Square Peg in a Round Hole…or How to Fit a Nontraditional Workforce into a Traditional Workplace

Last week, I was at the UPSTART LIVE Spring Summit New Strategies & Solutions in the Global War for Talent as the opening second-day keynote speaker of the conference. This event had a unique focus—it was highlighting HR recruiting in the Oil and Gas industry.  Since I was keynoting the opening on the second day, I decided to make good use of my time and attend some of the first-day presentations.

The conference had a sweeping range of topics and interactive sessions along with peer-to-peer round tables. (Jeff Hurt, you would have been pleased.) Because my subject matter for my address was around the generations succeeding together in the workplace, I was very interested in some of the generational success stories shared by several of the corporate participants.

It was like adding fuel to my tank … a lot of my long-held concepts were confirmed as I continued to listen, learn, and grow.  Now I want to shout from the mountaintop because I am so excited to share what I have learned. For years, I have been saying that in our world today when we talk about the generations in the workplace, we have to realize that the core conflict arises from trying to fit an increasing nontraditional workforce into a traditional work environment.

Here are a few things I discovered at the conference:

1. LinkedIn is where the future of recruiting lies. Attending this session was so amazing and informative. Chris Kelleher, senior sales manager at LinkedIn shared the power of LinkedIn sourcing tools and employment branding services.  He mentioned  that companies and organizations must have a strong brand presence on LinkedIn and candidates need to get active in using key words and updating profiles.

2. There was a lot of emphasis placed on the knowledge gap. Back 30 to 40 years ago, there was a tremendous hiring of engineers who stayed in the oil and gas industry. These Boomers have gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience in that industry, and they need to share the knowledge before they retire. Some people have suggested mentoring programs, but I was excited to hear David Kent speak. David is the founder of Houston’s Oilpro.com, which is an oil and gas social network launched to bridge the industry’s generation gap. David said that Oilpro is an online community of oil and gas professionals interested in connecting with colleagues, advancing their skills, building credibility around their expertise, staying current, and exploring exciting new opportunities.

3. I got excited as I heard about all the innovative things that oil and gas companies are doing to KEEP the talent.  Here are some of the findings and solutions:

Meyerland Harris HR at HEB grocery stores, which hires many Gen Ys and Gen Zs, shared these suggestions when managing the younger workforce:

1. Explain your company’s vision

2. Prioritize community service

3. Develop in-between steps and titles

4. Give encouragement and regular feedback

5. Be flexible with schedules

6. Provide educational and personal development


Laura Ramey, VP of HR at Crestwood Midstream, shared her experiences working with Boomers. She said that the most important thing to remember when engaging Boomers is to remember to give them attention and recognition. Boomers like to know that they are still in the loop, and that they are motivated by being valued and needed. (How about that for switching perspectives?)

Edda Tinis, the Learning and Development Director for Air Liquide, has worked on programs that successfully increased retention rates for both Gen X and Y employees for more than 10 years.In 2000, Air Liquide created a two-year rotation for all new college  hires. The programs consist of four different rotations each lasting six months.  In addition to the tech/operations/rotations, new hires have training in really interesting and necessary subjects such as networking, career development, the FISH Philosophy, negotiating skills, teamwork, CPR, safety and risk management, volunteer opportunities, and my favorite business—etiquette.

After hearing all this great information, I decided to shift my keynote address and put the focus on Gen X.  I challenged Gen X to take on the leadership role by understanding that the conflict arises from trying to fit an increasingly nontraditional workforce into a largely traditional workplace. Gen X can be the leaders of creating the new work environment by using their knowledge, creativity, and skill to lead, manage, and guide both the Boomers and the Gen Ys. (Thank you, Edda, for giving me the fuel.)

So, I appeal to you, Gen X. It’s up to you to help all of us understand and value the strengths and differences of each generational group—leverage the strengths of each and create a work environment that values differences.

The Power of Your Story – Facts Tell and Stories SELL!

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                                                        My newest program for leadership, sales, marketing!

Move over Cool Food, storytelling isn’t just for kids anymore – it’s serious business! Your stories are a powerful tool that can help you advance your career, move you into a leadership role, help you sell more, speak more, and build a memorable professional brand.

We each have a story inside us waiting to be told. Powerful stories do more than entertain – they can establish rapport, motivate teams, make the sale,  relieve stress, build trust, manage expectations and so much more…

Photo Flickr: Alan Cleaver.

Ultimately, we are remembered by our story, but nobody will tell your story if you don’t first tell it yourself.  

Recently I presented my NEW PROGRAM The Power of Your Story to Collaborate Marketplace in Denver and it was a great success.

If you want to learn how to tell your story and have a great time while learning, come to my Story Telling workshop on July 19th In Houston Texas. Read all about it here!  Learn how to make your story right and tight and hold the listeners attention.

Your Story will Rock so just remember…

1. Stories are one of the most underutilized tools in business today. Use your story to your advantage.

2. It’s best when you Add some emotions…because stories create Emotions which stimulates Motivation that cranks up Action and creates Results.

3. They may forget your name but they will remember your story if you make it STICKY!

4. A great story is repeatable!

5. People want to hear your secrets to success!

Stay committed  and practice, practice, practice!. If you

and  Put your story in your presentation- You’ll thank me! because Stories Stick!  So, Email, Text, Tweet or FB me if you need a little help!


Listen Up! It’s Loud Out There

“The best solutions are often formed as a culmination of many ideas offered by lots of people.  If you’re not paying attention, think about what you might miss.” Karen McCullough

YOU: Excuse me boss, do you have a second?  I have an idea that might….

THE BOSS: Sure, oh… wait- here’s an important text

YOU: No problem.

THE BOSS: Okay, back to you. What a call- it’s my wife- I need to check it out! Okay, back to you.

YOU: Well, I was thinking that….

THE BOSS: Hey somebody…that customer is trying to get someone’s attention.

YOU: Sure, I can wait.

THE BOSS: Okay, back to you.

YOU:  I think I’ve lost my train of thought.  Let’s talk again some other time when things aren’t so hectic.

Sound familiar?

It’s loud out there, and chances are, you – and others around you – are distracted.  Your smart phone is buzzing, pinging, texting, tweeting, and ringing. The person in front of you in line at Costco has on head phones and playing air guitar; no eye contact happening here.  XM music is playing in the background and the flat screens across the way are showing news from the Middle East, college football games, Finding Nemo and everyone seems to be yelling into their Bluetooth’s.

It’s just too much noise and sadly we are tuning out!  Do you ever find yourself looking face to face with a friend, a colleague, and at times even a customer –  they’re talking, and all you hear is, “Blah, Blah, Blah,” like the teacher in the Charlie Brown specials?

If you find that you are tuning people out, it’s time to stop.  No, I didn’t say hit pause, I said stop.  It’s time to learn how to LISTEN UP!  Your skills as a listener can make or break your success in business and your life.

Many of us don’t consciously realize that listening is a critical component in the communications loop and that it takes skill.   We think listening just happens, that it doesn’t involve practice, and that we don’t need to make an effort to effectively hear what people are saying.  Talking – not listening – is important, and in many cases we are thinking not about what someone is telling us, but what we’re going to say when they finally stop talking.

Another listening issue is caused by our inflated egos.  According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, people think that the voice mail they send is more important than the voice mail they receive.  Generally, senders think that their message is more helpful and urgent than do the people who receive it.  Just think of all we’re missing when we see ourselves as the only one with the good ideas.

If we are to learn from others, we need to optimize our communication skills by effectively closing the conversation loop, and to do that we need to elevate the important of listening.  Let’s start by calling listening Active Listening.  According to Wikipedia, Active Listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear.  Active Listening can also be viewed as a gift (honoring the other person by giving our time and attention) as well as a skill to be mastered.

Here are some steps to becoming an Active Listener. (Or bring Karen in Live)

1. Stop talking. You can’t multitask speaking and listening.  It’s impossible.  When you are talking, you are not listening.  And this also applies to that little voice talking inside your head.  (I know for a fact that we women have more than one voice inside our head….  We have an entire committee chatting it up! )  So Rule #1 is to Stop the Talking!

2. Look at the person who is talking. Take time to notice their facial expression and their body language. We gather more information from non-verbal signs and tone of voice than we do from a person’s actual words. Active listening requires an understanding of what someone is saying with their gestures, eye contact, tone of voice as well as their words.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter Drucker

3. Focus and eliminate distractions. Turn off the cell phone and the TV, and put down the iPad.  When you interrupt someone to check your messages, you are sending a signal that you are not interested in what they have to say.  Stop  multitasking while pretending to listen. How many times have you been on the phone with one person and sending an e-mail to someone else?

4. Don’t make assumptions, jump to conclusions, or react before the speaker has had a chance to express herself.  Don’t try to solve the problem before they have completed presenting their issue.

5.  Don’t finish the other person’s sentences. Wait until the speaker is finished talking before deciding if you agree or disagree.  Don’t try to solve the problem or come up with the answer while the speaker is still talking.

6. Ask good questions. Learn how to create thought-provoking conversation that relates to the speaker’s topic.  Ask meaningful questions that get to the heart of the matter.  A good question gets the speaker to think more deeply and can expand the conversation. Ask questions that start with how or why to really get them to elaborate. Once you get them to open up paraphrasing and summarizing what they have said will demonstrate that you are listening to them. You might even want to take notes during your interaction, this will force you to listen well and show the boss or sales prospect that you care enough to write down what they are saying.

7. Ask for feedback. The opportunity to give and receive feedback allows us to give guidance and make adjustments .  Feedback helps make sure that all parties are hearing the same message and eases miscommunication.

8.  Repeat what people say. Offering a comment like, “Let me be sure I understand what you’re saying. You’re saying that…?” helps  prevent misunderstandings and show that you are really listening.

Practicing active listening skills will transform your interaction with others, generating solutions and ideas born of creativity and collaboration and enriching your business, social connections and life in general.  By honoring others with your time and attention you will certainly energize the conversation, be more productive, reduce errors,  sell more, be more innovative, come up with ideas and solutions that you’d never find on your own and have more friends and a better love life…

not bad for just listening…huh?

Got Core Values?

If you’ve been reading or listening to the news you’ve heard about NEWS OF THE WORLD, Britain’s 160+ year old tabloid journal and the unethical phone hacking practices.  You may have also heard that the leaders of this organization claim that they knew nothing about the incidences…Really?

Maybe every organization  should follow the example of Zappos and make a Video of their company’s core values…and watch it once a week.

Just a thought!

Want to Be More Productive? Get Happy!

A few months back, I was asked to present a keynote on productivity in the workplace. I was to speak  to 100 top executives in the oil services business.  I wanted to update my productivity program and began doing some research on “productivity in the 2011 workplace.” While I was reading, I received  a call from my sister Terry, who is not only print-maker and artist but also an art therapist. She recently attended the American Art Therapy Conference and was very impressed with Gioia Chilton’s session on Positive Psychology. She gave me some articles to read and a few TED videos to watch, and I became kind of obsessed with what I discovered about productivity.

In a nutshell, here’s what I found and what I presented to the group.

For the past 60 or so years, psychologist have been studying a “diseased model” – that is, doing their research with depressed, unhappy and unproductive patients, rather than the happy, healthy and more productive ones.

When psychologist started studying positive, happy people they found that there were three main differences between them and their unhappy counterparts.

According to their studies positive people:

  • Are social, seek out others and engage
  • Find meaning in their work and their life
  • Enjoy having fun and seek pleasure

So what does this have to do with productivity in the workplace?


What we know about productivity today is that in successful companies (think Apple, Google,  Zappos, Starbucks, Marriott, Southwest…) employees and teams that are connected, engaged, and have a voice are happy at work … and they’re productive!

Similarly, when we see meaning in our work and feel as though we are making a difference, not only do we feel more fulfilled, but we are also more productive. The reverse is also true. Studies show that when people do not find meaning in their work, or when they are given responsibilities with no authority, absenteeism is prevalent.

And finally, as Gen Y tells us over and over – work needs to be fun and pleasurable. Simply stated: when we have fun, we want to do more of it!

As I was giving the presentation, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the managers in the room were Gen X and they were eating this information up! They seek engagement at work and are frustrated with “closed door ” environments. They want a work-life balance and who doesn’t want to laugh and enjoy the day!

They loved this topic it showed. They participated with enthusiasm and they wanted to share their ideas and be a part of the program. Their reaction to the presentation made the one hour more productive than the old days of the speaker speaks and the audience listens. We turned the monologue into dialogue – and everyone got more out of it.

This is a huge SHIFT happening in my presentations and in the  workplace… and it excites me!

How To Introduce Yourself

by Lisa B. Marshall guest blogger

People quickly form strong opinions based on first impressions and that is why a well-crafted, strong, self-introduction is a critical part of making a good first impression. First impressions are very difficult change, so it is best when introducing yourself to be confident, strong, and self-aware.

See below answers to this weeks ‘Public Speaker Pop Quiz’ answering the question of how to properly introduce yourself:

Start with a Name
First, if possible, all introductions should start with the name of the other person. Of course, in a letter or on online, that’s easy to do: Dear Ariana or Hi Daniela. In person, it’s tempting to start with your own name, but if you know the name of the other person, use his name first. In a group setting, you can just say: ¨Hi, everyone!¨

Once you’ve said your greeting, then you should say your name. In fact, in a professional setting, it’s important to say your name twice. It’s also a good habit to slow down and say your name clearly. For example, “Hi Jane, I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall.” Depending on the setting you may also want to include your title, your company, or appropriate context.

“Hi Mary, I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall. I’m one of the speakers today. It’s great to meet you, Mary.
Notice, you’ll want to say the name of the other person twice as well. That will help you to remember her name and it shows your interest in her.

Communicate Proper Body Language
As you are saying these initial words, remember that the majority of your impact will come from your tone of voice and body language. Of course, with all introductions you’ll want to communicate enthusiasm by smiling, using direct eye contact, and speaking with an upbeat, positive tone of voice. In a business setting, you’ll likely also include a handshake.

You’ll want a firm, full-handed, web-to-web, handshake. Be sure to listen to my previous episode on effective handshaking and be sure to test your handshake on several folks before important introductions such as job interviews.

Along with a confident handshake, you’ll also need to walk and stand with confidence. That means walking slightly faster than normal, with your shoulders back. I always like to imagine someone pouring cold water down my back because this mental image helps me to move faster and keep the right posture.   Your goal is confidence but not over-confidence (that’s just intimidating and off-putting). And remember, fresh breath is important. Always carry mints with you.

Build a Rapport through Common Ground
Next, an important part of any introduction is to consider your audience. Who exactly are you introducing yourself to? What will they find interesting and compelling? What can you share that might help to quickly build common ground and help you make a connection?

The goal is to establish common ground and make a connection. It can be anything that you are both interested in. It doesn’t have to be school or business related. It doesn’t even have to be of great importance. Just be sure to start with “safe” obvious links and avoid controversial topics.

“Hi, Mary, I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall. It’s great to meet you Mary. I’m a communication specialist and I’m also one of the speakers today. I’d love to hear who you thought was the best speaker so far?

Be Brief and Conversational
Notice that self-introductions should be short and conversational. After sharing very briefly about yourself, you then ask a question that helps lead your partner into a conversation. (The exception of course, is in an interview setting, where it’s best to let your interviewer lead the conversation).

It’s possible to be conversational even in writing–again by asking questions. In the letter from the principal to my girls, she encouraged them to write her back by asking them what they liked to eat and do during the summer.

Focus on Three Things Only
When the introduction details are your choice, I recommend picking three things that you think others in the group might be able relate to. Again, the idea is to build rapport. By choosing just three things, your introduction will be more memorable. In addition, you can expand and contract the length of your response by providing examples or details for each of your chosen three things.

Lisa B Marshall Passionate. Interactive. Expert. Funny. Practical. Authentic. Helping organizations and individuals to share, present, and discuss ideas in a compelling, concise, and productive manner.

Want Great Relationships? Check your Relationship Intelligence

We all know that relationships are the foundation for success both in work and in life. This post is about helping you create a strategy for developing Great Relationships. My good friend and executive coach Cecilia Rose calls it Relationship Intelligence. Cecilia says to think of relationships like a tree. The deeper the roots the sweater the fruit. Great relationships bring us joy, success and they make our lives richer. Great relationships open doors, inspire us, and lead us in new directions.

I want more Great Relationships- How about you?

Respect is the foundation for all relationships. Think about it, initially a relationship starts with a connection to a commonality and then how a person comes off.  You want to spend time with, share ideas with, and introduce to others those people that you respect, and it all starts with how you “show–up.”  The way you treat me matters.  The way you dress matters.  Your language matters. Etiquette matters. Starting a relationship is always easier when we engage with those that we respect!  “Birds of a feather…”

Trust comes next. We might respect you but do we trust you?  Trust grows or diminishes with your behaviors.   Do you keep your promises? Can we count on you? How often do you make excuses or bow out? Do you share? How generous are you with your time? Are you collaborative? Do you listen? How’s your follow-through?

And then there’s the quality issue.

Value is where we want to land! Do you value me, my ideas, my opinions, and my presence? Value means that you are an “Influencer” you have suggestions, ideas and solutions.  Not only is it worth my time to be with you but when the interaction is over I leave better.

When you are with an Influencer always try and tap into that little nugget of information, the  gift or idea, that spark that moves you to the next level… and remember to thank them.

Building Business Relationships

Today it really doesn’t matter who the client is, everyone wants me to speak on the value of building relationships. HR professionals, financial advisors, internal auditors, government employees, oil and gas executives, women in business – almost everyone is interested in suggestions on how to build better business relationships.

The two personal attributes that I feel are the most important factors in building relationships are self confidence and a sense of responsibility.

It takes a confident person to speak up, speak out and often times put yourself in situations that feel uncomfortable. Not many of us enjoy going to an event where we do not know anyone, or introducing yourself to the President of your company while sharing an elevator ride up to the 20th floor.  You have to talk otherwise you look like a dufus!

The second attribute is having a sense of personal responsibility. I hate to admit but I have burned a few bridges in my day. Here are some of the things that kill business relationships.

  • Not returning phone calls
  • Not returning emails
  • Ignoring referrals made by clients and associates
  • Not thanking someone for a lead or a great idea
  • Being late or even missing an appointment and not apologizing
  • Paying venders late
  • Squabbling over a few dollars
  • Missing opportunities to congratulate or compliment
  • Failing to introduce someone

Relationships require putting you into the equation.  Speaking up and taking responsibility are the first steps.

More to come tomorrow…