Five Career Lessons That Are Commonly Overlooked

There’s no way around it; the truth is, we learn through our past experiences, including our mistakes. This is especially true in the workplace, where very few individuals gain higher ranking positions within their companies without having made a few missteps along the way.

However, from each mistake we make, we have the opportunity to learn something valuable. Unfortunately, we often forget to notice some of the lessons to be gained, not only from our failures, but also through some of the common external obstacles and complications we encounter along the paths of our careers.

Success on Road Sign

With this in mind, it’s wise to refresh our memories in reference to some of the more commonly disregarded, or overlooked, lessons that will actually aid us throughout the remainder of our professional lives.

1. Mistakes are inevitable.

Although we’d rather not admit it, we never stop making mistakes in life; and the same holds true for our careers. Regardless of whether you are just starting out or if you’re the CEO of a company, the time will come when you are involved in even the most minor inaccuracy or slip-up. However, take note that this certainly does not mean you are destined for an ongoing pattern of failure. It just means that you are human, and try as we might to avoid, mistakes are an inevitable fact of life. As the legendary Henry Ford famously stated, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”.

2. Success is not an overnight journey.

No matter how successful you are or how hard you try, for the majority of us, achieving ultimate success is most definitely not an instantaneous achievement. It takes a great deal of time, effort, and dedication to reach your goals; and even when we do, there is always room for further growth. Unfortunately, so many of us overlook this fact, even becoming despondent and discouraged if we do not reach our objectives within a predetermined time-frame. Remember, anything worthwhile takes time, hard work, as well as a pure dedication toward your goal. According to Mylan CEO, Heather Bresch, “There is simply no substitute for hard work when it comes to achieving success”.

3. Managers are not mind readers.

The worst thing for aspiring professional leaders to do is to sit idly and wait for something great to happen. For instance, if you feel you deserve a raise or promotion, you may have to ask for it when the time is right. However, when you do, be prepared to explain why you feel you deserve it. Demanding extra compensation simply because you’ve been with the company for a year, for example, is never a good idea.  Rather, explain what you’ve done to make improvements to your department or the company as a whole (if you can provide samples of your work, even better), highlight your commitment, accomplishments, and anything else that will spotlight your professional growth and worth to the company.

4. Continued education is always an option.

Even if you’ve obtained the position you’ve always wanted, you should still continue to educate yourself. With technology growing at such a rapid pace, it seems there is always something new to learn. It is important, not only for the company, but also for your own professional growth, to keep current on new and improved technology, business practices, as well as remaining in the know on your own company’s newest operations and chief competitors. Educationally speaking, if returning to school and earning a brand new degree is not a realistic option for you, there are many online certifications, tutorials, and seminars that will enrich your existing knowledge, and simultaneously show your superiors how serious you are about becoming — and remaining — a valuable member of the organization.

5. Balance your professional and personal life.

Have you ever heard the phrase “keep your work at work and your personal life at home”? Yet, if you’ve been a member of the workforce long enough, then you know this isn’t always entirely possible. During our workweek, we spend the majority of our waking hours at our jobs, and keeping the two mutually exclusive is not always completely achievable. After a particularly stressful day or week, many find it difficult to decompress and truly enjoy their time with family and friends, outside of the workplace. The same holds true when the concerns and issues of our personal lives become entwined with our professional lives, making it difficult to fully concentrate at work. This SC&C Work/Life Balance Quiz can offer a first step for employees to assess their current equilibrium, and make any necessary changes, going forward.

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In Closing

As our lives and careers continue to progress, it is important to keep these important lessons in mind. Sometimes it’s the smallest, or even most obvious, lessons that are frequently neglected. Nevertheless, their value holds true — not just during a temporary professional crisis — but well throughout our lives.

Further Reading:  Valuable Career Advice From Influential Executives


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Helpful Tips For Composing a Difficult Email

While no one ever wants to be the bearer of bad news, there are times when we must compose a difficult or even “harsh” email. Whether it be sharing honest feedback, a differing opinion, or informing a colleague of a mistake; these instances which may not quite warrant a phone call or personal meeting, are still worthy of a properly written message.

male hands working with laptop computer

Often, however, even the most harmless words can be misinterpreted in written form, so naturally those conveying criticism of any kind have the potential to create more unnecessary tension between you and the recipient.

Preventing fallout is the goal when sending a hard email, yet fortunately, Sara McCord, professional advisor, writer, and career contributor, has offered some valuable guidelines for composing those difficult emails.

Line one: Start with a friendly opener.

McCord states, “When you’re writing the opening line (after the salutation that is), it can be helpful to imagine it’s a conversation. If someone walked up to you and dove right into their point, you’d be put off.” Often it’s something as simple and obvious as “Hope you enjoyed your weekend” or “How are you today?” that can get the message off to a good start.

Line two: Thank your recipient.

When appropriate, recognize your reader’s efforts. In short, always acknowledge the positive before the negative. Thanking your recipient for their efforts, time, work or thoughts on the issue at hand, can help to soften the impact of the rest of your message.

Line three: Show that you understand your reader’s perspective.

Of course, you don’t want to waste too much time before getting to the main idea, but pointing out a possible strength within the recipient’s work, standpoint, or input, will help them keep an open mind to the actual point you are trying to make. As an example, McCord suggests, “…you might tell a direct report that you can see how the strategy they implemented would help the team operate better [or] you might tell a colleague they did a great job addressing the client’s main concern”. However, what is important here is to keep your comments honest and sincere, as most people notice when they’re being “softened up” for something negative. Also, be sure to keep the praise related to the issue at hand, and don’t overdo it to the point where your main message becomes muddled in the process.

Main body of email: Provide structured explanation.  

While you may feel that your recipient does not particularly care to read the details of why you are heading in a different direction, in actuality, it shows your reader that you have enough respect for their input and intelligence when you do provide ample explanation. Nevertheless, you do want to avoid over-elaborating on the problem, so try to keep your sentences as clear and concise as possible. McCord suggests the examples, “We decided to go a different direction because we needed a strategy that prioritized cost-effectiveness, due to budget constraints”; or perhaps, “… I’d love to see [these] changes carried through other aspects of the presentation because we’d like them to be consistent”. If you are offering multiple changes, McCord advises the use of bullet points to clearly delineate your ideas. However, the key is to include the reasons for your change in each sentence. In this case, budget constraints and/or consistency throughout a presentation are the desired results.

Concluding line:  Offer your assistance.

McCord advises that, as the writer, you should “[always] end by asking if you could clarify anything or answer any questions”. While it’s commonplace to remind the reader to contact you with any questions, there is an important purpose for including those words. Ending your email simply with your critique provides a very one-sided approach to the subject. Offering your help, not only shows your concern with the reader’s response, but also upholds a collaborative spirit wherein you convey the message that you plan to solve the issue together.

Of course, the sign-off consisting of a simple “thank you”, “best”, or “sincerely”, is all you need for a closing.

Subject Line: Choose words carefully

While the subject line is reliant upon the content of the email, you should still keep the tone non-confrontational and constructive. Some even suggest that for emails of this type, avoiding words like “urgent” is a good idea. Also, be sure not to offer too much information directly from the body of the message in the subject line.

Email Envelope On Mobile Showing One Message Received

Integrating these tips the next time you must compose a difficult or potentially negative email may just make the experience less uncomfortable for both you and your recipient.

Further reading:  The Importance of Skilled Business Writing


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

What Should Employees Never Discuss at Work?

There is a marked difference between tiptoeing around an office of eggshells and being blatantly, even obnoxiously, offensive. In most cases, that line is pretty wide and not terribly difficult to manage. Granted, there are certain areas where words get muddled or a misunderstanding occurs, however, generalities aside, there are pretty clear markers on what is, and what is not, acceptable workplace conversation.

Even for those with the best of intentions and quality social skills, there looms a danger that occasionally just happens: the dreaded miscommunication. While most often not anyone’s actual fault, the best strategy for managing this is one of containment: Disengage, do damage control, and be liberal with apologies as called for within the particular situation. Certain individuals, especially within a professional setting, can seem prone to not only take offense, but doggedly hold on to it. The best advice is to make your position of an honest mistake clear; things may be slightly awkward for a time, but it beats an open ticket with HR any day.

Two smart businesswomen discussing ideas at the table in the office

Having covered a few generalities, we’ll now go on to compile a more specific list of common, and easily recognizable, subjects to handily avoid in the workplace.

The List

Let’s discuss a few of the following items, taking a moment to go into a little bit of exposition even though many may seem ubiquitously obvious.

  • ANY Political or Religious Topic: This one is right on the edge of such common knowledge that they hardly bear mentioning. We do so, however, to say this: Political issues aren’t limited to actual politics. It can easily encompass any degree of social or economic issues, even the most seemingly innocuous.
  • Money: Discussing your individual financial arrangement with the company, be it right-to-work or contracted, is generally considered extremely taboo, justified by an attempt to circumvent conflict within the ranks.
  • The Compulsive Contrarian: Many offices have that one individual who, despite the topic or subject, simply can’t speak positively about virtually anything. Do yourself (and the company) a favor and don’t be one of these people. Moreover, do your best to avoid engaging in conversations with these types individuals as well.

Now that we’ve covered the primary trifecta, here is a short-fire list for further consideration:

  • Personal life “drama”
  • Relationship details and sexuality
  • Personal orientations
  • Gossiping about the boss and/or other coworkers

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Covering the Bases

The plain fact is that poorly considered conversations have the potential to genuinely harm your career. Regardless of the legitimacy (or even maturity) of the resulting fallout reactions, you really have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. Is the risk worth the expression? Most often, the answer will be a resounding “no”.

Conversely, the end result of this culture of personal and professional preservation may potentially result in something of a lifeless-feeling workplace, with you and your coworkers hesitant to genuinely open up and make any real connections. How to balance this equation is a task that’s going to be relative to you, specifically, and your particular environment. In the end, only the individual can really assess the ins and outs of their own professional culture, determining what is and what is not acceptable.

Our advice is to proceed with caution. A single unintended misstep can have repercussions that can last a lifetime.

Further reading:  Tips For Being a Great Coworker


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Proactive Ways to Deal With Challenging Colleagues

An important part of life is learning to adapt to some of the more difficult tendencies and idiosyncrasies of others. While in our personal life, we have the freedom to surround ourselves with individuals with whom we find ourselves most compatible; it is the workplace where we find we must continuously exercise our skill to adjust and accommodate.

Businessman listening to a colleague

Sometimes the challenge may be an opposing work-style or simply a communication problem.  Luckily, most of these situations can be rectified, if you learn to recognize it early enough.  It’s also crucial that we remain aware of our own quirks and foibles as well, without automatically assuming the fault lies only with others.

Related:  Tips for Being a Great Coworker

However, there are times where an issue involving a coworker grows troubling and persistent enough that it deserves active attention.  Here, we will explore some of the obstacles that team members may encounter among one other, as well as the most practical ways of handling the resulting circumstances.

Demanding Colleagues – If you are a conscientious employee, you are certainly willing to lend a hand to a colleague in need from time to time.  Yet, if you find yourself assisting this same colleague to the point where you are running short on time for your own projects – or if your coworker is consequently receiving kudos for assignments that you essentially completed for them – this is the time to set clear limits.  The simple resolution is to explain that you are behind in your own responsibilities the next time this coworker requests your assistance, and nicely propose that they touch base with another team member for help. By employing this approach, you are not only reminding your coworker of the importance of your own job (of which they likely lost sight), but also offering them a broad, yet viable alternative.

Confrontational Colleagues – If responsible debates continually escalate to personal attacks, you may be dealing with a confrontational coworker.  Rather than aiming to solve the issue at hand, these employees are more focused on proving you wrong.  Deliberations that turn personal are simply not tolerated in the workplace.  Rather than altogether ceasing from sharing your ideas, attempt to redirect the discussion solely to the topic at hand, and away from the ego.  This can be achieved by avoiding phrases such as “You are wrong,” or “You are misinformed on this topic”.  If this approach is unsuccessful, trying speaking in private with the coworker to evaluate how you may resolve your differences going forward.  However, if this coworker has upper management connections, it may be best to keep your distance, rather than risk a dispute that may affect opportunities for advancement down the road.  In instances where all tactics have failed, incorporate HR or a direct supervisor to help you handle the situation.

Competitive Colleagues – While the majority of our work associates may be supportive of our achievements, we sometimes encounter a coworker whose sense of competition and drive for success overshadows all else.  While a healthy sense of ambition is laudable, competitive colleagues can sometimes border on hostile toward other successful coworkers.  It’s best to reduce your number of interactions with these types of colleagues, if at all possible.  If you must work closely with a competitive coworker, keep conversations light, maintaining focus on the task at hand, rather than issues that may trigger negative emotions.  Also, portraying your own encouragement of your coworker’s achievements may prompt a more amiable response.  If no other methods succeed, and you feel your productivity is being hindered, speak to HR or your direct supervisor.

Dominating Colleagues — Although a company leader or superior does have influence over your job, a dominating colleague or coworker only perceives to have this influence.  Workers who aim to dominate or oppress their coworkers must be dealt with from the beginning.  The key is to remind this type colleague that you are both within the same professional ranking, and deserving of the same level of respect.  If a dominating colleague attempts to use intimidation tactics, don’t lose your cool, but instead protect yourself by peacefully reminding them that you do not agree with their actions.  If it is not possible for you to create enough physical space between yourself and this colleague, try imagining your own personal barricade to mentally guard against intimidation.  Keeping a running log of your communications with this coworker will also prove beneficial should you need to present the issue to a supervisor or HR.

Implementing Strategies

While these are some of the most common concerns that often arise among colleagues in the workplace, there are, unfortunately, a wide and varied range of intolerances that employees must learn to counterbalance.  Often, those who are ill-treating you may not necessarily realize the gravity of their actions; and those who are aware, may not actually expect you to speak up or seek supportive resources. In fact, there may be circumstances where it’s best to not respond and reflect on what is actually happening.  Is the problem endemic to the office or is it focused specifically on you?  Are there others who may be victims as well?  These are some of the factors which will change your response options.

Nevertheless, plotting and arranging an effective defense strategy – whether through pre-composed statements or by incorporating the assistance of your company’s leaders and human resource department – will assist you in your efforts to diffuse any persistently negative situations.

Businesswoman in a meeting with a colleague

The Takeaway

The key to solving problems is being able to see both sides of the issue, approaching it in a professional manner, and being civil.  There will always be injustices and you’ll not always get the credit you are due.  Ultimately, however, if you make it a policy to always over-deliver, to put the team first, and help others be great, you’ll have the respect of your peers and a success you deserve.


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Have You Chosen the Wrong Job? How to Recover and get Back on Track

Do you go to work simply because that’s the expectation both from yourself and from your employer?  Are you perplexed at the thought that there are those who enjoy going to work each day?  While it’s true that only a small percentage of people truly love their jobs, and would happily do it even without any pay, about 30 percent of us manage to garner some satisfaction from our daily work.

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It’s Easier to Hate than Love

While it has been said that 70 percent of all people “hate” their jobs, this can be somewhat misleading.  More believable, is the statistic that approximately 20 percent of the workforce is actively disengaged from their job, and the remaining 50 percent are just muddling through, feeling unappreciated, unrewarded, and undervalued.

In a sense, “hating your job” alleviates a certain amount of pressure; it deceptively “relieves” you of the responsibility of having to perform at peak levels; you no longer feel as if you have to put forth a stellar effort because no one will care or notice.  Unfortunately, disengaged employees often feel as though they can “drop off the radar” and let someone with a higher profile handle the criticism for underperformance.

Why would you do that?

In the “olden days” we arose, worked our fields, possibly stopped at midday for a crust of bread and some water, and continued until dusk.  We returned to our rude huts, ate our one meal of the day, and went to bed.  The next day consisted of the same drill, and so on.  We survived/existed, and that was all.

Then, the Industrial Revolution came along.  Jobs became more productive; goods became more available and diverse; and, finally, we developed “leisure time”.  Some people became specialists; they became artisans such as blacksmiths, leather workers, and candle makers, and their value to society increased.

Workers began to see what it was like to experience success within their chosen line of work; they had increased expectations and took on apprentices, and their learners had increased expectations, too.  Expansion and success created the business/shopkeeper class, but largely, most people persisted in “survival mode” for many centuries.

Cometh the Dawn

People have always had ambition toward their jobs, hoping to improve their lot and sometimes expending extraordinary effort to accomplish just that.  Yet, up until the last two decades, it was never the responsibility of the employer to generate job satisfaction for the employees.

In fact, the truth is, it technically still isn’t.  In order to hang onto significant talent some companies are making an effort (for some employees) to make their job rewarding.  In so doing, they manage to retain them with the company for as long as possible.  That’s simply good business.  People who have made an investment in themselves, to cultivate talents which make them valuable, should be valued and protected.

Even throughout the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, the majority of workers weren’t viewed distinctly enough to warrant special attention.  There were plenty of others that could replace them.

Nowadays, specialized skills, such as those found in IT, are vital to most every company.  The more common skills, such as sales staff, labor, general accountancy, customer service, and so on are more easily replaced and so, often, no special effort is made to create job satisfaction.  This fact alone, may likely explain why 70 percent of us aren’t thrilled with our jobs.

Signs for Change

You’ve been at the job for 6, 12, or 18 months, and the honeymoon phase as come to an end.  Many of the things you were promised have never materialized; some aspects may have been under-delivered; the company may have “changed direction” and the situation may even have deteriorated to some extent.  For example:

  • You’re bored and underutilized.  Your skills are growing rusty from lack of use.
  • You dread going to work each morning because you know that your daily efforts will result in continued futility.
  • Your overtime has become a daily affair, spiraling out of control and significantly affecting your non-work life; expectations for a single worker are too high/unrealistic.
  • The office culture is in direct opposition to you.  It seems plodding and slow, when your tendency is to be on the go all the time (or vice-versa).
  • You exchange pleasantries with fellow workers, but there is not a single one that you would call a “friend” (or even an esteemed acquaintance).
  • You can’t identify the path to move ahead; you can’t find a way to earn a promotion and get away from an unfulfilling daily grind.
  • The company is on shaky financial ground, and maybe it’s time for you to move on before you get drawn down with them.
  • You’re experiencing apathy, or skyrocketing anxiety; you’re gaining or losing weight, and/or suffering from stress-related exhaustion.
  • Your direct manager appears outwardly stressed, unhappy, and/or in a continuous state of panic. His/her own disorganization increases as the chances that you (or your coworkers) will receive the blame for mistakes when superiors begin to seek answers.

Leave or Stay?

Even if you have only been at your job for a month or two, if you realize that the company is a bad fit, getting back into the job market might leave you with some explaining to do about this short-lived position. However, it can be done, and, likewise, it should not be the sole reason for staying.

On the other hand, being honest with your current employer and saying “This isn’t working out the way I expected” could actually generate some positive changes.  If they like your work, they could very well adjust aspects of your job that would make it completely acceptable to you.  You might actually find yourself with a lifelong career, simply because you spoke up.

Regardless of your choice, you will still need to step up your networking; since ending a months-long search when you obtained this job could lead to complacency about your contact list.  If asked point-blank about changing jobs so soon, rather focus on the fact that, while the job wasn’t an ideal fit, you gained valuable skills and experience which will prove beneficial in future positions.

Happy businessman sitting at the table in office

Making the Move

Do you need to enroll in four more years of college?  Almost certainly not; most times you merely need to move to a different environment, a different company with similar duties, where you enjoy a better fit.

Even if you are targeting a complete career change, there are plenty of transferable skills.  However, don’t just quit right away.  Plan your job search so that you will not go without a salary which could force you into another less-than-ideal employment situation.

The Takeaway

Before you go, make sure you leave something behind, a legacy if you will, that leaves the company just little bit better off than you found it.  It might be a new way of managing the office sports pool, or a complete redesign of the inventory system for the whole company.  Leave something good behind.  That’s the sort of thing that will follow you, and cast you in a positive light long after you’ve moved on.


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

How Job Seekers Can Identify Their Best Company Culture

The one aspect of company culture that remains consistent is that it is completely subjective.  An environment that provides an ideal working condition for one employee could possibly send another running to the nearest help-wanted ad.  Considering how many hours per day we spend at our jobs, it is only natural for individuals to actively seek a work culture that fits, at least closely, with their working habits, personality, and lifestyle.

Yet, with this in mind, how can job seekers truly know what type of company is a good cultural fit?

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Identifying your comfort zone

The best way to figure out where you belong is to figure out who you are.  Think back to previous positions you’ve held. At what time was your morale at its highest, and when did you find you were searching for some shred of inspiration to get through the day? Perhaps you’ve found that working for a spirited company sparked your enthusiasm.  You looked forward to the luncheons and company picnics, and embraced the family atmosphere. Conversely, you may be the type of employee who preferred a more subdued environment; and while you like your coworkers, you view a litany of company events, not as a perk, but more as a pressure.

Although these are basic examples, consider objectively when and how you perform best.  Chances are these are also the instances when you have been the most content in your place of employment.

Discovering what motivates you

Do you find that your output and quality increase when you know you’re “under fire”, so to speak?  Perhaps you aren’t the most self-directed employee, but since we are being objective, it’s really nothing to be ashamed, especially if you’re aware of it.  If knowing the presence of your superiors is imminent while you work on a project is what keeps you on track, then seeking an organization with a practical, hands-on leadership style may be best for you.  On the contrary, if you are an autonomous worker who finds that constant intervention from superiors actually slows you down and hinders your creativity, you may want to steer clear of a “micromanaging” atmosphere.

Recognizing a company’s culture

If you’ve had a job search that has drawn on just a little bit too long, it’s easy to put company culture at the bottom of your prerequisite list.   However, not taking into account your own needs and how they would ultimately integrate with the company with which you are interviewing, is basically increasing the odds that you will be back where you started, seeking employment.

How can job seekers possibly identify a company’s culture without first accepting the job and actually working for the organization? 

Before you even enter the hiring manager’s office, be sure to check out the organization’s LinkedIn page and company website.  A company’s “personality” can really shine through on their website as well as via their social media presence.  You will likely get a strong idea of whether a company promotes a fun, creative disposition or a dignified, corporate sensibility.

What is the best way for job candidates to discover the more minute details regarding a company’s culture?

Once you have landed in the interview chair, take this opportunity to directly ask the hiring manager about their management style and what qualities the company seeks in its best employees.  You may also want to consider asking your interviewer what they like best about their job. Asking the right questions will help you draw a direct connection between your own preferences and tendencies and what would most likely be expected of you by this particular employer.

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The Takeway

While we may not automatically give first priority to factors such as company culture when considering a new job, ascertaining how we will ultimately fit within an organization will actually help to increase our overall job stability. After all, whether employee or employer, everyone is on their best behavior at first, but as time wears on, it is often difficult — or even impossible — to hide our true inclinations.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Have a Great Idea at Work? Getting Superiors to Approve Your Suggestions

Do you have a great idea for your company? Perhaps you’ve thought of a way to save on expenses or speed up production. Conversely, maybe you’ve already submitted an idea and had it rejected. Most managers encourage feedback and ideas from employees and staff members. However, even good ideas can be rejected if they are not presented correctly. Time is money, and for managers, if the idea doesn’t spark immediate interest while proving a certain amount of worth, your good idea may be discarded.

Getting Superiors to Approve Your Ideas - professional man and woman speaking

Unfortunately, the majority of ideas presented by employees are never implemented. In his article, “10 Ways to get Your Boss to Support Your Ideas”, leadership expert, Dan McCarthy stated, “I’d compare [the chances that management will accept your idea] to baseball. A 300 average (three ideas implemented out of ten) and you’re an all-star.”

However, before submitting your next great idea to your superiors, here are some tips to help ensure that your suggestions will have a greater chance of crossing the threshold into realization.

Tips for suggesting ideas to managers

  1. Research thoroughly. Before even thinking about going to your supervisor or manager, make sure your idea is thoroughly researched from every possible angle. Are other companies implementing something similar, and if so, how is it working?
  2. Know key personnel. As you develop a plan to reveal a new idea, it would be beneficial to first understand the personality or leanings of the person or people to whom you’ll be presenting and direct the presentation towards those individual(s). For example, a manager with an analytical sense will want to see charts, graphs and figures, while a more intuitive type of manager may prefer to hear the information verbally, as it relates to the facts.
  3. FOMO can be a powerful incentive. The “Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO, is a common mindset which may actually work to your advantage while highlighting ideas being presented to management. While most companies will be hesitant to risk their reputations on new ideas without a fail-safe guarantee of success, they will also consider certain risks to avoid being surpassed by their competitors.
  4. List the benefits. How is this new idea going to benefit the manager and the company? Obviously, employees may have plenty of ideas and suggestions to help ease their own working burdens, but a manager will want to see how it will affect their job duties and the company as a whole. Will this new idea provide financial gain or savings, and if so, in what ways? Will it require hiring more employees or laying any off? Does it enhance production times?
  5. Conduct an experiment first. Find a way to conduct an experiment and use the results as part of your presentation. An experiment is a great way to show your plan in action while providing valuable facts and information that a verbal presentation on its own wouldn’t likely be able to accomplish.

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Ideas and suggestions are usually welcomed by upper management. However, remember that the majority of suggestions are never implemented, so don’t be discouraged if an idea isn’t accepted: Instead, concentrate not only on building upon and improving your idea, but solidifying its presentation as well.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Employee Self-Assessments: 4 Guidelines to Help You Prepare

While preparing for the self-assessment portion of an annual performance review is not a new concept, many who have been involved in the process itself, understand how it can be a challenging, sometimes even daunting, practice. In one of our recent articles, “How to Ensure Your Management Team is Conducting Effective Performance Reviews”, readers are offered a glimpse into the employee review process, from the employer’s point of view. Performance reviews benefit the employer by allowing them to assess the functionality of the company’s infrastructure as a whole, while also viewing individual departments and subsequent employees.

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Yet, the self-assessment is also an invaluable tool for employees, as it offers the opportunity for workers to gain a personal in-depth perspective of their own abilities, competencies, strengths, and weaknesses. Additionally, the self-assessment portion of the performance review allows employees a forum to spotlight some of their own achievements and strong suits, which may or may not have passed under management’s radar.

As it is crucial that self-assessments are approached pragmatically, we are offering a list of guidelines to ensure you are fully prepared to maximize the benefits of your next self-assessment.

  1.  Research and take notes. The most important part of a successful, professional and well-developed self-assessment is to make sure you have done your research and have taken notes throughout the year. Notes, both positive and negative, will help identify areas in which you have especially excelled, or those where you may need some more guidance. You may also include your own ideas for overall improvement.
  2. Rate your performance accurately. Before checking “excellent” on all of the categories, familiarize yourself with the company’s definition of excellence and other rating qualifications. Also, be honest when rating your own past performances and abilities. Acknowledging your own imperfections and recognizing areas in need of improvement actually reflects your own professionalism, and ability to proactively react to constructive criticism.
  3.  Emphasize the positive. As we know, the employee assessment isn’t exclusively based on identifying areas in need of improvement; it is also a time to highlight great achievements and successes throughout the year. Showcase accomplishments that you are proud of in a professional manner, and be sure to add references and notes that may apply. Explain or demonstrate how these achievements have been beneficial to the company. Perhaps they have positively affected the bottom line, reduced costs or improved sales.
  4.  Be professional. While the self-assessment is a chance for you to concentrate on your own achievements and abilities, it is still important to be as professional as possible. Remember that your superiors will be reading and evaluating your assessment, so this is just another opportunity to impress. Your self-assessment will also become a permanent part of your employee file; so be sure you have read the initial performance review guidelines so that you can properly cover all of the listed objectives.

Self-Assessment Tips - 4 way sign_feedback

The Takeaway

The self-assessment segment of the performance review offers employees the opportunity to objectively view their work performance from the perspective of their employer.  It also affords workers the chance to honestly identify their own strengths and weaknesses and gain an in-depth view of their value as a team member. What is imperative, however, is to remain honest and professional, while remembering to highlight your achievements in equivalence to any areas in need of improvement.

Fred Coon, CEO


At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.

Managing Vs. Coaching – Achieving the Right Balance

Successful companies have successful managers, and successful managers know how to balance managerial duties with coaching and praise managing-vs-coaching-balance-businessman-and-teamtechniques for their teams. Managers are necessary for organizing and facilitating employee productivity, making it possible for their work staff to succeed without impediment; yet sometimes, a real business leader must also take on the qualities of coach to ensure their team achieves what it should.

Basic managerial traditional duties

Regardless of industry, all managers have certain basic traditional duties. Some of these include managing employee schedules, assigning tasks, making sure shifts are adequately covered and ensuring customer satisfaction. Managers are also responsible for making sure their teams meet deadlines, company sales goals, while also handling crises within the company and between employees. They are responsible for keeping their eye on the bottom line, overseeing a portion of accounting and banking duties, and foreseeing any problems that may arise so as to get ahead of them.

Basic coaching duties

While managerial duties involve overseeing the employees and production, coaching duties are more along the lines of developing goals and ways to achieve them. In the coaching role, managers will strategize to find the best way to achieve success, then they will work with the employees, offering advice and maybe even incentives to make sure the goals are obtained. Employees are encouraged and motivated to succeed, which also leads to the company’s ultimate success. As a coach will guide his or her players in a sport’s league and offer praise and encouragement, a managerial coach will do the same with their team of employees.

The importance of having both managerial and coaching skills

A manager who focuses solely on the managing aspect of his or her role usually tends to be primarily focused on the bottom line. With this approach, the employees, as individuals, risk being overlooked through a lack of external motivation.  Conversely, a coach who does not incorporate any managerial duties may be well liked by the employees, but the business may eventually fail due to inattention to important details.

Finding a balance and knowing when to coach instead of manage

managing-vs-coaching-leadership-word-collageQuality managers tend to be natural problem-solvers. When approached with an employee crisis, it may be the manager’s immediate instinct to solve it on their own. However, sometimes it is best to take a step back, and help the employee find a solution on their own. Not only does this build a stronger relationship between the manager and employee, it also gives the employee a sense of accomplishment and worth. By using this coaching technique, employees develop further autonomy and managers are able to spend more time on other important aspects of their role.

Achieving an ultimate balance between the supervisory as well as the coaching facets of a managerial job is vital, and may not necessarily be easily achieved.  However, it is worth the effort to learn and employ these tactics. When possible, managers should work with the employees to solve basic problems while offering instruction, guidance and support along the way. Building a strong working relationship will go a long way toward the continued success of any organization.

Fred Coon, CEO


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Exploring Talent Communities and Their Role in Recruitment

While Talent Communities have a great deal to offer the world of recruitment and professional networking, they are neither employment agencies nor job boards.  They are, rather, segmented online groups which encourage the convergence of individuals with similar goals and talent-communities-businessman-holding-globe-of-professionalsinterests to interact and share information for the benefit of all.  Through collaboration of members, Talent Communities can offer a wide range of employment information and resources on an unofficial level.

Although they are beneficial to recruiting, it is not necessarily their sole purpose.  Members often brainstorm problems of various descriptions, very much akin to the phenomenon that prevailed from the 1980s through the early 1990s when the Internet was virtually unknown to the common person.

Group History

Before the World Wide Web was introduced, computers of all makes and varieties communicated through common telephone lines with modems via Bulletin Board Services (BBS).

From approximately 1978 to 1996, computer enthusiasts helped others solve their technical problems in many separate areas called SIGs (Special Interest Groups) covering employment, philosophy, science, creative writing, social phenomenal, or anything else you could imagine.  Essentially, Bulletin Board Services embodied the concept of the World Wide Web before it even existed as a mainstream medium.

Full Circle

Fast forward to the internet-driven 21st century, and we find we have parallel communities that are essentially SIGs.  People with similar interests share information and support each other, while reaping the benefit of available and easily-accessible expertise.

Recruitment Contribution

Although Talent Communities do offer a wide spectrum of service-related advantages, it is not wrong to assume that they are essentially career oriented.  They present a great opportunity to network within your own niche; you can enhance your contacts with connections very specifically tied to your career, rather than more generically as you would on most social media platforms.

Another feature that Talent Communities allow for is social recruiting, where professional recruiters or hiring managers seek top job candidates who are actively seeking employment.  Whether these recruiters are running the communities or not, candidates can advertise their availability simply through their participation.

Why Create a Talent Community?

In terms of time and effort, large companies (greater than 200 employees) spend nearly $5000 for each new hire.  If your company is in the habit of hiring 400 employees per year, that equates to two million dollars annually spent on recruiting.

On average, it can take six weeks to hire a new employee (eight weeks in the medical profession).  Having a critical position unfilled for a month and a half isn’t simply inconvenient; that empty desk may be costing an employer approximately $2000 per day in lost revenue.  Compared to the $5,000 cost of hiring, the loss of $84,000 in revenue is quite significant.  Also, there is often more than one vacancy, so it starts to add up very quickly.

By turning your “Careers” section into an inviting Talent Community you can have an ever-present pool of candidates.  Most of them will be passive candidates (those who are not actively seeking a job, but are curious about your company).  A number of active candidates will be present; some of your own employees must participate to answer questions, supply information, provide articles to show that the Talent Community is active; and in this modern age, when the upcoming crop of replacements for the retiring Baby Boomers is going to be 25 million short, you should invite your retirees and former employees.  Not only do they have the expertise to drive the Talent Community forward but they might be persuaded to return to work and offer their expertise while the employment supply-and-demand formula finds its balance again.

Benefits to Job Seekers

talent-communities-woman-working-at-laptopAn interested visitor can get a very specific idea about a particular employer when they explore that company’s Talent Community.  Understanding the corporate culture makes it much easier to decide if the job is a good fit for them.  Information provided by current and former employees will let them know if the available opportunities match their goals.

As they get to know the company, the company gets to know them.  This familiarity makes it much easier to apply for and obtain a job.

Furthermore, establishing an online rapport or relationship with a current employee opens the possibility of getting a personal referral.  Companies have reported that they grant more weight to a personal referral than they do to any other form of information about a potential hire.

The Takeaway

For employers, it really doesn’t get much better than having your own Talent Community full of potential hires.  It’s going to reduce your hiring costs, significantly speed up the whole hiring process, and save quite a bit of money in terms of lost revenue.

For job seekers, accessing a Talent Community can provide you with clear window into a company of interest, as well as the opportunity to communicate with other employees at the same organization.

Therefore, Talent Communities are a truly a win-win option for all participants.

By Fred Coon, CEO


Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.