Research Careers Blog

Steps effective leaders take when handling disappointment

Editor’s note: Alesia Latson is a speaker, trainer, coach and founder of Latson Leadership Group, Boston, Mass.

Disappointment is inevitable for leaders. At times your people will disappoint you, and there will also be instances where you disappoint others. So the fact that disappointment occurs isn’t the challenge. The real issue to address is how you respond to the disappointment.leadership

Unfortunately, far too many leaders react to disappointment with anger and punishment. You’ve likely seen the scenario. An employee loses a key client, misses an important deadline or does any number of common things and the leader responds by demoting the employee, removing responsibility, not allowing the employee to take vacation time, firing the employee or taking other disciplinary actions.

Such consequences are really nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the leader…and a missed opportunity for the leader to shine. In reality, how you handle disappointment speaks volumes of your leadership style and your credibility in your organization.

To make the most of a disappointing situation and use it as the coaching opportunity it is, consider the following suggestions:

  • Manage yourself before you confront the employee. Before talking with the employee about the disappointing situation, you first have to manage yourself. In other words, you have to be clear on what your intention is of the conversation. Because you’re in a position of authority, what you say during these moments will have a ripple effect. Of course, this isn’t to say that you aren’t justified in your anger or justified in your disappointment. You most certainly are. However, your expression of those feelings has an impact on how others view you and on what the employee will do in the future. So before initiating the conversation, take some time to step back and get clear about what you want to have happen as a result of the meeting. Are you simply looking to vent your anger? Is the goal on finding a solution to rectify the current circumstances? Or do you really want to help the employee learn and grow from the situation?
  • Assess your role in the disappointment. As part of managing yourself, take some time to reflect on your role in the disappointment. Before you declare, “I did nothing. It was entirely the other person’s fault,” realize that as a leader, you are ultimately responsible for your people. So ask yourself, “What role did I play?” and “How did I contribute to this disappointment?” Perhaps you didn’t give the employee enough training. Maybe you threw them into a situation that they were too “green” to handle. Perhaps you didn’t adequately prepare them for the meeting. Whatever the disappointing outcome was, chances are you had some role in it – even a small one. Acknowledge that prior to your conversation.
  • Assume good intent. When you take the stance that the employee didn’t intentionally cause the disappointment, it naturally takes the edge off of your approach and any anger you may have. And in the majority of cases, that stance is absolutely accurate – the employee didn’t set out to cause harm. They simply made a mistake or a bad judgment call, which resulted in a less than ideal situation. Additionally, realize that the employee knows they messed up and they’ve probably given themselves a thorough thrashing by now and are terrified to speak with you. Therefore, any anger you display will be mild compared to what they’ve already dished out to themselves. Of course, if there’s been an intentional violation of an important principle, value or standard that compromises the integrity of the organization, then anger is understandable. However, true anger should be reserved for the most egregious acts.
  • When talking to the employee, focus on the disappointment in terms of the outcome, not the person. Successful school teachers know that when you discipline a student, you focus on the behavior, not the child. The same is true for business leaders. Even if the disappointment occurred because the employee was negligent in some way, you need to separate what happened from the employee personally. State your disappointment in terms of the outcome and then explore with the employee the cause in an inquisitive and coaching way rather than a punitive way. Why? Because when employees feel punished or that the boss is scolding them, they become fearful, which decreases creativity and innovation on the job – the exact things you often need to rectify a disappointing situation.


Learn from disappointments

It’s human nature to lash out during disappointing times and because a leader can, he or she often does. But remember that how you handle disappointment reflects more on you as a leader than on the person who caused the situation. Additionally, realize that the majority of disappointing moments are actually coaching moments in disguise. Savvy leaders recognize this and make the most of these situations. So if you want to be viewed as a leader with courage, credibility, and reason, use the suggestions presented here the next time you feel the need to punish an employee for a wrongdoing. When you do, you won’t be disappointed in the results.

Posted in Corporate Researchers, Employment Tips, For Employers | Comment

7 negotiating mistakes everyone can avoid

Editor’s note: Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez is the CEO of Dynamic Vision International and author of “Think like a Negotiator.”

While even the word “negotiation” can evoke fear, stress and anxiety for many, the intent is quite simple: to discuss and ultimately agree on a deal. Whether it’s a multimillion dollar contract or just deciding where to meet for lunch, life is rife with negotiations. And, the negotiation process is a lot like a chess game where strategy reigns supreme – one thoughtfully considered move at a time. Make a careless, short-sighted, ill-conceived move and suffer the perilous consequences.

Even when faced with the most daunting of deals, regarding the act of negotiation as a “game” may alleviate the apprehension and give you the confidence to make power plays that will ultimately facilitate your desired result. Unlike strategy games like chess, however, the most effective deals are a win-win proposition for all parties rather than a winner-loser result.

To help individuals maximize their bargaining prowess in business and in life, below are the seven most common mistakes that are made during a negotiation:

1. Lacking confidence: Many people think they need to show a certain kind of confidence, like being loud, bold or brazen, to successfully negotiate a deal. Others think that a lot of experience is required to be a good negotiator. Most of the time it merely takes tenacity and good old preparation to ensure you are aptly equipped to assert mutually desirable terms, anticipate objections and discern what are motivators or hot buttons will resonate with your opponent. Projecting confidence also means having heart, which is endearing to others whether or not you have years of negotiation experience. This can also result in the opposition having a less defensive stance, making them more amenable to your stipulations. Without projecting a notable level of confidence and backing that up with solid, well-researched information, failure will surely prevail.

2. Thinking something is non-negotiable: When you think like a negotiator, everything is negotiable! It’s a mind-set you have to operate from in order to become not just a good negotiator, but a great one. When you decide that the terms for anything can be changed in your favor, a world of opportunity presents. Of course, as with most things in life, there will be rules to adhere to with each deal on the table, which are needed to evade chaos and keep discussions on track. However, even rules are negotiable. They can be modified if you simply propose an ethical, viable and mutually beneficial alternative solution. Powerful negotiators are rule breakers.

3. Not building relationships first: This is probably one of the biggest mistakes individuals make in regards to negotiation and in business in general. Perhaps you have attended the standard networking event where you give dozens of cards out without having a real conversation with anyone. It’s time to slow down and start making real connections with people – particularly those you might be involved in a deal with later on. Find out something about them and their lives. Get personal. Much useful information can be gleaned during casual conversation, including what they value in life, what motivates them, what annoys them, their ethics, etc. Find out something about them personally and not just their business. You might be surprised how well you can leverage what you learn through a genuine conversation with someone.

4. Not asking for what you want: There is one key truth in negotiations: you must ask for what you want. Sounds simple enough, but in practice it can often be daunting. People naturally fear rejection or were taught not to be greedy as children so we instinctually refrain from asking for thing in life. However, in business rejection is never personal – it’s merely a reflection that you did not present a viable argument substantiating why you should get what you want. It’s the offer that is being rejected, not you, so keep emotions in check and re-calibrate your approach. “No” often just reflects a need for more information. Take heart in knowing that people say no an average of three times before they say “yes.” It is important to understand that if you don’t ask you don’t receive and the only way to master the art of rejection is to get rejected and keep asking. When negotiating, make it a priority to ask for exactly what you want. Most of the time you will either receive what you want or an acceptable alternative.

5. Talking too much: Talking too much is a sure-fire way to kill a deal. Have you ever been offered a product or service and the salesperson kept talking until he or she talked you right out of the purchase? If they would have simply asked for the sale and stopped talking, their chance for success would have increased significantly. Never underestimate the power of silence. There’s an old adage that says “he or she who speaks next loses.” When discussing a deal, if you simply stop talking and get comfortable with the awkwardness of silence, your ability to win your argument, sell the product or a get concession in the negotiation increases significantly.

6. Not documenting: The importance of getting the final agreement in writing cannot be stressed enough. Even better, always consult with a contracts attorney to review contractual documents or any agreement signingthat requires a signature. The purpose of a written agreement or contract is to provide protection for both sides and alleviate any ambiguity of terms. A myriad of problems can occur when the terms of a deal are not put in writing because what you think the other party said and what they think you said can be two different things. Documenting the agreement eliminates such perception problems and protects the interests of all parties involved.

7. Signing without reading: Before you sign on the dotted line, it’s imperative you read what you are signing – no matter how large of a packet it entails. Modern life is fast-paced and people are usually engaged in multiple things at once, making it difficult to focus and causing some to sign legal documents without reading them first. The result can be nothing short of disastrous. Make sure you read any agreement or contract in full to ensure you are not confirming terms you will regret and cannot undo, which can cause copious problems for your future.

Whether you are a seasoned negotiator or avoid wheeling and dealing with people altogether, you will vastly improve your results and be motivated to get in the game by knowing how to avoid these prime pitfalls. Whether seeking to gain advantages in your business or personal life, the art of thinking like a negotiator will profoundly impact your ability to actualize your desired outcome.

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Engaging staff with 5 easy conversations

Editor’s note: Kim Seeling Smith is the founder and CEO of Ignite Global, a human resource management consultancy based in Australia.

Did you know that only a fraction of your staff bring their “A” game to work every day? According to companies like Aon Hewitt and the Gallup Organization, this number is about one in five. The rest? At best they are bringing their B or C game to work – at worst, their main goal is to keep from getting fired.

This is the employee engagement crisis we now find ourselves in.

Countless companies dedicate a sizeable chunk of their annual budgets to solving their employee engagement issues, when in reality most engagement issues (as well as performance and behavioral problems) can be solved through conversation. Five conversations to be precise.

But most managers don’t talk to their staff frequently enough, don’t know how to talk to them or don’t know what to talk about! Managers are unaware of how to plug into their employees’ minds and figure out what they really want and what they need to be fully engaged – and productive.

There are no psychic forces at work: getting into the minds of your employees to glean the information needed to increase not only engagement but productivity in your workforce can be as simple as conducting the following five FOCUSed conversations.

Conversation 1: Feedbackfeedback

There are two types of feedback that fall under this conversation. First, give praise where praise is due. Studies have shown that a vast majority of employees do not feel appreciated enough for the job they do. Praise, it seems, is a scarce commodity in the workplace. So if your staff is doing a good job, be sure to let them know.

Conversely, one of the key factors in employee engagement is the ability to have your say. Be receptive to your staffs’ feedback. Who knows, they may just come up with a brilliant idea that makes a huge difference for the team or company.

Conversation 2: Objectives

Most performance issues stem from a disconnect between what the manager perceives as meeting objectives and what the staff member perceives as meeting them. To drastically reduce performance issues, managers must both clearly define and articulate expectations. Yet few do.

Your employees need to know what they must do to be successful in their jobs and how that success will be measured. And you need to have a clearly defined yardstick by which to objectively measure performance. Aligning their expectations with yours will result in less frustration and anxiety – on both your parts.

Conversation 3: Career development

Many studies list career development within the top three factors that employees gauge to determine whether to stay with their current employer or look for another job. Yet, many managers avoid this topic like the plague for one of three reasons:

  • they don’t understand how to manage their own careers;
  • they are afraid that if they help their staff manage their career better they will surpass them on the corporate ladder; or
  • they are afraid to talk about career development because they don’t feel they can meet the employee’s expectations. This is especially true in smaller companies or niche functions where there is not a lot of vertical career opportunity available.

Helping staff manage their careers makes good business sense. Ensuring that they understand what opportunities exist within your company (something they may not recognize without your help) will inhibit them from looking outside of it.

Find out what your employees’ priorities are and have open, honest conversations around how your company can help them achieve them – even with any constraints you may have. Suggest and recommend internal opportunities to learn, grow and develop and they will at least delay – if not avoid – looking for external ones.

Conversation 4: Underlying motivators

The underlying motivators conversation helps to uncover those intrinsic factors – currencies of choice – that science has shown to be much more highly motivating than extrinsic ones such as pay and benefits. By tapping into each individual’s currencies of choice you will help uncover what they need to go the extra mile. Conversely, once they do, they need to be recognized appropriately for it. The old adage, “Praise in public, correct in private” is only half true. Many people don’t respond well to public recognition.

Identify the drivers of each individual staff member to unlock productivity and unleash potential. Then recognize them appropriately when they do go that extra mile.

Conversation 5: Strengths

According to The Gallup Organization, teams whose members play to their strengths most of the time are:

  • 50 percent more likely to have low employee turnover
  • 38 percent more likely to be highly productive
  • 44 percent more likely to earn high customer satisfaction scores

Strengths can be defined as the innate abilities or behavioral patterns that are neurologically hardwired into our brains between the ages of three and 15. The context of the behavior will change over time, but the patterns remain the same. So those children who share their toys in the sand box at the age of five may very well become 15-year-olds who volunteer at the local charity. And 20 years later they may become the 35-year-olds who are the most collaborative in the workplace.

Strength identification also requires a very minor time commitment: as little as two hours per week can make a world of difference.

If you can help your staff determine behaviors that come naturally to them you will find that their stress is decreased, they become more engaged and are of course more productive.

There is no reason to spend mass amounts of time and money on engagement programs when all it takes is tapping into the minds of your personnel. By first hiring the right staff and then employing the five FOCUSed conversations, managers will significantly increase overall employee engagement.

Communicate with your staff frequently, effectively and about the things that really matter to them.

Posted in Employment Tips, For Employers | Comment

Are your employees well? If not, forget about increasing engagement

Editor’s note: Ben Egan is a consultant at UK-based HR consultancy and bespoke technology firm ETS.

“How are you feeling – are you well?” It’s a question we ask friends and family every day. However, employers aren’t asking it enough.

And even if they are asking the question, they aren’t acting on the answers. This has to change, and fast.

What’s the problem?

When was the last time you asked your team how they’re feeling (outside of an employee survey)?

Employees today are under increased pressure. The rising cost of living, reduced headcounts and increased workloads are leading to declining

Employers cannot afford to ignore unhappy, stressed or burnt-out staff. Issues like those described above, coupled with other non-work pressures, inevitably takes its toll on health and well-being.

At an extreme, this can manifest itself in serious health problems (there has been an increase in mental health conditions in the last decade or so).

To avert this and to keep staff healthy, engaged and productive, companies need to better understand and improve employee well-being.

What do we mean by well-being?

Well-being might be seen by some as a ‘fluffy’ HR topic. However, it entails issues like absence management, occupational health and good management practice. Not at all fluffy.

The UK’s CIPD defines workplace well-being as: “creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organization.”

Work can (and should) positively impact both our mental and physical health and well-being. Healthy and highly-motivated employees will have a positive impact on the productivity and effectiveness of a business. Of course, when the opposite is true, businesses and employees will suffer.

What affects well-being?

There are probably a number of things but I’ve focused on a few areas, in particular. Those of you with a grasp of employee engagement drivers will note strong parallels in the factors that also influence well-being:

  • An employee’s relationship with their line manager
  • Having a clearly defined job role and knowing what’s expected of you
  • An involvement organizational issues and decisions
  • The availability and acceptance of flexible working
  • Having the workplace facilities and resources needed to do your job
  • Employer awareness and understanding of occupational health issues.


Engagement vs. well-being

Employee engagement enjoys a higher profile in corporate circles compared with well-being. The truth is though, the two things are inextricably linked. You can’t have engaged employees without them feeling healthy and well.

Companies therefore need to better understand and enhance employees’ sense of well-being in order to realize increased engagement.

What action is needed?

  1. Get buy-in from senior leaders as this is essential to the success of any initiative.
  2. Secure greater investment in health and well-being programs. You must first though understand employee issues and concerns around health and well-being.
  3. Devise tailored solutions to fit the specific needs of employees. Much like measuring and acting on engagement, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to improving well-being.

The responsibility for health and well-being at work belongs to both employers and employees. However, employers must make the first move in addressing the problem.

The benefits of improved well-being

Today we all understand and buy into the business value of increased employee engagement. The ability to better harness employees’ efforts and channel them toward shared company goals offers a tremendously powerful competitive advantage.

The crossover between engagement and well-being means that you’re highly unlikely to increase engagement without also addressing well-being. So make sure both are strategic priorities.

Posted in Employment Tips, Employment Trends, For Employers | Comment

5 ways to enhance your relationships while working remotely

Working remotely Editor’s note: Kara Goldin is founder/CEO of Hint Inc., a producer of unsweetened flavored waters. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “5 steps to being a rockstar while working remotely.”

More Americans than ever are working remotely at least one day a week according to the 2013 Census Bureau report.

About 13.4 million people or 9.4 percent of U.S. workers worked at least one day at home per week in 2010, compared with 9.2 million people, or 7 percent of U.S. workers in 1997.

In terms of productivity and morale, that’s great for the U.S. Up to three-fourths of my team at Hint works remotely in sales and field marketing. Working off-site does mean that you need to make sure your manager and CEO know how you are adding value to the company as it may not be as immediately apparent as people who sit at headquarters every day. Follow these five tips to have the best of both working worlds:

1. Check in daily. Communication is critical when you’re working out of the office but you need to make sure you’re not being annoying. At least once a day, touch base with your manager, whether it’s over the phone or via e-mail so your boss knows what you’re up to. This is a great opportunity to share your wins.

2. Connect widely. You should also regularly engage with coworkers in other locations. Be generous with your contacts and leads and they’ll return the favor. One of the most effective ways to connect with coworkers you may not see face-to-face regularly is to solicit advice. If you run into a particular barrier, ask around for tips on how others have dealt with a similar issue. From a CEO’s perspective, this means you have more advocates throughout the company. Reaching out also underscores that even though you’re working from home you’re still adding value to the team and thinking of the company first.

3. Schedule a weekly meeting. If you don’t already have a weekly status check-in with your manager, ask for one. This will allow you to share your progress, ideas and successes regularly.

4. Be uber-prepared. It’s not enough to schedule a daily and weekly check-ins. You have to show up and sound knowledgeable, too. Bring all the materials you might need – and more. If you’re on a call or a meeting, the worst thing you can do is say, “I don’t have it in front of me” or “I don’t have that information.” That’s not the best impression to make in front of the people who are in charge of your compensation and career. Instead, bring talking points so you can succinctly discuss what you’re working on, your big successes of the week and anecdotes that show how you’re working through any problems you’ve encountered since the last call. And always bring one or two smart, strategic questions for the team to show that you’re partnering with people in other company locations.

5. Make it personal. You’re not a robot and there’s more to you than your work persona. Find something innocuous to bond over – like sports, craft beer or your latest favorite workout – and create informal relationships with other members of team. This will help you not only enjoy your coworkers but will also ensure that you’ll have people going up to bat for you down the line.

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Research says: Research is a career worth pursuing!

At Quirk’s, we’ve heard enough from our readers to know that, despite all the exciting changes happening in the industry (e.g., mobile research, storytelling, neuromarketing, big data, etc.), it isn’t always sunshine and roses. It’s a lot of hard work for sometimes not a lot of recognition – especially from the C-suite.

five-starsSo it might surprise some of you to hear that from the outside looking in, MR is a thriving industry and you are in a position to be coveted by many! A 2014 article from Yahoo Education that lists five dead-end degrees and five hot degrees to pursue, based on a study from the Georgetown University Center on Education, places marketing research to the winning side. The Georgetown report noted that while the average unemployment rate for all recent college graduates is 7.9 percent, this figure differs significantly from one degree to another.

Yahoo Education combed through the Georgetown Report’s study to identify which degrees to avoid and which might have brighter prospects.

On the dead-end degree list:

  1. Information systems
  2. Architecture
  3. Anthropology
  4. Film, video and photography arts
  5. Political science

On the hot list:

  1. Nursing
  2. Elementary education
  3. Finance
  4. Marketing and marketing research
  5. Business management and administration

The unemployment rate for marketing and marketing research recent graduates was 6.6 percent, according to the Georgetown study.

One reason that rate is so low? “Every single organization, if they plan to be successful, will have a marketing function,” says Dawn Edmiston, assistant professor of management and marketing at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.

SiliconIndia also picked up Yahoo’s story and listed “Market Research Analyst” third on its list of five fast-growing professions worth chasing.

Why it’s booming: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, businesses at present rely on complex data to get to know their consumers’ habits. And in doing so, companies are able to find out the right sets of audiences and market directly to their target population. The data might be of no use until and unless the research analyst puts his ideas into it and interprets them.

Career expert Nicole Cook says, “You have a number of software programs that can run data but until you interpret the data, it’s just numbers. … Market research analysts provide the human interpretation part of it. You can have someone fill out a piece of paper without anyone there but you need humans to put the data in layman’s terms.”

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5 practices to boost your personal and professional standing

Editor’s note: Margaret Page is founder and CEO of Etiquette Page Enterprises, a Western Canadian training organization, and author of The Power of Polite, Blueprint for Success and Cognito Cards – Wisdom for Dining & Social Etiquette.

WatercoolerAt one time, the line between our labor and our leisure was abundantly clear: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. was work; evenings and weekends were for play. But today, in the age of the new workplace order – where going to the gym happens on the job and chatting at the watercooler is encouraged – the line between personal and professional time is blurred. It’s important to remember that whether you are spending a day on the golf course with a client or speaking to one of your friends in a board meeting, the rules of professionalism still apply.

1. Practice good grooming.

It’s great that you ran a few miles with a client over your lunch break or took a spin class with your assistant. Always take the time to have a shower or at the least rinse off. Nothing affects someone’s credibility more than poor grooming. If you worked up a sweat, you need to take time to refresh – no matter how much work is waiting for you.

2. Choose your words carefully.

If you drop a language bomb, the effects of it will linger. And like all bombs, language bombs spell danger. The words you use leave a lasting impression on those around you. Although Sandra Bullock’s slip at the 2014 Critics’ Choice Movie Awards may have awarded her a few startled chuckles from the crowd, it also overshadowed her acceptance speech. Do a quick search of “Sandra Bullock + Acceptance Speech” and you’ll find dozens of videos and commentary on the slip, with very few details about the actual monologue.

When you drop an F-bomb, credibility goes down and caution goes up!

3. Meet people on their terms.

The golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated is no longer enough in this age of connectivity. Instead, consider the platinum rule: Treat others as they would have you treat them. Some people prefer to use e-mail to communicate, while others use texting, social media and Skype. And yes, there are still those who prefer a phone call. Everyone has a preferred mode of communication so find out what that is for each business contact – and use it.

And that’s just the first step.

If you want to build lasting relationships with clients and colleagues, know and appreciate their model of the world. Perhaps you’re working with a client who has specific days of the week blocked off for meetings. Note this so that you can schedule meetings on those specific days. Having this awareness and making the effort to be accommodating goes a long way in building strong business relationships.

4. Know when to stop talking.

How much of your own personal challenges – or successes – do you share with your clients or colleagues? Even though you’ve become friends with some of your business connections, you must still keep professionalism in mind when sharing personal information. It would not, for example, be appropriate to share the gruesome details of your spouse’s infidelity with someone you work with – no matter how close you are. Keep the information at a classified level if you’re reaching out for support from co-workers and refrain from seeking advice from clients or your boss when it comes to your personal life. Instead, seek out someone from HR for support or find a coach or therapist you can work with.

The converse is also true here: When you are on the receiving end of the conversation, be available to lend an ear but be very careful not to get pulled into personal drama. The line can become very fuzzy if you open the door too wide. Take the time to listen and encourage them to seek professional support if needed.

5. Leave things better than you found them.

What things? Everything: people, plans and projects – whatever you are involved in. Sometimes we don’t realize the implications of our interactions. Too often “average” and “good enough” are the standards that people reach for. While average is great for your blood pressure, it is not inspiring in the workplace.

How do you want people to feel when they interact with you? Worse? Exactly the same? Or better? You really do have the power to make or break someone’s day. Sometimes it’s the simplest gesture that makes the biggest impact.

Imagine if you approached life, business and everything else that matters with a vision of leaving it better than you found it. Or if each time you did something you wanted to do it better than the time before. If you set the bar high, you will always have a job, a career, a place to go and people who want to be connected to you in some way.

While it’s true that the way we conduct business these days has changed, the way we present ourselves is fundamentally the same. If you are well-groomed, speak profoundly, connect with others and make a positive difference in the world, you will succeed at work and at play.

Posted in Employment Tips, The Business of Research | Comment

MR job prospects show promise of upward mobility

Editor’s note: Karla Ahern and Naomi Keller are market research executive recruiters at Evanston, Ill.-based Burtch Works Executive Recruiting. This post originally appeared as an article in the April 2014 issue of Marketing News under the title “State of the research job market, spring 2014.”

Last summer, we looked closely at trends in market research hiring as the economy moved toward recovery. At that time, we were beginning to see steady growth in job availability as well as a renewed sense of urgency within the marketplace.

Upward-mobilityAs more jobs became available, candidates were going on and off the market more quickly, often interviewing and fielding offers from multiple companies. As a result, hiring authorities recognized the need to act fast to snag the best employees and to critically evaluate their compensation packages. Most of this activity was happening on the client side in the pharmaceutical, technology and retail industries. In 2014, we’re seeing this growth and urgency continue with some interesting, new trends.

First off, we’d be remiss not to address the few rough patches in the landscape. As the economy continues to recover, retail and restaurants have been slow to rebound. The difficult winter has not helped these industries and some well-known companies have begun taking a hard look at headcount. Additionally, some CPG companies are seeing declines in market share, potentially due to consumer adoption of high-quality, lower-priced, private-label brands. However, in the field of market research, consumer behavioral changes inherently represent great opportunities for growth and investment in research will always illuminate the best strategies to address these changes.

Expansion of consumer insights

In recent client conversations, a frequent talking point has been their recommitment to the expansion of consumer insights departments. This is great news for the industry as a whole, whether you work on the client or supplier side. Reinvestment in research should ripple throughout the industry and if corporate entities lead the charge, we’ll likely see suppliers and consulting firms staff up to meet the increased demand. So far, we’re seeing a split as corporate departments expand: Some are pulling more of their research in-house whereas others are broadening their research capacity while continuing to outsource to vendors.

More director-level roles

As a result of this growth, we’re also beginning to see more director-level roles open up. Last year, the majority of openings were at the manager to senior manager level but as companies commit to expanding their insights teams, they want experienced market researchers at the helm to guide long-term strategy and growth and, in some cases, help build a consumer insights function from scratch. This trend should prove beneficial for both junior- and senior-level candidates because as employees move up or out, roles will be back-filled, allowing career mobility for junior- and mid-level employees.

Direct management experience

The expansion of consumer insights teams and the increase in director-level roles also appear to be contributing to an increased need for candidates with direct management experience. From manager roles upward, many of our clients are telling us that they want employees with demonstrated leadership success. Job seekers should be sure to highlight these skills on their résumés and during interviews to stay competitive. For candidates without direct reports, we recommend emphasizing vendor management and project management experience, if applicable.

Confidence is returning

As we ease out of this long winter, the signs of continued job growth are clear and confidence is returning to companies and candidates. For those who were waiting out the economic slowdown, now may be a good time to start exploring the market. Even those who aren’t looking for a career change can benefit from understanding how the landscape is shifting and how these new trends will affect their current role and their careers overall.

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3 tips for getting more honest – and useful – employee feedback

Editor’s note: Barry Banther is the founder and CEO of Banther Consulting, Tarpon Springs, Fla., and author of A Leader’s Gift: How to Earn the Right to be Followed.

EarThere are five simple words that can spell doom for a leader: If I had only known! These are the words you utter right after a major client cancels a contract, a customer stops ordering or an error occurs that will cost you thousands out of your own pocket. That’s why the best leaders and the most competent managers thrive on employee feedback.

So why don’t more of us go out of our way to encourage quick and candid feedback? Our first response to this question is typically focused on our team. We aren’t convinced that they really get the big picture; we don’t want them to get distracted from their current work; or we simply don’t value their opinion. But the best advisors will tell you that it’s not the leader’s associates but the leader’s perspective that is the problem.

If a leader isn’t careful, they can begin to believe that they alone know what’s best. No one else could possibly have all the necessary information for a decision like they do and no one has the company or the customers’ best interest at heart like they do. And this is the kind of thinking that leads to mediocrity at best and outright failure at worst.

Just think of the examples where feedback wasn’t encouraged and the results were troublesome (e.g., the Toyota accelerator problem, the rollout of the national health care Web site, etc.). In each situation, someone possessed very important information but was not encouraged to share it.

A corporate culture of harm, where listening to employees isn’t valued, impacts business every day across America. Among the most successful working professionals there is one constant truth: Trust between leaders and their associates is built upon a transparency that reflects a freedom to speak and to be heard.

But it takes more than listening to get the kind of feedback an effective leader needs. In many employee surveys, respondents will tell you that they don’t believe their leader is genuinely listening most of the time.

A typical employee survey may ask “If your supervisor could improve in one area that would make a difference in your work performance, what should it be?” Among the numerous cynical answers (some possibly too rude to print), a common theme might stand out: “Value my opinion enough to look at me and listen whenever I am trying to tell you something; I could save you from a lot of trouble.” When the person who leads us doesn’t listen to us, we can sense it – and we don’t like it.

So how can you turn that attitude around? How do you create an environment where you are getting consistent and candid feedback? There are three leadership skills that are essential. Without them, you will always be working with half-truths and misinformation. With them, you will become proactive, anticipating both challenges and opportunities before everyone else and your reputation as a leader who develops followers will soar.

1. Stop, drop and listen.

When an associate is talking with you, don’t multitask. Stop whatever you are doing and listen. A director in a major urban hospital was accused of frequently checking his e-mail and text messages while meeting with his team. He agreed for one week to keep the phone in his pocket or on the desk and look right at his associate and just listen.

Within a week, the improvement was staggering. Countless team members commented on how much they appreciated his new behavior. But more importantly, one associate who was usually hesitant to share much told him of an impending problem that would have been catastrophic for the hospital. Merely giving his undivided attention proved invaluable to his business.

2. Suspend judgment.

Some young managers are often wrong but never in doubt! In fact, many believe that if they don’t act like they have the answer, their employees will lose respect for them. This thought process is backward: Pretending to have all the answers is the chief cause of not being respected.

If you are prone to snap judgments and haven’t disciplined your mind to routinely suspend judgment, you will assess, judge and determine your response without getting all the feedback. And you might be right 75 percent of the time. But the 25 percent of the time that you jumped to a conclusion could cost you your career. When you are getting feedback from a team member, learn to hold back on your first response and make no judgments until you have exhausted the conversation.

3. Search deeper.

Rarely will an employee reveal everything to you about something right off the bat. As the leader, it is your job to bring out what the other person is thinking. Ask questions to dig deeper for what the person is trying to convey: How do you mean that? Can you give me an example? Why is this important? How will this affect us?

Which do you think will get you more feedback: a statement you make that ends in a period or a question mark?

That’s what John F. Smith, CEO and president of General Motors, did. He undertook the most significant reorganization in the company’s history and succeeded in engendering this practice of listening among the management team. As a result, GM went from near bankruptcy to turning a profit! Smith concluded “Good things happen when you pay attention!”

Chances are very good that right now your associates have information you need to hear. Practice these three skills constantly and the trust and feedback you gain could make a big difference in your career.

Posted in For Employers, The Business of Research | Comment

8 reasons why opportunity never knocks on your door

475041627You’re a hard worker. You stay late at the office and never complain. You’re your boss’ go-to person on big projects and you never let her down. You’re always taking on extra responsibility even when your plate is spilling over. And yet, your career trajectory is as flat as a board.

Meanwhile, you can’t help but notice the coworkers who put in fewer hours than you but who’ve managed to get themselves promoted over you. Or that friend of yours whose long-shot cupcake bakery idea turned into a huge success. Or the countless wealthy businesspeople featured in the business magazines and blogs you read religiously who seem to have reached even greater success over the past few years despite the down economy.

What’s their secret? Is it just pure luck? Or something else? “I guarantee that the successful people you see every day don’t have anything you don’t have,” says Vickie Milazzo, author of Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. “There is no single factor that prevents success or one that guarantees it. If you aren’t driven by your passion or continuously working toward important goals, then of course, you’re going to feel stuck in one place. But when you focus on your goals, plan your steps forward and have a little more faith in yourself, you can achieve wicked success.”

The first step, according to Milazzo, is to hold up a mirror and really examine what you’re putting in at work. “Long hours don’t always mean you’re more productive than everyone else,” she says. “If you are working longer hours and still getting nowhere, it is important to objectively assess the value of your output.

“For example, how much time do you spend complaining? Do you have to discuss every issue ad infinitum no matter how small? Are you a high-maintenance or low-maintenance employee? Are you stealing time from the company to manage your personal life and counting it as work? Figure out how to become truly productive and to continuously make progress toward project goals. The success you seek will follow.”

If you’re still stumped as to why success has eluded you, read on as Milazzo explains as few success obstacles and how to get around them.

You underprice yourself. You’d love to ask for more money but frankly, you’re afraid to. The economy still isn’t great so I’d better lie low, you reason. This just seems like common sense. But settling for less than you’re worth is a big mistake – even in the wake of the Great Recession.

“In fact, if you’re in the running for a new job or promotion, it might even cost you the opportunity,” says Milazzo. “When I’m hiring, I actually weed out candidates who underprice themselves because I assume they won’t perform at the level I expect. In my eyes and in the eyes of many other CEOs, job candidates actually lose credibility when they underprice themselves.

“Many people mistakenly think they’re doing their employers a favor by not pushing for more or that they’ll be more appealing if they don’t ask for what they’re worth,” she adds. “The bad economy might be the current excuse but I believe most underpricing occurs because many employees and job candidates just aren’t comfortable asking for what they think they’re worth.”

You’re viewed as a commodity. Commodities are easy to obtain and easy to replace. And that’s certainly not how you want to be perceived at your job – whether you’re an employee, a leader or an entrepreneur. After all, if the people you’re working with know that others share your skill set, they won’t have any reason to pay you more or give you advanced opportunities. They’ll be in control, not you. Do everything you can to ensure that you aren’t seen as interchangeable or dispensable.

“Don’t shrink into your chair and become the invisible employee,” advises Milazzo. “Do what you need to do to stand out. Get in the middle of everything and bring new ideas to the table. Build relationships throughout the company. If you’re able to make yourself invaluable and leverage the things that make you unique, you’ll also make yourself impossible to replace. And when that happens, you’ll be in control of your own price.”

You downplay your accomplishments. It can be hard to toot your own horn. But if you don’t announce your own achievements, you can bet that no one else is going to do it for you. With humility, make sure that you’re keeping your name, your accomplishments and your skill set in front of everyone. “Make sure you’re getting the recognition and credit you’ve earned,” notes Milazzo. “If you still have doubts, consider that announcing your accomplishments validates the investments others have made in you. Your boss, for example, wants to know that she bet on a winner when she hired you!”

You don’t network with big players. Generally, we tend to gravitate toward people who are similar to us: people who think similarly, who find similar things fun and who are in similar walks of life. That’s fine when it comes to your friendships, but you need to aim higher when it comes to networking. More than 60 percent of people find jobs through networking, for example, and you can bet that most of them didn’t achieve this goal because they knew someone at the bottom of the pecking order.

“No, I’m not advocating snobbery,” Milazzo says. “It’s normal to gravitate toward people who are the same as you – but in business, one of the main reasons people don’t get ahead is that they don’t get out of their groups. Make every effort to meet people who are a rung or two higher than you on the professional ladder. If you impress someone who is more successful than you are, they’ll have a lot more influence than someone whose position is equivalent to yours.”

You doubt your abilities. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll reach any goal you set for yourself if you don’t believe with your whole heart that achieving it is possible. Among other things, you won’t be confident enough to take calculated risks if you don’t believe that the limitations in front of you are surmountable. Anytime you find yourself entertaining doubts or trying to limit what you think is possible, remind yourself of your past successes. Let them infuse you with pride and bolster your resolve.

“Believing you can do it – whatever ‘it’ is – is 90 percent of the win,” says Milazzo. “When I walked into my first meeting with a potential client, my legs were literally shaking. I forced myself to remember that this attorney needed specialized knowledge that only I – a critical-care nurse – could give him. That reminder didn’t banish all of my nervousness but it did enable me to make the points I wanted. And I walked out of that meeting with my first client. I learned that when you expand what you’re willing to believe about yourself, you can transform who you are and what your life looks like.”

You need a mentor. There are two ways to develop the skills, habits, mind-sets, etc., that you’ll need to achieve success. The first is to go it alone and learn by trial and error in the school of hard knocks. The second (much smarter) path is to learn from others who have encountered and surmounted problems that are similar to your own. That being the case, surround yourself with as many mentors as possible and practice the skills they pass on to you.

“I’ve been in business for three decades and I still learn every day from my students, staff, writers, speakers, business experts and more,” says Milazzo. “And in the early days of growing my business, I devoured every book on business strategy I could find, even though none were aimed precisely at the niche I was creating. Aggressive learning is a competitive advantage in achieving any desired goals.”

You are too bogged down in the little things. In today’s world, we’re constantly sabotaged by nonproductive energy wasters. There are e-mails to read. Facebook statuses to update. Receipts to locate for that already-late expense report. Dishes to be washed. Files to be organized. And on and on. These are the easy, albeit often unproductive, tasks that make us feel good. They may not get you any closer to accomplishing your greater goals but at least you’ve checked a couple of things off your to-do list.

“Unfortunately,” says Milazzo, “this addiction comes at a high price, because that cheap check-mark high is guaranteed to frustrate, overwhelm and stress you out in the long term. By majoring in minor things, we never get to our big commitments. Breaking these addictions opens the door to achievement. Remember, what you engage and focus on is where you will yield results.”

You aren’t going after your BIG goals. When is the last time you set a goal and really went after it? Milazzo encourages people to identify their “big things” – those goals that connect to their passionate vision. Then choose one to schedule their day around. For example, your big thing might be to get promoted. So today you might agree to take on a high-profile work project in order to put you in the running for that promotion. “Set a target date for each of your big things,” says Milazzo. “And begin working steadily toward achieving each of them. Start strong and you’ll experience genuine elation from achieving real goals and solving real problems.”

“You can’t snap your fingers and suddenly become successful,” she says. “And the successful people you envy weren’t able to do that either. They worked for it. They set big goals. They didn’t settle for small-time achievements. Success can be yours too if you make the same big commitments.”

Posted in Corporate Researchers, Employment Tips | Comment