Job Matters: Wonder Woman to the Rescue!

Wonder WomanIn today’s somewhat fragile economy, there still are some companies out there that are hiring. If you are, congratulations!

If you are hiring, you probably have a corporate recruiter/human resources manager who is working diligently to find the best person for your jobs. Maybe the role is so important you’re doing the hiring yourself. Either way, interviewing is very stressful for both the interviewer and the interviewee. For the candidate, being grilled is frightening, right up there with having to give a speech, but it’s not a walk in the park for the recruiter either. For the interviewer, it is maddening to see a picture-perfect candidate self-destruct before your very eyes. Instead of the calm, self-assured candidate you hope to meet, you are faced with someone who cannot relax and enjoy the conversation as it unfolds. Instead, the candidate panics and that feeling overwhelms the interview. As a result, the candidate leaves the interaction empty-handed, and you are disappointed.

As you ready yourself for your next round of interviews, I’m going to let you in on a trade secret. Candidates do not understand that you want them to ace the job interview. They don’t realize that we want them to bring their A game and blow us away. The better they do, the easier our job is. The worse they do, the more candidates we have to interview before we can make a credible recommendation to our client’s leadership on whom to hire. So in the interest of helping candidates help you, I want to offer you a practical tip that you can forward to all of your interviewees ahead of time. This tip is guaranteed to improve the quality of your/my/our interviews.

Recently, Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy spoke to the TED network about body language. In the twenty-minute talk, Cuddy, a well-known social psychologist, discussed her game-changing research on the impact your poses have on the way you view yourself — yes, the way YOU think about YOU, not just the way others think about you. SPOILER ALERT! Your body language has a definite impact on your body’s levels of testosterone (good — boldness) and cortisol (bad – receptivity to stress). For example, a powerful pose like standing with your hands on your hips a la Wonder Woman increases testosterone and decreases cortisol. This chemical reaction leaves you feeling on top of the world, which, in turn, translates favorably to your audience – whoever that might be and whoever you might be.

Okay, I got it. You’re wondering what does this have to do with recruiting. Well, if you really want to help your candidate knock one out of the park, send them the link to the Cuddy video. Not only will they realize that you are pulling for them, they will learn something that will translate into an all-around better interviewing experience for both of you. Maybe then, instead of being huddled over their mobile phone trying to glean the last shred of intel on you before the interview, they’ll be waiting in the lobby hands on hips ready to tackle this conversation together.

Now, wouldn’t that be an interesting change of pace? Please take this suggestion all the way to the boardroom. I’m counting on you.

View Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk for yourself.  

Marcia Call has worked in the human capital/staffing arena for more than a decade. Most recently, she founded the firm, TalentFront, to serve the needs of companies and organizations seeking support in the development and implementation of recruiting processes.

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English: emperform

Dealing with performance issues is a critical component of any founder or manager’s job. Since this often involves conflict and difficult emotions, many people put this off. That often means they do not deal with problems until it is too late to effective solve them. Firing and replacing staff is disruptive and expensive at best. Often you can avoid getting to that stage by more effective performance management.

Remember: your success is directly related to the performance of your staff.

What causes inadequate performance?

Far too often, it is failures in the system rather than the person. Management experts from Peter Drucker on, list the most common causes of inadequate performance as:

* employee does not know what is expected
* employee does not know how to do the task
* work processes interfere with good performance
* feedback on actual performance quality is not given to the employee
* there is negative consequence for good performance

These issues must be addressed first if they exist. It starts with hiring the right person for the right job. Orientation to your workplace, systems, and expectations is important too. Looking regularly at how your processes and systems work  to see that they are efficient for your current needs is vital. And so is regular performance feedback.

When an employee does not perform to expected levels, you can succeed in improving the person’s performance if you address the issue as quickly as it is first identified.

Here are some basics on how to do this well.

* accurately identify the problem and the behavior change you desire
* give specific details of the behavior that creates the problem and the impact of the problem on the function or business
* involve the employee and ask for his/her solution

Once the employee has accepted responsibility and you have a mutually agreed plan, be sure you follow-up to ensure it is working well.

On a regular basis, you can create the conditions that help all your employees succeed by your own behavior and practices.  Demonstrate your commitment to helping employees succeed by actively soliciting their ideas for improvements and by encouraging them to grow and develop their skills.  Model the behaviors you expect.  Provide on-going feedback on results.  Say ‘thank you’ when you mean it.

There are many ways to improve your ability to manage people effectively.  Learning to communicate effectively and managing performance are critical first steps to your success.

Join us November 6, 2012 for a Brown Bag lunch on how to handle termination of employment issues effectively.

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Non-Competition Agreements for Small Business: Not Too Broad or Too Narrow, But Just Right

The Supreme Court of Virginia Building, adjace...

Non-competition agreements, or non-solicitation agreements, are generally clauses within employment agreements which limit employees’ ability to enter into employment or to start a business which competes with a former employer.  Under Virginia law, non-competes (sometimes called or written plainly “noncompetes”), though viewed as a restraint of trade, are enforceable if the three prongs of the non-compete–time, geography and function–are properly limited.  The non-compete terms should be broad enough to protect the employer’s business interests, but not so broad as to prevent the employee from earning a living and should not violate public policy.


Many times the focus on non-compete agreement terms fall on the time and geography prong.  In November, the Virginia Supreme Court squarely refocused the discussion on the function prong of the non-compete.  In Home Paramount Pest Control v. Shaffer, the Court reviewed a non-compete agreement that it had approved 22 years ago in Paramount Termite Control v. Rector.  This time the Court declared that the function provision, which the company had not changed in the ensuing time, as overly broad and the entire agreement as unenforceable.


The Court held that the language which stated that the former employee could not engage “directly or indirectly. . . in any manner whatsoever in the carrying on or conducting the business of exterminating, pest control, termite control and/or fumigation services as an owner, agent, servant, representative, or employee, and/or as a member of a partnership and/or as an officer, director or stockholder or any corporation or in any manner whatsoever . . .” was not reasonable because the clause effectively prohibited the employee from holding any type of job in the industry.  The reasonableness of the time and geography prongs were insufficient to save the agreement.  Under the Home Paramount, if a business wants to preclude an employee from performing any work for a competitor, then it must be ready, willing and able to prove a “legitimate business interest” to do so. That’s not necessarily an easy task.


So, to ease the process for small businesses, now is the time to review any non-compete clauses used in your business.  Be wary of non-competition agreement forms or templates.  What terms are permissible in a non-compete clause in Virginia may not work at all in California – and vice versa. Terms permissible 20 years ago or even 6 months ago  in Virginia are no longer workable.  Court decisions over time can and do change the law.  The laws of individual states evolve over time and the laws of each state differ.


All three prongs of the non-compete must be appropriately limited, reasonable and related to the position in question.  The function prong cannot be so broad that it effectively precludes the employee from performing any job in the industry from CEO to janitor or even from owning stock passively in a multinational, publicly held corporation.



Law Office of Paula Potoczak

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