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U.S. June Jobs Numbers Don’t Bode Well for Economy

Here is an article written by Daniel Margolis for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.

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The jobs numbers for June came out Friday and, as you may have already heard, they were not good. The U.S. Department of Labor announced the unemployment rate rose to a six-month high of 9.2 percent, with payrolls rising only by 18,000 in June. A blog entry on Brookings’ website points out that looking at the jobs numbers overall for 2011 so far doesn’t much improve the picture: “Since December of last year the employer survey shows job gains of 126,000 a month and payroll gains in the private sector of 158,000 a month. … For purposes of comparison, the nation needs to add about 105,000 to 110,000 jobs a month to keep the unemployment rate from rising.”

So, from the perspective of jobs numbers this year, it seems like the U.S. economy is coasting along at a flat angle, on the precipice of potentially moving back into recession. In fact, again based on jobs numbers, we may already be there. A blog entry on The Atlantic’s website points out that these new jobs numbers may be the worst we’ve seen yet, stating: “The share of adults working is at 58.2 percent, lower than any time during the recession!”

All of this, of course, drew immediate reaction from both sides of the American political spectrum. Republicans were quick to blame President Barack Obama’s economic policies and the news had a detrimental effect on the already tense negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on raising the federal borrowing limit.

These jobs numbers are interesting in that they seem fairly definitive in terms of what they mean for the state of the country, and are being treated as such on a national stage. For the last year or so, we at Talent Management magazine have been bringing jobs numbers and other economic indicators into our weekly editorial meetings in an effort to gauge where we are in terms of the state of the economy. This is something we have a vested interested in as publishers of business-related content, because the state and direction of the economy can at times dominate much of our coverage. And for a while now the numbers have seemed somewhat murky. One editor might bring in a statistic that suggests we’re in recovery while another has a statistic that suggests we aren’t, or we might see the same statistic treated as good news or bad news depending on the way it’s spun in different publications.

Furthermore, jobs numbers don’t seem to kick up a lot of dust beyond media outlets citing them in what they’re covering that week – people generally seem to take a look at them and move on. But this latest jobs report definitely has legs; as soon as it emerged it burst over all manner of news media and is being emphasized in the highest offices in the land.

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To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.http://www.mediatecpub.com

Daniel Margolis

Daniel Margolis is a managing editor of Talent Management magazine. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, and has been writing and editing professionally for more than 12 years, contributing content to publications such as Wax Poetics, XXL, Complex, and AOL Digital City Chicago. Prior to joining MediaTec, he served as a staff editor on publications covering printing, machining, metal service centers and project management. His personal interests include vinyl record collecting, live music, movies, television (particularly serialized drama, science fiction and animated comedy) and books. He lives in Chicago with his wife and a dog named Maggie.

 

 

 

Thursday, July 14, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leading Effectively in a VUCA Environment: C is for Complexity

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Eric G. Kail for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.

Eric G. Kail

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This is the third in a series on the four aspects of VUCA, a framework used by the U.S. military to describe the environment in terms of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Our complex environment demands a perspective that goes beyond viewing threats and opportunities as collective; we must see them as interactive. Leading through complexity means thinking non-linearly. You’ve probably heard that before, but let’s use a metaphor to get after what it really means. Picture a large marshmallow sitting atop a small round table. The marshmallow is so large that it’s falling over the edges of the table and you, me, and a few others have to keep it on the table. Now a marshmallow may not sound complex, but this one on our table certainly presents us with complexity. If any one of us is concerned with only the part of the marshmallow directly in front of us we may push it back on to the table, but by doing so we make our collective task harder for our team mates when our uncoordinated attempts push the marshmallow further off the other side of the table. Complexity can be overwhelming and discouraging, or a source of our greatest reflection and growth, so I’ll give this marshmallow some life.

I was once responsible for coordinating logistics for a large military unit in combat, and a quick glance at my metrics of success labeled me an absolute failure. Our unit was nearly out of fuel, ammunition, water, food, and vehicle repair parts (basically all the stuff you need to fight a war). To make matters worse, our higher headquarters could not push any supplies to us because of weather and sheer distance. One more thing we didn’t have: the luxury of calling a time out. Replace the weather with time zones and combat with the free market, and I’m sure many of you have been in my shoes, faced with complex challenges that cannot be dealt with separately with little or no help from our environment. Complexity can leave us frustrated, feeling solely responsible for success or failure, while at the same time feeling alive in the critical moment.

I’ll share some things that have helped me lead more effectively in a complex environment:
.

[Here's one.]

Develop collaborative leaders: The same competitive drive that makes us so successful may sometimes get in our way. The most important characteristics I look for in high-potential young military officers are their ability to see the big picture and to lead their peers to achieve more together than they could individually. I once commanded a unit that produced impressive results and statistics. After my boss presented me and my soldiers with yet another award, he pulled me aside and said “You just don’t get it do you? I don’t need one great subordinate unit and three average ones; I need four very good ones. So start helping out your peers, and you might even learn something from them as well.” A very humbling experience, but it made me a better leader and an even better developer of other leaders. I learned to take pride in the accomplishments of my peers, and it didn’t cost me any professional ground. And I found out I needed their help more than I had originally thought.

[The others are: Stop seeking permanent solutions and
 Train tomorrow's heroes now.]

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Colonel Eric G. Kail, commissioned as an artillery officer in the U.S. Army in 1988, has commanded multiple organizations and served at several levels of staff responsibility in conventional and special operations units.

 

Monday, December 6, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leading in a VUCA Environment: U is for Uncertainty

Here is an excerpt from an article written by

Col. Eric G. Kail

for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.

*     *     *

This post is part of an HBR Spotlight examining leadership lessons from the military. It’s the second in a series on the four aspects of VUCA, a framework used by the U.S. military to describe the environment in terms of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

The frenetic pace of our environment, brought on by volatility, also creates uncertainty, a lack of clarity that hinders our ability to conceptualize the threats and challenges facing the organizations we lead. Think back to the last time you attempted to explain a crisis or challenge to your boss, or perhaps other stakeholders not geographically co-located with you, and after a few attempts you were left to exclaim “You simply have to be here and see it to understand what’s going on right now.” That’s uncertainty in your environment.

Uncertainty becomes increasingly dangerous when we rush to understand it with an over-reliance on what we’ve witnessed before. The attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 are a tragic example of this. An exhaustive review of cell phone and email traffic from and between leaders of organizations housed in both towers revealed that rather than wildly fleeing the buildings, many were waiting patiently for first responders to come and lead them out of the buildings in an orderly fashion. This plan was created from a thorough review of the 1993 bombing of one of the basement parking garages. That review cited the unorganized rush to leave the buildings as the source for many serious injuries. The recommendation moving forward was to have a rational and well devised plan of evacuation should such an attack occur again. So, on 9/11, a seemingly similar attack was identified. But it was a very different type of threat and a previously conceived solution, regardless of how rational, might have been somewhat dubious. We thought we had a lot more time than we did.

It is human nature to see every challenge as something similar to what we’ve encountered before. That’s how our brains work and for good reason; if we had to assess every situation as novel we wouldn’t be as efficient as we need to be. We categorize situations using mental models. We see a disheveled person mumbling and staggering towards us on a dimly lit street and within seconds our volumes of previous experiences and categorizations allow us to deduce that we should move to the other side of the street.

Mental models can be very productive, especially when the consequences are high and the resource of time available to decide is low. However, relying too heavily on them might lead to the faulty assumption that yesterday’s solution to a seemingly similar challenge today is appropriate.

Here are three ways to lead more effectively in an uncertain environment:

[Actually, here’s the first. To read the complete article, please click here.]

Get a fresh perspective. Find ways to challenge the appropriateness of your mental models, individually and collectively. The concept of red-teaming is helpful. Red-teaming is the use of a devil’s advocate within the leadership team in order to counter the influence of group-think. Red-teamers don’t simply shoot holes in a plan; they think and act as the competition requiring leaders to move beyond “that won’t happen” to “what if this occurs.” The red-team members have no personal investment in the plan, so they don’t have problems exposing weaknesses or single points of failure. Red-team membership should be rotated and leaders must be careful to value and protect red-team members from any perceived backlash from other organizational members.

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Colonel Eric G. Kail, commissioned as an artillery officer in the U.S. Army in 1988, has commanded multiple organizations and served at several levels of staff responsibility in conventional and special operations units. He holds Master of Science Degrees in Psychology and Leader Development from Long Island University and in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College and a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from North Carolina State University. He has three combat tours and his awards include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for Valor. Eric currently serves as the course director for military leadership at West Point.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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