Monthly Archives: October 2007

//October

E-mail is not always as efficient as it should be!

I have often wondered how much e-mail has increased efficiency. But then after about 30 seconds into the exercise I stop and remember the thousands of lost hours of the office typist (pre-word processor), typing and re-typing memos that had been dictated to her by her boss, to be sent to managers who took little or no notice of them.

But last weekend my brother-in-law told me the amazing true story of life in a modern hospital. My brother-in-law works in the technical department ‘Facilities’ as it is sometimes known. He and a colleague had agreed that the only way they could solve the problem they were facing was to shut off the water supply for two hours, while the necessary repair be carried out.

Following the rules of the Hospital an email had to be sent out to the entire workforce informing them of the planned outage. A meeting was set up with those who responded to discuss the impact of the impending outage. 10 people came to the meeting, each representing their department and its interests. The impact analysis debate, including agreement on the best way forward lasted over two hours. The outcome was that buckets of water had to be filled and placed next to every WC. Each department was to have an additional supply of bottled water and every hand basin was to have a 5 litre bottle of water under it for use during the outage.

It took two man days to distribute the water in anticipation. When the outage was over, which lasted 1 hour 35 minutes, the team had to go around the hospital collecting all the buckets and bottles of water. Surprise, surprise, not a single bucket of water was used, neither was the bottled water. During the outage my brother in law’s team received two phone calls asking when the water would be re-connected. Now you might think that being a hospital, this is normal and that perhaps there are important medical machines relying on mains water? But you would be wrong. In this hospital, like all others, machines requiring water have their own sterilized supplies coming from their own sources.

So why all the fuss? Well in the ‘good old days’ before e-mail when the technical team wanted to cut off the water, they just did it. And when people phoned to report that there was no water on their floor, they simply said “Yes, sorry about that but we have a problem down here, we’re fixing it right now please be patient, we are doing all we can”. 45 minutes later everything was back to normal and the technical team were heroes because they repaired the problem! Oh how times have changed…

Personally I love e-mail it’s liberated business and communication beyond all boundaries, but it comes at a cost, just like live news stories and instant stocks and shares prices information.

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What ’s your Curriculum Vitae worth?

This week, more than many in recent weeks, has been filled with reading, re-writing and advising on CV’s. I guess it shouldn’t do, but it does amaze me just how bad many people’s CV’s are. I have met many talented and quite brilliant people, but when it came to their CV’s you would not recognize almost anything about them, even their photograph’s are often so bad, you would think they belonged to someone else.

If you imagine that you are worth 200KEuro per year, then I think your CV should match your client’s expectations. So what makes a good CV? What is a good CV Worth?

Good CV’s tell a story about a person. They entice the reader into discovering more about the author. Even if the CV might not be a perfect ‘fit’, it should raise enough interest to want a client to meet a candidate anyway. A good CV can make the difference between being pre-selected or not, it gives it’s author the choice between opportunities, it can add at least 20% more to the author’s day rate.

Anyone who has had to review lots of CV’s will tell you that it is a boring job, trying to select from the criteria of a CV only, is very time consuming. Even a strong personal recommendation followed up with a poor CV can often be enough to dissuade a potential client. Last year I had to almost beg a client to see a candidate of mine, knowing he was good but his CV did not do him justice. I said “John, don’t pay the CV any mind, just see him. If you don’t want him after one hour, I’ll buy you an expensive lunch, to compensate for your wasted time.” But this behavior is ridiculous because normally we have all the time in the world to prepare a CV. After all our CV is our passport through our careers. It’s the full length version of our business cards.

I try to always have a full, short and mini CV ready and up to date at all times. Within 15 minutes my full CV is ready to go out the door.

The lay out of a full CV should have your personal contact information at the top (no mention of children’s or pets names please). The contact details should be followed by a very brief (Six lines max) synopsis of who you are and what you are looking for. In short, what added value you can bring to your prospective employer.

Next your CV should have a brief overview of all your major assignments (if you are over 40 or have had many assignments to mention in an overview, just take the last five years). After the overview, your CV needs to cover your employment history in detail. This section should flow nicely and be informative, with each assignment focusing on a different aspect of your skill sets.

Next comes your education, courses, and relevant trainings, then at the end just a little bit about yourself, who you are your hobbies, and perhaps information about your psychometric profile etc.

A note of caution: in some countries/cultures, the use of a photograph on a CV is discouraged. This is to avoid any possible racial discrimination. People can be too easily dissuaded by a photograph and obviously there is a natural bias for a happy, smiling face. But I guess if you want a book-keeper, who will working mainly on their own all day checking account balances, then a Cameron Diaz smile might not be essential?

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Contact Points – Running Projects just like Singapore Airlines

This week I was having lunch with one of Belgium’s captains of industry. After we finished talking about our respective books and careers, my lunch companion told me that he had ‘made a difference’ in his organization by taking on board the Singapore Airlines philosophy of ensuring that every contact his team made with their customers was analyzed, scored for effectiveness and then seen how it could be improved. In his case his customers were his companies employees, all X thousands of them, as he is their HR Director. This got me thinking….

If Singapore Airlines have recognized 150 contact points with their customers, from purchasing a ticket to saying goodbye at the destination airport and if they have optimized each one so that it is better than their competitors, then no wonder ‘Singapore Airlines’ is the most appreciated airline in the world. So why don’t I apply it to my projects?

Obvious points of contact are with:

• Potential team members during recruitment
• Team members once recruited (passing in hallways, meetings, lunches, emails, reports, telephone conversations etc)
• Client contacts (sponsors and project board members)
• Project suppliers
• Project financiers etc. etc.

The idea is that one must improve the experience for the receiving party, so much so, that they always come back for more. For recruitment, I have tried to adopt this attitude for a long time. After all when you interview an interesting candidate you want them to choose you and not someone else.

But this idea can be extended and extended until you go mad trying to flatter and please everyone. For example, apparently Singapore Airlines cabin crew have to look after 10 customers each (I guess this only applies to Business and Premier Plus), and each crew member needs to know their customer’s names off by heart. The idea is that the Steward or Stewardess’s first contact points begins with “oh, you must be Harley Lovegrove?, Welcome on board!” They know my name because on the inside of their left palm they have a little list of names of their passengers with their seat numbers – hence the need for the “you must be line” – because I guess often people are sitting in the wrong seat at first! Although this attention to detail gives the passenger the ‘rock star’ feeling, one can not help feeling cheated by it, it’s all a bit false.

However, I am now beginning to re-examine all aspects of my contact points, especially those that I know could be improved. After all the benefits of obtaining loyalty, can be very beneficial, as long as I do not go mad in the process! I just need to find a place where I can buy sticky labels to fix to the palms of my hands. Mind you I’ll need to fix them to the inside of my jacket too ;-)

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Why are there so few women interim managers?

That was the opening question recently posed to me by Erika Racquet, a renowned journalist working for Belgium’s top financial news paper De Tijd. She had read my top ten attributes required of an interim manager and commented that women generally had most of them in abundance, so why were there so few of them?

To share with my blog readers who have not yet read my book, here is the list:

The ten attributes a good interim manager should have are:

1. A strong desire to solve other people’s problems
2. The conviction that they are the best person to solve them
3. Extreme resilience, the ability to bounce back after any setback
4. A high emotional IQ
5. A good memory for faces and names
6. A clear, structured approach to every task
7. A natural ability to plan
8. A strong sense of priorities
9. The knack to sell anything to anyone
10. A willingness to learn from mistakes


I was taken aback by her question. Unlike her, I had not done my research in advance…(it transpired that this has been a re-occurring theme in her interviews for a few years now). I thought for a while and realized that whatever I replied would, or could, be misconstrued and that I was in dangerously hot water. However, I believed the question was seriously posed, and I was hoping that she genuinely wanted to know the answer and not so much my off the cuff opinion. So I gave it my best. The result was a rather weak answer which was on the lines of; ‘I think it is because although women, in general, may be more intuitive and observe the truth and perceive deeper arguments than men, they are more likely to share their observations with a colleague in the hope that their colleague will act on their behalf. i.e. they don’t want to put themselves in a vulnerable position, to make themselves look foolish, just in case they were wrong. Preferring not to stand up and be counted. (Although this last statement can be said of many men).

But since my interview I have been re-thinking the question and indeed, many women have confronted me with regards to my ‘misogynist’ views. I have been re-asking Erika’s question over and over again, and when you think about it, it is not too difficult to invent other questions that lead you in the same direction. For example: “Why are there so few women entrepreneurs?” A senior (female) manager at a client of mine suggested that possibly it could do with the fact that for many (most) women it is purely down to the fact that they don’t feel the need or ambition to become a senior manager or an entrepreneur. While another female project manager I spoke with put it down to the fact that women, in the majority, are not risk takers to the same extent as men.

In defense of my original answer, where I was genuinely trying to get to the nature of the answer, one has to add that no one is promoted to a position of interim manager. Your boss does not walk into your office one day and say “Lovegrove, I want you to be my next interim manager!” Becoming an interim manager, or even an entrepreneur is a life choice.

Interim Managers are (99%) self employed, they are either ex entrepreneurs who have made some cash and do not want the tedious hassle of running the same company day in, day out. Or, they are ex senior managers that have taken (or been given) early retirement who feel they still have some useful business acumen left in them and don’t fancy sitting around at home all day. These people set up their own businesses, they give themselves fancy titles like ‘Managing Director’ and they print some business cards and become interim managers of their own creation. So logically, the fewer the female senior managers and entrepreneurs, the fewer the female interim managers.

At the Bayard Partnership, out of the +/- 20 strong group, we have three female project managers, all of them are really excellent, often out performing their male counterparts at their client side. Each of the three have the potential to progress to becoming interim managers in the classical sense (i.e. stand in directors) but how many of them will remains to be seen. At Bayard, we are always looking for talented female project and interim managers, they are just hard to find, that’s all.

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