what? You are sending out a signal to your subconscious genie that reads “irritation” – the genie responds with “your wish is my command” and hey presto, you get more irritation!

LET GO! Let go of all the things that irritated you. You have to change the frequency of your emotional vibrations that your subconscious is sending out to the universe. You have to switch from negative to positive – it’s as simple as that. Simply let go of all the focus on their faults – their habits that irritated you to such a degree that things got to where they are now. Focus on what they do (or used to do) that made you feel happy. Go look at some happy photos – even check out your wedding pictures (as long as they are happy ones!) Focus on the happy times you shared. Do you remember the things you used to do for them that made THEM happy? Go do them all over again. When you see them, think of the happy times you have spent with them – use your own reservoir of happy memories to change the signal your subconscious has been sending out. In no time, if you put yourself 100% into this, you will find yourself in a much happier relationship than you could have dreamed of.

Ok, let’s take a look at trying to attract the love of your life INTO your life. The principle is much the same, only you haven’t met them yet (or maybe you have but haven’t noticed them). And remember, they are also looking for you! The important thing here is to be very specific when you give your subconscious genie your wish. What exactly are you looking for in a relationship?

As I have said, they are also looking for you, so in these terms, forget about political or social status for a moment – this is the love of your life, right? If you start putting limits and restricting choice, you are not really sending out the right signal! Be OPEN! Or you may miss the most wonderful relationship you could ever have dreamed of. Think of values and the type of relationship you want. Think of their personality and how they treat others – yes, think about their likes and dislikes – think about everything that you want in your future dream relationship. Then believe 100% that you are going to find this person.

If you find this difficult, just remind yourself that every day, millions of men and women around the world are creating a new life with the person of their dreams. You are no different from them – you have a right to be happy too. It happens every day. You can affirm this to yourself, each day, if it helps. Now comes the hard bit. You have to be patient. Your genie certainly does grant your wish, but, not always in the timescale that you are thinking in. Believe that it will happen, and it will. Just be patient and give it time.

Ok… you’re not so patient. What happens? You date the next person that comes along, just to “fill in time” and hey, guess what, your life gets full of distractions that you would not even recognize the person of your dreams if they walked in the room. You are sending out all the wrong vibrations. Your focus is on your new date and not the love of your life. Remember, he or she is also looking for you! You are both looking for each other on a subconscious level – but yours is now sending out the wrong vibrations. You were so busy keeping yourself occupied with your new date, that you missed out on the opportunity to meet your dream lover, and they walked away without even a hello or goodbye because you didn’t know they were there.

Client-Vendor Relationship

Changing How We Regard Vendors

If you are like the typical client who looks at vendor services as a basic commodity-for-cash transaction, you probably have difficulties with many of your internal and external vendors.

“After all,” you probably think, “vendors of this product or service are a dime a dozen! I am in the driver’s seat. He/she has to make me happy or I’ll look somewhere else!”

Would you take that same idea that a “vendor is just a basic commodity-for-cash so I do not have to worry about how I treat him/her” viewpoint with…

• Your doctor?

• Your mechanic?

• Your lawyer?

• Your accountant?

Most people would say something like, “No! They take care of my personal life and would be too hard to replace!”

However, ask yourself if their services-for-money relationships with you are truly different from a vendor at work or have you just never thought of them the same way?

If there were a way that you could feel the same about a workplace vendor that you feel about your personal physician, mechanic, lawyer, or accountant, could that possibly

1. Improve the way you deal with the vendor and,

2. Possibly improve the service that you get from them?

This is the viewpoint we take with this article: you can improve your vendor’s service if you will consider improving the way you view them.

What Vendors Want

Do you think this statement, “When your employees get what they want, you’ll get what you want” could be applied to a vendor as well as employees? Why?

A response from vendors who say they want:

  • Respect – The vendors’ senior executives want access to their customer counterparts. “If the CIO doesn’t want to meet with me, then that’s an indication of the value that I’m bringing to the relationship.”
  • Consistency – Vendors know that some of them are treated as commodities and others as partners and they understand that. However, what they do not want is to be treated one-way one day and the other way the next. That inconsistency causes many problems.
  • Guilt-free profit – Vendors need to make a profit, too, if they are to stay in business and support their clients. If deals are only structured to benefit the customer, then do not expect the vendor to invest their best resources in the account.

Complaints about Vendors

Typical complaints from clients about vendors:

1. They are always selling, never solving

2. It’s always about them, never about us

3. They bombard us with much-too-complicated billing and labor intensive account-relationship trivia

4. Once the contract is signed, the relationship changes dramatically

5. The highly-qualified consultants that helped close the deal are suddenly unavailable

6. The vendor blames you or your staff for the failure to show progress

7. The vendor bills plenty of hours but actual progress doesn’t occur

The good news is there is a way to improve the relationship!

Starting with the Outcome

“You’ve gotta have a dream

If you don’t have a dream,

How you gonna have a dream come true?”

-Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific

Before you start looking for a vendor for your next outsourcing project, take some time to visualize what you want the relationship with that vendor to look like, act like, feel like, and sound like.

As strange as it may seem, those Rogers and Hammerstein lyrics from South Pacific can apply to the business world when considering a relationship with a vendor: if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?

We begin by thinking about a “dream” relationship with a vendor. Collect your project team (or the key people who will have a say in the vendor selection and managing the relationship) and brainstorm these questions. (Remember that in brainstorming there are no value judgments made about responses. Just collect the ideas and evaluate them later.)

1. What kind of SOLUTIONS (not deliverables) do you desire regarding these issues? (Hint – a successful relationship with a vendor, a friend, or a spouse involves much more than just the product.)

a. Billing statement format and accountability

b. Missing deadlines (such as product delivery [vendor] or payment [client])

c. Resolving issues not specifically addressed in the contract

d. Scope changes made that were not properly authorized first

e. Oral, verbal, and written communications between vendor and client

f. Replacement of project team members if requested by “other side” (If the vendor’s representative had problems getting along with their client counterpart, how would this be resolved?)

g. Educating each side about the other’s values, concerns, and aspirations

2. What kind of different tasks are you and they involved in if you had a dream relationship with them? (Such as sharing employee development opportunities and costs!)

3. What kind of reporting would you want from them and what would you be willing to give to them?

4. Review your thoughts on typical vendor relationships. How much would you be willing to rethink the way your organization deals with vendors so that your comments were balanced between the client and vendor instead of tipped to favor the client?

5. How can you handle scope changes so they do not become a source of contention in the relationship?

6. Are the desired products or services from the vendor tactical or strategic? Which is best for your situation? (Are you more concerned with what they can do -strategic- or how they will do it – tactical?)

7. What behavioral traits would you want in the ideal vendor representative? What kind do you think they want from the client’s representative?

8. Southwest Airlines (the only profitable major airline in the US) uses this to guide their hiring – “Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill.”

Why would that be a smart approach to hiring in a service-related industry?

(A customer-focused attitude is essential in a service industry like the airlines. People are born with that attitude, it cannot be taught as technical skills can. Southwest admits that while it can teach technical skills such as ticketing, cabin service, or baggage handling, it cannot teach people to be caring and concerned about their customers.)

How could that same philosophy be useful in selecting a vendor?

(Time spent searching for a vendor AND THEIR REPRESENTATIVE who is genuinely focused on providing customer service before haggling over deliverables will provide a stronger, longer relationship. CAUTION – the client must be equally dedicated to the success of the vendor or this becomes too one-sided and will deteriorate.)

Developing the Foundation for a Relationship

Let us take a moment to summarize where we are:

1. We suggest that a vendor is actually no different from an employee of our organization (employees and vendors are paid to perform specific tasks.)

2. The employee/vendor – not the employer/client – determines where they work within the performance gap

3. There are some specific techniques that can be used to motivate employees

4. We can choose to view vendors like we do professionals in our personal lives

5. Vendor wants and needs, from a business perspective, are not really much different from ours

6. We can describe what we would expect in a “dream” relationship with a vendor

7. We can use that description (# 6 above) as the foundation of our strategy if we are willing to take an unorthodox approach to dealing with vendors.

RFIs, RFPs and Teambuilding

This article presents broad guidelines for a new approach to creating a successful relationship with vendors. It is not intended to be a procedural guide for developing RFIs, RFPs, or contracts because there is plenty of information about those topics already in the marketplace.

We believe in the premise that if you help people clearly understand the “why” of something, they can figure out the “how” that is best for them.

The Request for Information (RFI)

We believe the foundation for a successful relationship with a vendor begins with the Request for Information (RFI), which includes the strategy we describe in this article.

The RFI is used traditionally when a potential buyer needs to determine what is available from suppliers who may respond to it. Additionally, buyers can use this to determine whether their expectations are realistic and if solutions exist in the market place.

Finally, it also gives potentially interested vendors a chance to influence the Request for Proposal (RFP) that follows by pointing out potential problems or unrealistic expectations (as written) that may prevent anyone from bidding later.

Vendors responding to the RFI are probably following the old supplier adage, “If you don’t help write the RFI, don’t bother with the RFP!”

The Request for Proposal (RFP)

A RFP can be many things to many people. An IT client seeking a software solution may structure it differently than a government agency looking for a food service provider. Regardless of the nature of the writer’s industry, the common elements of a typical RFP include:

1. Allowing a buyer to notify the market of its desire to obtain new technology or services, lay the foundation for the project that will deliver the technology or services, and manage the project itself

2. Forcing suppliers to create competitive solutions for the buyer’s problems

3. Providing a common base of requirements for all bidders thus reducing the potential for claims of unfair competition from losing bidders

4. Making it easier for the buyer to understand the differences between bidders

Team Building with a Vendor

Our unorthodox approach to developing a successful relationship with a vendor is very much like designing a team building activity. (When you think about it, a client-vendor relationship IS ALL ABOUT TEAM BUILDING!)

When a team building facilitator is asked to develop some activities to encourage groups to work together better, some of the first questions asked are, “What will success look like? What are your interests and concerns? How will you know that I’ve earned my fee?”

Questions like that force the potential client to think in terms of interests, needs and services – the strategic “what” – rather than specific methods of delivery – the tactical.

Think about this… When visiting your dentist for relief of a toothache, are you more concerned about relieving the pain or how it is done and at what cost?

We become less concerned with price when more of our needs and interests are being met.

“If that’s true, then why do so many RFPs focus on deliverables?” you ask.

The reasons are simple yet difficult to overcome:

  • The client knows his/her needs better than the vendor and then makes the natural leap to specifying what he/she thinks is the solution for that need.
  • There is a natural distrust of “outsiders” and we do not want to give them any more latitude than necessary for fear of paying too much or being at their mercy.
  • It is how we have always done business with vendors.

Now let us go back and look at those same reasons from a different perspective.

  • The client knows his/her needs better than the vendor…We agree and do not argue with this part!

“…and makes the natural leap to specifying what he/she thinks is the solution for that need.”

Here is where we disagree! If the client had a toothache, would he tell the dentist how to provide relief? Of course not!

Likewise, if we consider potential vendors to be experts in their fields instead of just commodities-for-cash, then we must allow them to suggest a remedy for our organizational pains. (It is still our choice whether to accept that advice!)

We cannot expect them to provide expert advice and help for us while treating them like a necessary evil that we must endure while getting our problem solved.

(Would you treat your dentist that way?)

  • There is a natural distrust of “outsiders” and we do not want to give them any more latitude than necessary for fear of paying too much or being at their mercy.

Here, again, we disagree with the traditional approach to dealing with vendors. Think about buying a car. For many people, this is an activity to be avoided at all costs because we are afraid of paying too much and being at the mercy of the salespersons.

However, suppose we prepared ourselves better for the car-buying experience by doing some homework first before we stepped on the car lot.

We can take time ahead to:

1. Define our interests and needs so we can say “No” when a salesperson tries to lead us down a path that is not best for us.

2. Determine what “success” looks like in terms of down payment, monthly payments, interest rates, and options instead of allowing the salesperson to push us.

3. Learn more about dealer costs via some ‘Net surfing to give us more options for striking a satisfactory deal.

4. Learn how many different manufacturers and models would provide the “transportation solution” we are looking for so we do not feel trapped by any one dealer.

We gain confidence and power with knowledge of our needs and options. Suddenly, the sales representative is not so intimidating any more!

Why should we not take that same approach with a potential vendor?

“However, are you saying that we should NOT focus on deliverables, terms, conditions, and cost but only on our interests?”

Of article not! But if you focus MORE on defining “the dream”, sharing that definition with your vendor, and getting your dream satisfied and less on deliverables, you have a greater chance of a satisfying relationship with your vendor.

The more satisfying your relationship becomes, the stronger your links to each other’s success and the greater the chance to avoid expensive disputes.

Think about this… can marriages with pre-nuptial agreements (sometime called divorce planning) have as much hope of success as relationships who focus on making it work?

It seems that when participants in a relationship focus more on the terms and conditions of it than on its ultimate success, they practically invite disaster!

How Do I Save My Relationship

If this article has caught your attention, then your relationship is probably going through a rough patch but you care so much about it and want to save it. The hardest part has been covered, because you have accepted that the relationship is on the rocks and you are now looking to reunite and make it better. Below are some pointers that will help in answering your question “how do I save my relationship?”

Channels of communication – One of the biggest problems in any relationship is a breakdown in communication. You will need to reopen your channels of communication to make sure that the both of you properly understand what the other wants and needs. Different couples have different ways of expressing themselves to each other. Find out which one works best for you and work on fixing your relationship.

Routines – There are some things that you will always have to do together. For example, you can make it a routine to take a peaceful walk every other evening. You should, however, not make your day-to-day life such a routine that one of you wants out of the relationship because it is getting boring. Try to do spontaneous things from time to time to keep the relationship exciting. These spontaneous things do not have to be anything really drastic or major; just small gestures that bring in a whiff of fresh air to the relationship will do.

The Secret to Relationships

“Why are relationships so hard?”  “Why do they take so much work?”  “Why aren’t your relationships working as well as you’d like them to?”

The quick answer is that relationships are hard because they are, take so much work because they do and don’t work as well as you’d like them to because they don’t.

Behind this glib response is the statement that we all carry with us a belief about relationships that is sometimes subconscious and often unexamined. It is the belief that life is supposed to be different from what it is. Then, when our fantasy clashes with our reality, we think there’s something wrong with us, with the other person and with the relationship.

Have you seen the movie, “Romancing the Stone” with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner? The movie opens with a scene out of the old west where a woman in peril is rescued from outlaws by a handsome cowboy who sweeps the woman into his arms, lifts her onto his horse and rides off with her into the sunset. It is a perfect depiction of a perfect dream relationship.

Unfortunately, it is a dream. After a short fade out, we see that the whole thing has come out of the imagination of Kathleen Turner who is a writer creating the scene in her mind for a book she’s working on. When the real cowboy, played by Michael Douglas, actually materializes, the reality of who he is clashes with the fantasy of what Kathleen would like him to be.

Within this one scene in a movie lies the story of all relationships. At some point in every relationship, the reality of who someone actually is will clash with our fantasy of who we would like him or her to be. This happens in every relationship, personally or professionally.

The person we thought was perfect, isn’t. The job we thought would be perfect, isn’t.

What we may fail to see is that there’s nothing actually wrong. This is exactly what is supposed to happen.

Starting a relationship is very much like a job interview. Both of you are on your best behavior. Small disagreements that might erupt into something larger are glossed over and laughed about. You both want to be “hired” by the other person.

Being in a relationship occurs after you have “hired” one another. You can’t maintain that sunny disposition and “everything is perfect demeanor” all the time. Disagreements will inevitably emerge. Some can be glossed over and laughed about. Others will require conversation and a willingness to give up the need to be right.

The future of the relationship will depend on the choice you make at that moment. And it is a choice. No person will be perfect. No job will be perfect. The grass isn’t actually greener on the other side. It is just green.

If you’re going to be in a long term relationship, you’re going to have to make the choice to do so because the relationship will at times, be hard, take a lot of work and won’t always work as well as you’d like it to.