Activating the best of you!

Dear Coach Joan,

Finally, after a seven month long job search I’ll be starting my new position next week! I never thought it would take this long to find a new job, so I am especially concerned about starting off well, and making this position a very rewarding one. The last job I had was at a company where I worked for over 10 years so it’s been a long time since I’ve been a new employee.

Kindly share any strategies and ideas on making my job launch as positive as can be.

Thank you,



Dear Cheryl,

First of all, congratulations on your new job! Isn’t it funny that when things are difficult to attain they seem more valuable, and one wants to ensure success. It sounds like you are taking this new job launch very seriously and want to intentionally do it RIGHT. Good for you!

Let’s look into several key best practices for successfully starting a new job:

  1. Your company. Become an expert (as much as you can).  I’m sure you did a pretty good job of researching the company, its products and services, key markets, competitors and challenges, in anticipation of your interviews. Even if you did a thorough job, now that it is YOUR company, my suggestion is that you review your notes and do additional research.  Get to know the company and culture by doing a thorough read-through of their web site and look at what others say about them on sites like Additionally, do a Google search to see what’s been written about them lately in the press, and look for current information, too that you might be expected to know. The more you know about the company, the better prepared you will be for any role that you assume, and even for informal discussions with your new colleagues. It will also boost your confidence to learn as much as you can about your new employer.
  2. Your manager. Set up deliberate channels of communication. I’m sure you met with your hiring manager at least once or twice during the interview process, but take the time to review the impressions you had of him or her and impressions you received when you may have met with other direct reports. Next, as soon as you get aboard, ask your manager if you can have a 30 minute conversation to get acquainted. Come to that meeting with an agenda. Offer your manager a copy of that agenda which includes:
  3. Sharing about YOU. Do some self assessment and share with your new manager what managerial styles and behaviors bring out the best in you. Let her/him know if you are aware of your Meyers Briggs style –a way to determine your social style at work and a system used by many organizations to help individuals know themselves and work better with others. Remind your manager of your key skills and capabilities, and review the scope of your position to make sure any discrepancies are cleared up.
  4. Enthusiasm and Positivity. Remind yourself and remind your manager of all the reasons you are attracted to the company and to working for him/her. Remind him/her all the reasons it’s a good fit. Enthusiasm and a positive attitude go far in creating a great opportunity for a positive impression and the successful launch that you, your manager and your company would like to see!

Best of luck to you, Cheryl, and onward to a terrific new job launch.

Coach Joan

Dear Readers,

I am starting to get some of your work related questions.

These first two seemed almost comical but when I checked back with the writers, it turns out they were serious, and real workplace issues.

So, thank you, you’re taking the time to continue our conversation, and I’m putting my best experience and knowledge to work for you…

Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I work in a large corporation with rows of cubicles. And for the most part, everyone gets along and understands the basic rules of consideration in working in fairly close proximity. But there’s this new employee, and he doesn’t seem to realize that his heavy cologne use is really bothersome. Not only do I not like the scent, but it truly is an overpowering sensation as you walk anywhere in his vicinity. And his scent overpowers the room when we’re in a group meeting. This has been going on for at least three weeks, since he started working here. How do you suggest I deal with this?


Dear Mike,

It might sound like a situation comedy but when you’re actually experiencing it, a strong and bad odor can actually be sickening. It is a serious situation. And I’m almost embarrassed to tell you that I was once such a perpetrator, of course, unknowingly. I always wore what I thought was a light spray of cologne but when I changed fragrance, a co-worker immediately came to my cubicle to tell me that he’d always enjoyed the scent I wore but noticed a change and wasn’t as happy about this scent. I was so glad he told me! First of all, what I thought was a light spray, clearly was too strong for the office and second, I realized that if he liked one scent yet strongly disliked the second one, how might the other colleagues be reacting? Preferences for fragrance is very personal and perhaps can be compared to preferences for wines. One persons enjoyment in another person’s complete dislike.  So my takeaway was that fragrance, unless very, very gently applied, has no place in the work environment.

But considering this is a new colleague and you have no idea of his degree of sensitivity and you don’t want him embarrassed, I’d suggest bringing it up with your manager and asking her/him if others have mentioned anything. Perhaps the manager would offer to write a note to the group reminding everyone about cubicle consideration; that everyone needs to be mindful to speak softly and keep scents out of the office; broadening the discussion to include other sensory topics not just fragrance.

If that doesn’t change things then I would suggest a one on one with the cologne-king, letting him know that it’s a bit of a sensitive topic but that you have sensory issues and don’t do well with any fragrance in the workplace. Yes, I’d make it about you, not about him. I’d do what I could to avoid any embarrassment on his part. Remember, I’ve been on the other side and I realize that I would have appreciated that approach and I think this person might as well.

Good luck and hoping for clean air in horizons.


Coach Joan

Dear Joan,

I’ve worked for the same manager for several years now and I’ve always had the utmost of respect for her.

Megan is a smart professional and a superb manager. In fact, she and I have both earned two promotions in our time working together. We are a great team!

But things have changed lately. Megan married last year and just had her first child. She is thrilled and we are thrilled for her. And she’s now working out of her home three days a week. She recently scheduled my review for one of the days she was working from home. And it was a disaster! At least from my point of view!

I could hear the baby crying, the dog barking and several deliveries made to her home during the 30 minute meeting. It was clear to me that Megan was completely overwhelmed and distracted and the quality of the review was majorly disappointing to me. It was clear that she had barely read the input document I had worked hard to prepare, and she had little understanding of my  accomplishments and challenges during the last six months. I know this is all new to her and that her life has taken a major turn, but should my career suffer due to her distraction? I feel very mixed as we do have a five year track record of excellent work together.

Curious about your take on this,


Dear Cheryl,

I feel your frustration and I also understand how you are torn between long term respect and loyalty for your manager, but you also feel like you’re being ‘ripped off’ in  not having a manager who’s paying attention and giving you feedback and acknowledgement for your work. You are also concerned that your hard work is not going to be appreciated and perhaps you won’t get any of the rewards you might have gotten had Megan been her old self and paying attention.

My suggestion to you is very, very clear. You need to come clean with her. You have a very strong and long track record together. You’d be doing yourself, Megan and the company a disservice to shy away from the truth.

You need to set up a time to meet her when she’s in the office, fully present and not distracted.

And you need to tell her just what you told me.

I have a strong feeling the light will go on, she will fully ‘get it’ and remedies will be made.

Onward to Megan getting re-balanced again,

Coach Joan

In my last blog entry I asked you to submit some examples and questions about work relationships. And they’re starting to come in. But at this point I’d like to share some of my own experiences, both as
a coach hearing from my clients, and experiences based on my corporate career of 20+ years.

I realize that when clients have had key successes, they often attribute them, in good measure, to
excellent people around them, starting with an extraordinary boss or manager:

My Favorite Boss: Robert, The Mentor Manager

When I was interviewing for a ‘reach job’, one where there were several qualifications that I didn’t yet have, I look back and realize that the hiring manager, Robert, was extraordinary. The position was to build a global user group program for a high tech company. I had successfully built and grew user groups for my last company, but I had never done work with a global reach.  Additionally, the technology this company offered was far more complex than anything I had worked with in the past.

Robert and I had several meetings, and in them, he reflected back to me the talent, intelligence and ambition that I was bringing, and I confessed to him that I was worried and concerned that I might not be able to do the job. He said he was actually pleased that I had some fears and anxiety because it showed I was thinking deeply about the position and the challenges and I would probably bring extra energy and hard work to the process! And it built trust that I could be vulnerable with him and he showed that he really listened, cared, and  that he was willing to be supportive. And he was right! He had me lay out my fears, one by one, and addressed them, assuring me that he would serve as my mentor/coach and that together we would achieve success! And true to his word, he guided me beautifully. In fact, he became my model of how to manage and bring out the best in employees.

I also learned that the best hiring situations are where the employee comes to the position with about 70% of the skills needed for success, but has to grow and develop into the remaining 30%. I learned to look for ambition, confidence and the desire for challenge and growth in employees. And I learned that the best way to fill out a manager role is to include mentorship and guidance, and to make it a WE, a team effort, where we are working from the same side of the table.

How to find a Mentor Manager:

For employees: When you are interviewing, ask the prospective hiring managers for examples of how they grow, mentor, lead their employees. Give examples of how you’ve had successful relationships with managers when they give you challenges, but also give you the resources and guidance to learn and do the job well.

Favorite Co-Worker:  The Collaborative Colleague

One of my clients, Linda, worked at a large pharmaceutical company where she was on the marketing side. And she was often on teams with scientists and clinicians from the product research and development side. The company was wise in putting all employees through self awareness programs designed to give them an understanding of their social style and strengths so they could be understanding and flexible when they worked with employees bringing contrasting styles and strengths to their own. Their training included specifics on how to bring out the best in professionals who had different thinking and social styles. And with her keen sense of self and new training skills, Linda, used this knowledge to strategically build strong alliances and programs.  The product teams and scientists often made very long and dry presentations. Linda noticed that the teams would come together, listen to the presentations and immediately leave the conference room. She saw there was opportunity to build more trusting relationships that could lead to more productivity.

She felt that more interaction and discussion among the team members could lead to new ideas, questions and directions. So she suggested they have a more social get together that included some partners and associates from other groups. These interactions, in fact, did lead to more opportunities, synergies and ultimately, were beneficial to the product development process and opportunities.

How to Encourage Collaboration Among Colleagues: One easy way is to suggest that each person on the team makes a short presentation on the strengths they bring and even a bit on their out of work interests. I remember initiating this for my team and they found that several were interested in tennis, a couple in walking during lunch and through these social interactions they noticed improvement on the job trust and work productivity.

So here are my examples of great bosses and co-workers. I would love to hear your examples of both good and bad bosses and co-workers. Feel free to comment below or email me as always at [email protected]

Dear Readers,

In my years as a career coach, I thought I’d heard all conceivable stories about annoying co-workers, bad bosses and poorly performing employees. I thought I heard all variations of incompetence, ineffectiveness and inconsideration. I’ve heard about bosses insisting their employees do all the work and then taking the credit for it,  co-workers giving misinformation to colleagues, and  employees waltzing into the office hours late for weeks at a time.

But my editor tells me that this can’t be so. That in fact, there are fresh, interesting and unique problems here in Sonoma County workplaces that we need to learn about and share. And, now that you have a resident career adviser, Coach Joan,  I feel ready to take on the challenge to suggest possible remedies.

So kindly send me your questions and issues about irksome workplace situations. Once again, they can be about annoying co-workers, bad managers or difficult employees.

I am awaiting your mail.

Kindly send your comments and questions to me at:



Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I have accepted a separation package and will soon be leaving a company where I have worked for over 20 years. I am new to the job market in general, and to today’s employment norms, in specific. Through my network of friends I’ve received some job leads but I am not sure how to best frame my job search.  I plan to work for at least another 10 years, with 3 children to put through college, and want to make sure I am proceeding wisely toward new employment.

Thank you for some structure and planning advice,


Dear Neil,

Yes, you are wise to realize that you are facing a big transition!

How to structure it? Step by step.

One of the adages I use repeatedly with my clients is:


We typically only have one opportunity to make a good impression and the right impression, with potential employers and even with influencers, like your friends who have leads for you.

To give structure to your job search, I suggest this five-point plan:

1) Reflect back on the ‘wins’ of your career to date. What were your key accomplishments?

2) Develop a job description of your ideal position that plays to your unique profile.

3) Translate those findings into an updated resume and Linkedin profile.

4) Set up your criteria for selecting your next employer, and start looking for positions and companies that appeal to you, and would fit with your profile.

5) Practice interview questions with close friends or colleagues. Ask for honest and helpful feedback. Prep and then go for it.

Internal exploration

Reflect back on the ‘wins’ of your career to date. What were your key accomplishments? What resulted in positive and measurable impact for your company? What colleagues, situations and challenges brought out the best in you? What skills have you been recognized for that you really enjoy using?

The stress of the search.

Anticipate that the job search process is stressful and often includes many ups and downs. Prepare for these swings. Some people find it effective to have a job search buddy, others ask a friend or family member to serve as their cheerleader, and others find sports and exercise a good outlet. Develop a ‘Friends and Family’ letter where you explain your transition and ask for any help and connections they can provide to you.


Practice interview questions with close friends or colleagues. Ask for honest and helpful feedback. Prepare open ended questions about the organization, job market and today’s norms.

Good luck to you, Neil. You have a challenging and exciting opportunity ahead. By breaking down the journey into manageable steps it will be a lot easier to move forward with confidence and success.

Dear Coach Joan,
I have found it impossible to obtain job offers. Upon reflection, given the training, additional education completed, good references, extensive life-experience, etc., that I offer, as an older person, the singular characteristic seeming to prevent being hired is ageism, which, of course is hard to actually confirm.
Any thoughts about both the reality of ageism, in our society, and how to succeed, despite it?
Dear William,
Thank you for writing and I am sorry you are in the frustrating position of not getting job offers for positions you believe you are fully qualified for. That hurts. Whether it’s due solely to a competitive job market, or based on unfair criteria, it never feels good to be rejected.The job seeking process is often fraught with emotional ups and downs but can be especially difficult when we don’t know if we’re being fairly evaluated.
We know it is against the law for employers to discriminate on the basis of age, race, gender, etc., but does that mean it doesn’t occur?
In my experience I do believe that sometimes there is both conscious and unconscious bias in the hiring process. People are sometimes screened and judged based on their perceived age, size, color, or other often extraneous characteristics. And I do believe that ageism and other isms do sometimes play a role in evaluating candidates. I think that ageism is more prevalent in the ‘younger industries’ like high-tech, but it can be operating in other industries as well. And I believe that in general, unless trained out of it, most people look to hire candidates who are similar to themselves.
So, the bad news is that the playing field is not necessarily a fair one, and we are sometimes pre judged by aspects of ourselves that fall into stereotypes that are either wrong or irrelevant to what we offer as a job candidate.
But, William, here’s the good news:
Knowing that you might be pre judged badly based on your perceived older age, do what you can to counter that impression. You can intentionally shape first impressions and counter some of the biases that people might have about older workers:

We have research (sourced from AARP Magazine) that older workers, in fact, are more reliable, steadier and often provide better judgement and problem solving skills, based on years of experience. And we also know that some of the concerns that hiring managers have about older workers can be counteracted by proactively discussing them. For instance, a friend of mine in the teaching field said that her hiring team is sometimes reluctant to hire an older teacher, concerned they will invest a lot in training them, and worry that the new hire won’t stay long enough for that investment to pay off. So why not proactively suggest to the employer that are you very healthy, ambitious, love your field of work, and plan to work for at least another 10-15 yrs.

And I’d like to leave you with an encouraging anecdote. A friend who owns a small business in the Bay Area confided to me that he actually prefers to hire older workers! He has a conscious bias toward older candidates. Why? He finds them to be more conscientious, appreciative of the work opportunity, resourceful, and often better problem solvers based on years of experience.

Bottom line, the real world is not always fair, but by understanding the playing field better, you can intentionally shape your preparation and presentation to put your best foot forward. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw those job offers appear, William. Persevere, keep applying for the positions you know you can do, and best of luck to you!


Coach Joan

Kindly send your work and career related questions to: [email protected]