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Review: What Motivates Me – Put Your Passions to Work by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton

what motivates meThis review first ran in the Nov. 24 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions to Work

By Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

The CultureWorks Press


The results of my motivators assessment won’t surprise anyone who’s had the pleasure of my company.

According to the assessment, I dislike bureaucracy and red tape. I’m not always a faithful follower of processes and procedures.

Routine work leaves me bored. Being told how to do my job leaves me surly. Sticking with the status quo leaves me frustrated.

When given marching orders, I invariably ask why the work’s important and wonder if there’s a better way to get the job done.

I toss out an inexhaustible and sometimes exhausting volley of unconventional ideas from left field.

In my world, reason trumps empathy.

When given the choice, I’ll work on my own rather than join a team.

And I have my moments when I’m overly controlling and suffering from an acute case of know-it-all-ism syndrome.

So what’s the upside to having people like me on the payroll?

Apparently, we can be the “lifeblood of innovation” in an organization.  We’re driven to constantly put new stuff out into the world. Ease up on the rigid rules, give us the time and space to discover and pursue ideas and odds are good that we’ll hit you some homeruns.

If these characteristics sound familiar, then welcome to the tribe called thinkers. We’re one of five workplace identities defined by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, authors of What Motivates Me: Putting Our Passions to Work and founders of a global training and consulting company that builds high-performance work cultures.

Along with thinkers, you’ll find achievers, builders, caregivers and the reward-driven at work.  Each identity has its own cluster of related motivators. For thinkers, our core motivators are autonomy, creativity, excitement, impact, learning and variety. For achievers, their motivators are challenge, excelling, ownership, pressure and problem solving.

The authors worked with a team of psychologists and behavioral scientists who identified 23 workplace motivators by mining a decade worth of workplace surveys completed by more than 850,000 people.

What’s the value in discovering our personal motivators? “When people’s jobs give them the opportunity to do more of the kinds of things that satisfy their key motivations, they are happier and more engaged in their work,” say Gostick and Elton. “Yet in so many instances, people know they aren’t completely content at work, but they just can’t seem to get clarity about what’s really dissatisfying or what would get them more engaged.”

Beware of playing to your strengths while ignoring your motivators. What you’re great at may not be what motivates and engages you. “Our greatest strengths may not align that well with what we’re motivated by. Many people find themselves going into a line of work more because they’re good at the fundamental skills it requires than because they are really drawn to the nature of the work itself.”

There’s also a big payoff for leaders when they better understand what motivates their team beyond mandatory fun days in the office and year-end bonuses. “One of the best and simplest ways for leaders to help their team members be more successful and accomplish more is to have them understand their motivations and do just a little sculpting of the nature of their jobs or tasks to better match duties with passions. This can uncover subtle changes that can lead to big increases in morale, engagement and results.”

That’s good news for anyone who’s dissatisfied, disengaged and stuck in a rut. You don’t have to quit your job, hit the reset button and start over in a new career. “Many of the happiest people we’ve spoken with didn’t find their bliss down a new path; they made course corrections on the path they were already on,” say Gostick and Elton.

The online motivators assessment takes about 20 minutes to complete. You’ll get a spot-on summary of what turns you on and off at work. The book then highlights the working conditions where you’ll thrive, offers strategies for tweaking your job and flags blind spots and potential conflicts that can derail your career.  What Motivates Me is highly recommended for anyone who’s wrestling with two age-old questions – what is it that motivates me and what can I do about it?

20 pieces of advice for public relations students

Twenty words of wisdom for public relations students based on 20 years of working in PR. Some of the advice was told to me. Others were lessons learned.

  1. Writing is a fundamental PR skill. Turning out clean, clear and compelling copy on deadline gets you to the front of the hiring line. Write and read constantly. Go on a steady diet of newspapers, magazines, books and novels.
  1. Start doing informational interviews long before you graduate. Ask for 30 minutes and talk with people who are doing your dream job. Ask for their advice and what they look for in new hires. Never ask for a job or leave a resume. Always send a thank-you card (not a tweet, text or email).
  1. In cover letters, it’s all about what you can do for the employer and not why the employer should hire you. No one owes you a job.
  1. Take the initiative and do your homework before a job interview (a surprising number of job seekers don’t do this). Google the employer and person who’s interviewing you. Ask smart and informed questions during your job interview. Make it more of a conversation than a monologue.
  1. Be friendly and polite with all the admin and executive assistants you meet before your job interviews. Sometimes, they’re asked for their opinion of you.
  1. First impressions count. It doesn’t matter if you’ve sent out 100 resumes and only received 20 rejection letters and four interviews. Smile and be enthusiastic the moment you walk into the room for your interview. Be the absolute best version of yourself. If you’re not excited when auditioning for a job, what will you be six months in when the honeymoon’s over and the routine sets in?
  1. Employers don’t care about your transcripts and grade point averages. They don’t care that you got the highest marks. They care about the projects you worked on for real clients. They care what your professors, the clients you worked for on class projects and past employers have to say about you.
  1. Competition for jobs is fierce. You’re up against college and university grads with the same or similar credentials. You’re also competing with working journalists. So what’s unique about you? What sets you apart from the rest? Tell that story in your interview. Focus more on what you did while you were in school and less on what you learned.
  1. Never speak ill of previous bosses, colleagues and classmates during job interviews. Always stay on the high road.
  1. You are what you tweet. Employers will check you out on social media so clean up your accounts., racist rants and Instagram pics of you getting drunk on a Thursday night will do you no favours.
  1. Your skills and education will get you the interview. Your attitude will get you the job. Your boss is hiring for fit. Can they see themselves working with you for eight hours a day? Will that experience be energizing or exhausting?
  1. Hiring isn’t a whole lot of fun. It’s wading through hundreds of resumes. It’s long hours in a windowless room asking the same questions over and over. And all the while, work is piling up back in the office.  Be the low-risk and drama-free candidate that the employer is hoping will walk into the interview room.
  1. Hiring is a high-stakes proposition. Your boss wants to be known for spotting, hiring and developing great talent.
  1. Your boss isn’t your mom or dad and doesn’t want to be your best friend. Keep it professional at all times.
  1. Pay your dues. Be one of the first to arrive and last to leave at work. Be willing to work nights, weekends and however long it takes to get the job done. Your commitment will be duly noted.
  1. Don’t expect gold stars and constant praise from your boss. Doing an outstanding job to the absolute best of your abilities should be its own reward.
  1. Keep learning and stay curious. Stay up on the latest trends in PR and your industry. Shamelessly steal great ideas. If you’re not writing the annual report and business plan, read it cover to cover. Match your work to your employer’s priorities.
  1. Be good at everything and great at one thing. Play to your greatest strength and do it better than anyone else. Build your reputation around one area of expertise that it’s heavy demand and short supply.
  1. Aim to hit a home run once a year with a  cool career-defining project at work or in the community. Do something that will wow a future boss and impress your kids and grandkids.
  1. Treat everyone with respect. If you’re not getting respect in return, start looking for a new job. Life’s too short and you deserve better.

Review: Eric Dezenhall’s Glass Jaw – A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal

glass jawThis review was first published in the Nov. 10 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Glass Jaw: A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal

By Eric Dezenhall

Hachette Book Group


David doesn’t needs a slingshot to take down Goliath in 2014.

He only needs a Twitter account.

Thanks to social media, David and Goliath have traded places.

“Technology has made us more self-important, empowered and promiscuous in our ability to injure targets,” warns Eric Dezenhall, founder of one of America’s leading crisis management firms and author of Glass Jaw.

“Individuals and organizations that were once thought to be indestructible are, in fact, uniquely fragile in the face of reputational attacks from conventionally weaker adversaries,”

Attacks by social media’s bathrobe brigade can trigger coverage in mainstream media where scandal is Grade A clickbait guaranteed to deliver an audience.  Chasing the story is a new generation of journalists steeped in what Dezenhall calls “the traditions of celebrity-fueled career advancement.”

Prolonging the media coverage are pundits with their  play-by-play analysis on how the crisis is being mismanaged. “All parties involved gain from the perpetuation of hostilities, and consumers of news are not innocent bystanders.”

What we end up with is a reputation-shredding Fiasco Vortex. “The Fiasco Vortex is one part crisis and three parts farce, the farce encircling the crisis and whipping it into an exponentially destructive beast beyond mitigation,” says Dezenhall.

So what’s an individual or organization to do? Dezenhall cautions against public relations firms peddling crisis management cure-alls  that can prolong the pain and even inflict irreparable harm. “I believe the cookie cutter counsel about crisis management is what’s wrong with the whole enterprise. The development of cures begins with getting the diagnosis right rather than promoting superficial salves and palliatives.”

Dezenhall calls foul on eight crisis management clichés.  Getting ahead of the story comes in at number one. Believing that your act of full disclosure “will be greeted with prim appreciation as opposed to being used as a weapon against the principal” is a dangerous and naive assumption. “The next time you hear someone recommend getting ahead of the story, ask them how and play out each scenario associated with that recommendation with respect to human nature and the Fiasco Vortex.”

Dezenhall also questions the perceived wisdom of responding immediately to a crisis, telling your side of the story, educating stakeholders and changing the conversation.  While Twitter may have gotten you into a crisis, don’t bank on it getting you out. “When it comes to crisis management, social media is of marginal value and often a disaster.”

Unfortunately, there’s no proven gameplan for escaping the Fiasco Vortex. “The new crisis management road map is that there is no road map because there is no road, at least not yet. The road is being built, destroyed and rebuilt every minute.”  What worked for one organization may not work for yours. What worked 25 years ago won’t work today thanks to a technology-driven change in the conductivity of controversy. “Crisis management is an improvisational art, not laboratory science. And sometimes the improvisation works; other times it doesn’t.”

From experience, Dezenhall says organizations that stand the best shot at surviving a crisis have a battle-hardened leadership team at the helm who’ve weathered controversy before, are committed to resolving the crisis at hand, possess a clear-eyed view of their organization’s shortcomings  and have a credible counter-narrative. An unfettered budget also helps.”The realistic objective of crisis management is to endure controversy, not escape it.”

Think of a crisis as an iceberg, says Dezenhall. What you see above the waterline are the much-hyped PR and communications tactics of crisis management, the majority of which are of no value whatsoever. “What remains unseen is often more important than what is seen, and the best damage control efforts are often resolved discreetly. Most crises that are successfully resolved are resolved due to business and operational considerations.”  Smart organizations keep these considerations quiet. You won’t find their tactics laid out in case studies and showcased at conferences.

This isn’t your book if you’re looking for how to manage a crisis in 10 easy steps or need reassurance that a crisis is an opportunity.  But if you want to survive your darkest days and emerge with your battered reputation still intact, Dezenhall’s brutally honest facts of life memoir is required reading.