Talent at the Grammy Awards

If you watched the 2012 Grammy Awards, you were exposed to an abundance of jaw-dropping fashions, hoards of celebs and a variety of live performances by some of the great musical artists of the times. We heard from newbies like Bruno Mars, veterans like the Beach Boys, and the ever-fabulous Adele. But if we take a look at some of the performances from this night, we see a definite pattern of talent noteworthy enough to share.

It is safe to say that when Adele or Jennifer Hudson performs, the audience is always captivated and blown away with their incredible voices. We are fascinated just watching them sing their hearts out on stage; they move us because we can relate to their songs on a personal level, and of course they sing beautifully and timelessly. At the Grammy Awards, they sang alone in black dresses, with only a spotlight and a microphone as their props. They did not require the use of extras, costumes, special effects or sets that look like they came out of a retired Broadway performance. Yet, they are among the most spectacular performances of the night, if not the best. Their talent is solely the sound of their voice and not what catches our eye, and that is the meaning of true talent.

Other performances, notably Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown, relied heavily on the bells and whistles. I’m not sure Nicki Minaj even sang. The only thing I was watching during Chris Brown’s performance was his dance moves. It is an understatement that Nicki’s performance started a lot of controversy and had many people scratching their heads – what was she thinking? The only talent this performance showcased was her lack of shame. At least when Lady Gaga does something weird on stage, her voice makes up for it.

If we are looking at the pure talent of these artists, I am definitely a little confused. Their resumes deem them professional singers, but that is not the work they put forth. It is as if they are hiding their (lack of) talent with fancy spectacles and acting routines. I am not buying it. Don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy watching Nicki for her craziness and Chris is an incredible dancer, but this is the Grammy Awards, not “So You Think You Can Dance/Act/Whatever Nicki Minaj Did”.

The bottom line is that true talent doesn’t need to be embellished. If you are talented at certain things, showcase them; don’t try to make up for something you don’t have by covering it up. When we look for certain skills and expertise, don’t be distracted by those that are flaunting all the jazz. Some of the best talent out there is plain and simple.


Dear HR, why are there so many stupid rules?

Rules:  It’s obvious when you have them, it’s obvious when you don’t.  Yet, why do you need rules and how do you successfully define them?  How do you create a work environment that establishes practical guidelines for business leaders, yet keeps business leaders balanced when it comes to important people decisions? These are critical questions for today’s rapidly changing workplace.

As a former head of HR, I have often heard business leaders remark that “HR’s rules slow them down” when it comes to operating efficiently.  It’s very easy to view HR as an organization’s last arm of bureaucracy. In this fashion, HR serves executive agendas very well—after all, you wouldn’t want a line manager putting his or her own spin on a sexual harassment investigation.   Yet, while the rules still exist, the overall role of HR has transformed.

We’ve often heard the words, “HR needs to become a strategic partner.”  And while this is critical, HR professionals shouldn’t stop there.  In order to become truly “strategic,” we not only have to understand the business, but we also have to think like business leaders.  This means recognizing and championing change.

Change starts with assessing the effectiveness of the HR function and fixing what’s broken or simply doesn’t work anymore.  Change also means linking operating strategies to an organization’s mission, vision and values.  Think about it: when employees understand how organizational change fits into the company’s mission, the less likely employees will resist such change.

At the end of the day, HR will always have its rules because when rules exist, objectives are easier and more comfortable to achieve.  However, let’s not stop at rules. Being a “strategic partner” is a long-term relationship designed to achieve operating success for all.

Client Engagement in a Virtual World

Dana Civitano, PMP

In a virtual world, we rely on technology to bring a team together through various means: teleconference, web sharing, email, voicemail, etc. When starting a new project, having a structured, well-planned kick off meeting is fundamental to the project’s success.  Too often a need is identified, emails are sent, people will jump right in on the work.  Then midway through the project they run into road blocks, skyrocketing costs, loss of personnel and/or the customer is not happy with the progress and product.

These risks can be mitigated through a carefully planned and communicated kick-off meeting.  A project owner/manager must have their pre-work (charter, SOW, stakeholder identification, interviews, communication plan, etc.) in place and ready for the meeting. I like to schedule kick off meetings in two stages: the first is the overview with the stakeholder and the team; the second is where the core team contributes to the project schedule to flesh out, identify specific risks and actions and leave with clearly defined tasks.

Introduction and Setting the Tone

There is an opportunity to set a positive, energetic tone for the project team.  As this is the first part of the kick-off meeting, this meeting should include the stakeholders, team members and service provider (who is the PM).   Being a part of a virtual team, I like to take the first 15-20 minutes of the call to go around the horn and have everyone introduce themselves, their title and role in the organization.   I have worked with PMs that do their introduction and then state that they are a Phillies fan, for example, and attend games frequently.  It helps break the ice.

Project Charter/SOW High Level Review

These should be on the agenda and reviewed first at a high level.  Ideally, the SOW/PC has been reviewed by the PM and the clients prior to this call. This will help the team identify the problem, the proposed solution and the method of how this will be achieved.  There should be an open discussion on any issues, concerns, etc. so they can be captured and reviewed by the project team.

Roles and Responsibilities

It is very important to capture clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each team member.  Who will own certain deliverables? Who will be in attendance on the weekly project calls and who will delegate in the case that a team member is unable to attend? Another key role is the decision maker – the person responsible for change management approval.  This will help avoid any responsibility/personnel issues during the project execution.

Review High Level Project Plan

A prepared PM will have created a high level project plan for the team to review.  A web share should be utilized so that everyone can review the plan at the same time. Perform a high level review of the milestones and tasks, discuss and assign a task for the team at the end of the call to review the plan on their own; to make notes on tasks, risks, resources, etc.  The core team will come back together on the second part of the kick-off meeting to dive into the schedule.  This is an excellent way to have additional tasks and identify risks.  It will also foster engagement and ownership by the team associated with the project.

Tools and Reporting Methods

On the web share, present an outline of how the project will be tracked, what the action item registry is and the format.   Set a time and duration for the weekly project calls to structure the meetings and gain acceptance.  Identify how meeting minutes will be captured and sent out.

Once these key topics are discussed, schedule the second part of the kick off meeting.  This second meeting consists of the core team members for the project.

Focus on Assessment – Integrity

INTEGRITY is a word that is used in many corporate behavioral constructs. It is not unusual for the 12 or 15 behaviors of a Fortune 500 company to have INTEGRITY listed either as a value on its own or to be weaved into that value system across the board. I do find it using that although INTEGRITY seems to be something that most corporations take great pride in, when I asked how do you measure for it during your assessment process they seem to be a bit at a loss.

There may be several definitions or interpretations of what INTEGRITY is, but in regards to assessment for a new hire, I’ll try to use a definition is broad enough so it can be assessed . INTEGRITY involves maintaining and promoting social, ethical, and organizational norms and conducting internal and external business activities. INTEGRITY is something that typically is not as such taught as much as it is reflected and were learned great care to be taken to avoid condoning behavior that indicates “low integrity”. If a manager exhibits the behaviors that are “low integrity”, it is likely that the team that reports about will believe that “low integrity” is approved within the organization.

It has been my experience that integrity is something very personal. As such, you may want to get a better understanding of the hiring manager in their style in general, so that you understand what integrity needs to know.  When considering competencies or experiences to measure in order to assess integrity, you may want to consider certain questioning based on the function specifically. As an example, if you are measuring integrity for sales personnel, you may want to measure how someone up sells the customer with a strong value proposition. If you are measuring someone who is in quality, you may want to better understand how to maintain accuracy consistently.

About Rounded Assessment and its Value to Recruiting

Assessment comes in many forms. Our contention is that competencies need to be identified for each position at an organization, and a level of mastery for some or all of those competencies needs to be identified for each candidate that has applied for the role – whether they are internal or external.

It is the hiring manager’s responsibility to then understand which competencies to leverage, which to develop, and which to avoid in order to have the new employee reach desired productivity in the desired timeline. Competence needs to be assessed, but assessing experience, work habits, cognition, intelligence, and other areas are also critical. We believe that the advocacy of a combined assessment, or “Rounded Assessment” is the job of every recruiter. It is not necessarily their job to assess everything, but rather make sure that the assessment is performed and documented so a hiring manager or business leader can make sound decisions.

This blog post is part of a series of posts that are set to release over a long period of time. In each, Aspen provides insight on the elements and assets within Rounded Assessment.

Networking for Social Networking

By Allyson Greenman, Marketing and Communications Manager for Aspen Advisors

I recently attended a power lunch hosted by the Northern Liberties chapter of the Women’s Power Network (WPN). The WPN is a network for female professionals in or around the Philadelphia area looking to expand their businesses. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming to me, the newcomer. Though at first nervous, I easily assimilated amongst the group and was able to have several one-on-one conversations where I could introduce my position at Aspen Advisors, and vice versa. The women were eager and interested to hear what Aspen is all about; I was able to give in-depth answers about some of our products and services.

Following introductions, we sat down for lunch and geared up for a fun, informative presentation on social networking from Sarah Grey (www.greyediting.com), a local copywriter, professional editor and resume guru. She gave a ton of helpful pointers on how to evolve a business through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Without listing them all, I’d like to share some that I found especially advantageous:

1. Do not mix business accounts with personal accounts. Sounds like a doozy, but it is important to have separate accounts for your business and your personal life. Potential clients should not have access to pictures of your weekend nights out, statuses about how much you dislike your co-workers, your political views (unless you work in politics), etc.

2. When promoting your business, do not spam your followers. Between work email, junk email, tweets and statuses, the last thing people want is to be bombarded by excessive business pitches. Chances are, if you have something worthwhile to say, it won’t need to be repeated.

3. Be in-the-know. Get to know your clientele and network accordingly. Get involved with what they like so you can relate to them on a higher level. They will notice and appreciate that you took the time to follow their interests.

4. Have fun (when it’s appropriate). Make your tweets/statuses fun for your followers. Not everything you tweet needs to be strictly business. Find similarities between your business and something in pop culture and illustrate that, for example. Remember tip #1 and don’t go too crazy.

5. Use correct grammar. I cannot stress this enough. If you know me, you know I am a HUGE stickler about spelling. No one’s perfect, but if you are writing something with 140 characters or less, please proofread it. It will take less than a minute and will mean the world to the integrity of your message. No one will take you seriously if you can’t spell, or do not know the different meanings of “their, “they’re” and “there”.

Obviously, there is a lot more to being a savvy social networker, but hopefully you can use these tips to your advantage. Make time for events where you can network face-to-face and channel your inner and outer “social networking” skills. It’s always good to meet new people in the business world.