Category Archives: Chestnuts

The Power Tie – With great power comes…

Great Responsibility.

The power tie. Typically a solid colour, plain or with mild patterning. Said to be a sign of immense confidence and even virility, endowing its wearer with the ability to command respect and attention. Find the right tie and the rest will follow.

The colours tend to be red or blue though a striking yellow or gold can work equally well, coupled with a crisp white shirt. George Bush and Obama have favoured the light blue in recent times though both have opted for a deep rich red on occasion. Two extremely powerful men who have and are set to do very profound things.

However, the majority of us will be taking weekends in the country rather than taking countries in the weekend so lets look at exactly what a power tie does and when it should be used. The power tie, is meant to be perhaps the business equivalent to a peacock’s plume – subtly dazzling confidently, making a presence felt and oozing professional confidence. However, it is arguably more about how this bold understated display of power harnessed and controlled in a neatly constructed manner can make the wearer feel as opposed to what effect it has on those transfixed within its sphere of influence.

Theoretically, when equipped with a power tie you can complete any task that calls for confidence, impact, authority and assertion. For example, delivering an explosive presentation, commanding a meeting or blitzing an interview.

So, should you invest in one? Definitely.

(One time I actually changed a punctured tyre without a jack while wearing my power tie…)

I’ve got the power! (tie)

Just make sure you don’t burn it out. Only use when needed.

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KPMG talk about Dressing the Part

Perhaps not quite as good as my article Stylin’ & Profilin’, since KPMG N. America talk about ‘slacks’ (whatever they are), but the fact that a Big 4 has produced a video on the topic is a fantastic affirmation of how important it is to take looking good seriously (but not tooo seriously):

‘Know your enemy’ – Interview success the Sun Tzu way

‘It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.’ – Sun Tzu

It is fairly obvious that it is imperative you know your cv intimately and that you have compiled a mental catalogue of neat structured examples to demonstrate clearly defined competencies.

However, this is only half the battle

But what of knowing your enemy? Certainly you have reviewed and researched the company’s website and done your homework, but to sustain the metaphor have you given the same level of thought to your opposite number, the individual warrior who will confront you directly in battle? I am of course talking about your interviewer.

Sure, for assessment centres, companies are likely not to know much in advance who exactly will be assessing you or perhaps will be unwilling to tell you. However, for individual interviews you are likely to know who to ask for at reception or should at least inquire as to who you will be seeing. For my interview next Friday with a technology consultancy I know exactly who will be interviewing me, and I know what practice area he sits within and what his background is.

Therefore, I have an inkling as to what he might quiz me on, what he is most knowledgeable about and therefore what he might find most interesting to discuss. I’ll certainly swot up on his specialism slightly more than the other two areas I’m being interviewed for. In this way, I should hope to control the interview a little more than if I go into it without this information.

Additionally, I have some relevant questions prepared particularly since I’ve found out my interviewer used to work for a company I recently had an assessment centre with. Possible rapport-builder?

Intelligence gathering

  1. Company’s website search of interviewer’s name
  2. Google search (people’s favourite)
  3. Linked in (I love linked in)
  4. Facebook
  5. Any relevant contacts you have

Of all the sources above, Linked in is always my first port of call as it, in my opinion, has the best quality professional profile information out there and has served me well on more than many occasions.

Now go win a hundred battles.

Relevant posts: Linkedin grad guide-get networking

Does gaming have a place on your CV? (Or even in the office…)

No. Yes. Maybe. Huh?

I once heard a story from an ex-colleague who had stumbled upon a cv one fine morning in which the typical key skills and qualities section comprising Leadership, Organisation, Communication skills etc. had been populated by a combination of real life experiences and achievements and quite bizarrely, instances and accolades drawn from The World of Warcraft.

Whaatt!?

It was fantastic for a good chuckle but sadly, not quite the right sort of stuff that one could justify presenting to a client. What the devil was this chap thinking when he sat down to write about his skills. Sure, if I recall correctly, he wanted to be a programmer or technical support person of some kind, but it wasn’t just as if he had talked about his penchant for gaming in his personal interests as a way perhaps to illustrate his passion for all things technical, but he had actually integrated it into the critical main body of the cv AND had used his gaming ‘experiences’ to illustrate non-technical competencies.

Goomba or Genius?

First reactions naturally were to strike this fellow off from the national register of the clinically sane. But upon reflection, could this be considered a turn of brilliance in leveraging a miss-spent youth (and adulthood potentially) to demonstrate valid skills? I don’t recall if he was a recent graduate, I like to think he was, but is it not the case that employers, and others, often highlight the general lack of practical experience concerning competencies such as leadership and communication symptomatic of isolated study-intensive degrees?

That’s what Internships are for.

Yes, like a normal person you can do an internship or two and even get some part time work during your studies that will give you real world practical experience of dealing with people, organising stuff etc. but let’s face it, that’s nowhere near as fun as playing computer games.

However,

Although it seems absolutely ridiculous to try and pass off your ability to pwn (slang for ‘own’ aka ‘absolutely dominate’ for the non-gamers here) at Call of Duty or Command and Conquer etc. as grounds to get a job, arguably there is significant value in intelligently identifying the relevant skills learnt and experiences gained in the virtual world and subsequently bridging the gap so that these qualities can be suitably translated and applied in the real world. For example, let’s consider The World of Warcraft with this in mind (courtesy of Wired magazine):

When role-playing gamers team up to undertake a quest, they often need to attempt particularly difficult challenges repeatedly until they find a blend of skills, talents, and actions that allows them to succeed. This process brings about a profound shift in how they perceive and react to the world around them. They become more flexible in their thinking and more sensitive to social clues. The fact that they don’t think of gameplay as training is crucial. Once the experience is explicitly educational, it becomes about developing compartmentalized skills and loses its power to permeate the player’s behavior patterns and worldview.

…the process of becoming an effective World of Warcraft guild master amounts to a total-immersion course in leadership. A guild is a collection of players who come together to share knowledge, resources, and manpower. To run a large one, a guild master must be adept at many skills: attracting, evaluating, and recruiting new members; creating apprenticeship programs; orchestrating group strategy; and adjudicating disputes. Guilds routinely splinter over petty squabbles and other basic failures of management; the master must resolve them without losing valuable members, who can easily quit and join a rival guild. Never mind the virtual surroundings; these conditions provide real-world training a manager can apply directly in the workplace.

That is identifying the skills, and this is Stephen Gillet, a senior director at Yahoo, bridging the gap:

I used to worry about not having what I needed to get a job done. Now I think of it like a quest; by being willing to improvise, I can usually find the people and resources I need to accomplish the task.

(Source: Wired Magazine)

For some in-game footage to help ground some of these ideas click below (watch the whole thing, you won’t be disappointed [needs sound]):

In Conclusion

I don’t think we’re quite at the stage where employers will necessarily base their hiring decisions on what level you’ve achieved on World of Warcraft or how many harrier air-strikes you’ve called in, though perhaps if like Mr T. you hacked into the game and created a Night Elf Mohawk class (‘Mr condescending director’) then that might impress, but otherwise keep the gaming achievements off the cv.

The real value is to be had in unobtrusively applying gaming skills learnt to real-life activities, and if you have a particularly boring job, sprucing it up by imagining you’re on a quest.

Share your thoughts below.

A Process Map 4 Success – The Importance of Mistakes

A friend sent me the following quote and I, like him, felt that it’s worth sharing:

*What is the Secret of SUCCESS. . . ? “RIGHT DECISIONS”
*How do you make Right Decisions. . . ? “EXPERIENCE”
*How do you get Experience. . . ? “WRONG DECISIONS”

This is the reason why you may be asked for examples of when you have made a mistake, and if you regret anything and what lessons you took from such instances. Companies want to see that you have the potential for success.

Everyone has made mistakes. If you haven’t, then either you have failed to recognize your mistakes and therefore missed opportunities for improvement, or you simply have not been challenged sufficiently. Therefore think hard, look deep and never pass up the chance to become a better person, however tough that might be.

The Zombie Economy

Same Game, New Rules

In a previous post, The Financial Crisis – A Dummies’ Guide, we looked at the causes of the meltdown. But looking beyond the plummeting house prices, the credit crunch and the recession, where does that leave us. After all, super-clever people have managed to prove that our economic system is fallible once again.

So business is clearly not as usual no matter how much we try to convince ourselves of a recovery and a positive year ahead. Naturally, that’s what we have to think. And perhaps it may be true for many. Things can only get better, right.

But clearly, the rules of the game have changed, and people need to learn to play again. Banks don’t want to do what they’re supposed to do, lend money. People don’t want to, or rather, can’t afford to buy, buy, buy anymore. Companies are going into administration, not just one-man-bands but big names like Woolworths and Borders! And Governments, yes even governments and whole countries are in trouble as debt mounts and credit continues to tighten out of fear (Times Online: Saving the Greek economy).  Everyone these days seems to be in need of some rescuing. So what kind of crazy world are we living in these days?!

Welcome to the Zombie Economy

According to PA Consulting Group’s new book ‘The zombie economy’, we have avoided an economic apocalypse and a form of recovery is perhaps imminent but we must prepare ourselves to live in a world dominated by powerful forces of half dead, half alive zombies.

Why a zombie economy?

The zombie economy is made up of half alive half dead banks, governments, consumers and companies staggering along, struggling to function in the new world.

  1. Zombie banks whose balance sheets are too weak to support sufficient lending
  2. Zombie governments whose finances are too stretched to sustain expansionary policies
  3. Zombie consumers whose wealth and spending power are too depleted to allow them to consume
  4. Zombie companies who are saddled with debt that they cannot comfortably service, impeding growth and investment

The impact of a zombie world on recovery

Business leaders are struggling to assess the impact of zombies on the economy, and it cannot be overstated. The zombies are set to create a vicious circle that prevents any rapid return to business as usual, and a recovery that feels more like a recession. Companies must prepare themselves to live in the zombie world and take radical action to reinvent their business models in order to survive.

The winners and losers in the zombie economy

The zombie economy will divide the business world into winners and losers.  The winners are highly liquid and either fairly or over-valued. The losers are companies who are not liquid and are fairly or over-valued. There are challenges and opportunities for both.

For organisations to succeed and thrive in this difficult new economic climate, their leaders must take action now. While few businesses will find the next few years easy, some will be better placed than others. There are fours steps to thriving in the zombie world:

  1. secure liquidity
  2. create a portfolio of potentially winning businesses
  3. remodel each business to ensure that it can perform strongly in the new world
  4. (subject to the success of the first three steps) take bold action to stake out a massively enhanced market position in the new world.

(Source: PA Consulting/ Zombie economy)

How’s that for something to whip out and impress in an interview! After all, everyone likes zombies.

Stylin’ and Profilin’ – thoughts on business dress sense

I’ve seen some pretty terrible ensembles in my time, mainly in the mirror but I like to think I’ve reached a modest level of suaveness. Not quite Roger Moore, but not David Dickinson either. [girls/ ladies, apologies, this is a very much male fashion focused article, my knowledge of female business fashion only extends as far as the back page of the TM Lewin posted catalogue – get in touch if you’re interested in contributing]

As a consultant you will need to fix up and look sharp. Jeans and a shirt and some brown shoes just won’t cut it. OK sorry, slightly patronising there. Of course you know that, but sometimes you just have to cover all your bases

true story: a colleague of mine actually had a candidate go in for an interview wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat! And, actually asked the interviewer if he could borrow a light to spark up a cigarette!!

So, you’ve probably worked in offices already, therefore you’ve already got some kind of business dress sense. But, it doesn’t hurt to take a step back and look at one’s interview/ assessment centre appearance. After all, don’t people say that impressions are created in those critical first few seconds. True. To an extent. However, I’ve found that as soon as people start talking, attire becomes immaterial. Nevertheless, it’s as much about how a certain tie, shirt, suit etc. makes you feel as it is about what message it telegraphs to those around you.

With that in mind, let me introduce you to my fashion sense:

  • black or navy blue suit with gold or light blue lining respectively
  • TM Lewin slim-fit white shirt (TM Lewins crease way too much but it’s my nicest fitting crisp white shirt)
  • Understated plain shiny silver rectangular cuff-links or deep blue gold rimmed circular cuffs
  • Plain dark red tie, plain golden yellow tie or dark blue tie with small white and blue squares

One day I’ll get some braces in and advance to a blue shirt blood red tie combo with garish thick pin-stripe suit! Just like Gordon Gecko – the ultimate power facade!


But for now, this get-up leaves me confident in my appearance as I’m not doing anything too out-there, I’m comfortable and it’s just about professionally stylish enough to not be school-boy. Boring and bland to some. Safe, understated and effective for me. [This is all heavily subjective if you haven’t realised by the way.]

So let’s talk about best-practices. Starting with the no-nos:

  • No weird coloured suits and no light greys, we’re not estate agents or used car salesmen
  • Like painting a house for an easy sale when it comes to coloured shirts, avoid strong, dark colours and black.
  • No novelty stripper cuff-links or anything to suggest you have a penchant for gambling
  • For ties, avoid wacky patterns and garish colours
  • No brown, pink or yellow shoes
  • Also, make sure nothing’s overly tight fitting, for obvious reasons of comfort and decency

I would recommend instead:

  • Plain dark coloured suit – take the tag off if it’s new – the tag lightly stitched onto the sleeve of the suit by the way; i’ve seen two guys wearing them still on at interviews!
  • Shirts: white or light blue, preferably plain – stripes are fine but keep it subtle
  • Ties: plain, mildly patterned, or striped. Blues and reds work nicely. Not black!
  • Black shoes – polished

As I said, looking good will only get you so far and there are too many pithy examples to choose from to illustrate this so I’ll refrain. Nevertheless, take pride in your appearance, put some thought into it and you may find that your performance benefits significantly.

[Apologies to any girls reading once again, if you even made it this far – it would be excellent if someone could produce something similar aimed at a good female business dress sense – do please get in touch about contributing, even if you’re a guy]

More thoughts on business dress:
Killer consultant: Shopping for the first day; clothing