As graduates across the country turn their tassels and embark on life’s next chapter, The Alexander Group team is applauding their efforts with collective words of wisdom.

Our thoughts for 2024 graduates veer more toward the practical, but we also value resilience, a trait needed no matter where you are in life.

Golden glitter number 2024 with graduated cap. Class of 2024 concept

John Lamar, Managing Director

Q: What are two to three practical tips you employ that makes you successful at your job?

A: Try to exercise every day. It’s a great reliever of stress. 

Communicate with clients every day. Past, present and future clients. It is what I do, and it is how I try to set an example. Jane does it, Johnny does it and Amanda does it. It’s so important for any person in business.

We all make mistakes. Admit it. Apologize for it and move on. 

Jane Howze, Managing Director

Q: What’s a practical tip you employ that makes you successful at your job?

A: Over communicate.  No one complains about over communication. 

John Mann, Managing Director

Q: What are two to three practical tips you employ that makes you successful at your job?

A: Maintain a sense of urgency and anticipate and exceed your client’s expectations; take leadership, ownership and responsibility in your career and work; find a career that you enjoy (I know it’s cliché, but true).

Kyle Robinson, Director of Research

Q: What’s a practical tip you employ that makes you successful at your job?

A: Best tip I could give: utilize a second brain. 

Don’t try and remember all the tasks and deadlines you have, both professionally and personally. 

As soon as a thought pops into your mind, write it down in your second brain (a notebook, the notes app on your phone, your calendar) and reference it later when either finishing your day or planning the next. 

De-clutter your mind so that you can be more intentional with your daily projects.

Jacqueline Griffin, Director of Accounting and Administration

-How have you fostered resilience throughout your career? Why is resilience important?

By adapting to change and developing a growth mindset by believing in my ability to learn and grow from experiences.  View change and challenges as opportunities to develop rather than obstacles.

Resilience is important because it enables one to overcome obstacles and pursue goals with confidence and determination.

William Lepiesza, Director

Q: What are two to three practical tips you employ that makes you successful at your job?

A: Put in the time upfront to ensure success at the end: conduct thorough due diligence, know your client as well or better than they know themselves, and do your best to anticipate where problems or issues might occur

When issues or obstacles do arise, don’t simply communicate problems, communicate solutions: don’t leave it up to the client to figure out the answer, provide alternative paths, and recommendations to overcome hurdles.

There are many external factors and things we can’t control, so do your absolute best to control the things that you can.

Sarah Mitchell, Director

Q: What’s a practical tip you employ that makes you successful at your job?

A: Don’t forget to find inspiration and fulfillment outside of your job.

It can be from family, a rich social life, making art, a physical practice (yoga, running, team sports, weightlifting, whatever), adventure travel, and so on. Finding a sense of self-value outside of your job will help you weather the inevitable ups and downs in your career. And beyond that, it will lead you being a more authentic, inspired, and interesting person–that’s the kind of person others want to work with.  

Beth Ehrgott, Managing Director

Q: How have you fostered resilience throughout your career? Why is resilience important?

A: A few thoughts:

Aristotle quote: 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” 

And these are my own thoughts:

You will have to fight to have a seat at the table…and then keep it. Be resilient and relentless.

You will be pushed to your limits and resilience and being relentless will empower you with the mindset to embrace setbacks as opportunities. 

Show up everyday and there will always be adversity and more to learn and conquer. 

Commit to lifelong learning. 

Always act with integrity and compassion and they must never be compromised.  

Anthony Ott, Senior Associate

Q: What’s a practical tip you employ that makes you successful at your job?

A: Find the right balance between pushing boundaries and drawing from life’s lessons. You must do both.

The only way to create life lessons is by pushing the boundaries. It will always be a consistent pendulum swing. Life lessons learned can shape how you should push the boundaries. Pushing those boundaries will shape new life lessons.

You will never know if you don’t try. Always be willing to set your pride aside, make necessary adjustments, then push the boundaries again.

Jonathan Daniels, Associate

Q: What are two to three practical tips you employ that makes you successful at your job?

A: Use a calendar for everything in your life, and proactively plan your days. I have missed lots of events and deadlines because I was not organized. Today, my calendar helps keep me on track for everything I need to accomplish, a good record for follow-up with clients, and plan trips with friends.

Proactively Communicate. Despite Elon Musk’s best efforts, we cannot read minds yet. Always share updates with your supervisor, clients, and other stakeholders so they are aware of your work and can better partner with you.

Assume Positive Intent. Life is too short to worry about other people. Be kind, do your best, and always assume others are doing the same.

Document everything. You will forget your notes and you will need to show proof to others. Clients and Courts alike need paper trails.

The 27th annual Milken Institute Global Conference is underway in Los Angeles, drawing the some of the world’s most ardent thought leaders, visionaries and problem solvers. It’s no surprise then, that forever student and The Alexander Group’s Managing Director Jane Howze, is in the mix observing and absorbing the information gleaned from the three-day event.

“This is my eighth year attending and I am honored to have them as a client,” Jane said.

The 2024 theme is “Shaping a Shared Future,” and Milken organizers have gathered more than 4,000 attendees, including 1,000 speakers made up of C-suite executives from Fortune 500 companies, global leaders, experts, and innovators who are rethinking health, finance, technology, philanthropy, sports and media to discuss and explore the topic.

Day one of the annual Milken Institute Global Conference focused on the critical issues of geopolitical hotspots and the ongoing climate crisis to the complexities of artificial intelligence, examining both its potential and impact on global workers, firms, and markets.

With so many sessions and not enough time, Jane focused her energies on specific speakers and topics. Below are their thoughts, her thoughts and up-close pictures only Jane could provide from prime seating at the panel discussions.

Degree or Not Degree: The Higher Education Dilemma

Experts in a vast field of opinions explored the complex interplay between higher education, skills-based hiring, and the sometimes-elusive value of a college degree in today’s workforce. The discussion touched on the relevance of traditional degrees in a job market that increasingly emphasizes practical skills and competencies, the emerging trend toward alternative skill-building pathways and how individuals can navigate the range of choices to align their educational experiences with their career goals, plus the all-encompassing How are US college students and alumni tackling student debt?

Session Highlights:

-The average tenure in a job 25 years ago was 27 years. Today it is four years.

-54% of college students take at least one online course.

– University of Florida President and former Nebraska senator Ben Sasse on college’s biggest cost.

“The biggest cost of college is the opportunity cost.”

Jane’s Takeaways:

“I was particularly impressed with Ben Sasse. He was asked if tenure was important for faculty. He said yes, but being a faculty member today is more than teaching. It is coaching, grading, writing, presenting, etc. and we should specify what we are giving tenure to. All the panelists agreed that for a college education to be worth the cost— both time and money —it must offer skills that would help the graduate be a viable member of the working (profit or nonprofit) community.”

From Pitch to Profit: How Authentic Harnesses the Power of David Beckham’s Global Brand

A decade after retiring from professional football, David Beckham has remained a household name through a variety of high-profile endorsement deals and transformative partnership with Authentic Brands Group. He discussed his brand through strategic endorsements, innovative business models, compelling digital and media partnerships and more.

Session Highlights:

-Beckham talked about starting his business career 10 years before he retired. He will be introducing a clothing line next year. It was a fascinating discussion on branding and his recent documentary on Netflix is part of that branding since his production company made it.     

Jane’s Takeaways:

David Beckham was charming and interesting. Goes back to why my business is so important. It is all about the people you choose to work with, and he felt comfortable with and trusting of the CEO of Authentic Brands

Leadership and the State of American Politics

Disagreement and conflict resolution are foundational elements of the United States’ system of governance; divergent views on federalism, checks and balances, the separation of powers, and other such norms have been present since the founding of the country. While there is partisan division on many critical issues facing the US, broad consensus in some areas continues to lead to the enactment of bipartisan policies.

Bill Cassidy, US Senator, Louisiana, James Lankford, US Senator, Oklahoma, Joe Manchin, US Senator, West Virginia and Krysten Sinema, US Senator, Arizona examined how political leadership plays a role in breaking through the divisive noise and what can be accomplished as we lead up to 2025 and beyond.

Session Highlights:

-Two Democrats and two Republicans

-The group discussed how they have worked together to create bipartisan legislation. They agreed their biggest failure was not pushing immigration through earlier, where it would have had a better chance. There has not been immigration legislation since President Ronald Reagan.

2024 US Election Insights

The 2024 US elections are shaping up to be a rematch between President Biden and President Trump; however, the front-and-center issues today are distinct from the pandemic-dominated 2020 elections. From border security and immigration to the defense of democracy and US policy choices for navigating geo-political turbulence, the issues driving the 2024 elections are causing significant shifts in partisan allegiances and driving political fragmentation in new ways.

Kellyanne Conway, #1 NYT Best Selling Author; President of KAConsulting LLC; Former Senior Counselor to the President, Van Jones, Social Entrepreneur; Bestselling Author; CNN Host; and Founder, Dream Machine Innovation Lab, Chris Liddell, Author, “Year Zero: The Five-Year Presidency”; Former White House Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, CEO, The Messina Group; former Obama 2012 Campaign Manager, White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Paul Ryan, 54th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; Vice Chairman, Teneo; Partner, Solamere Capital discussed the critical issues that will reverberate across the partisan divide, impacting voters in battleground states crucial to determining the Senate and House majorities—and delivering the electoral votes for the presidency.

Session Highlights:

-Kellyanne Conway said the election is about people’s relation with their government and border security is much more important now. It’s the number one or two issue in all six swing states that will determine the election.

According to her polling, Republicans are more focused on crime, securing borders and making a better living, where Democrats are focused on abortion.

Conway also said the Democrats made a big mistake by not letting Robert F. Kennedy stay in the race as a Democrat and if she were running the Democrats, she would have removed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris off the ticket 18 months ago.


-Jones likened the election to 1968. 

Jane’s Takeaways:

Paul Ryan commented he didn’t like Joe Biden’s policies, but he didn’t like Trump’s ethics —-quite a big change from his appearance at the Milken conference years ago when he was running for president and was much more positive about President Trump.

A Conversation with Elon Musk

It was what the title described. Read on for Musk’s thoughts and Jane’s musings.

Session Highlights:

-You want to believe the future will be better than the past.

-First Amendment Discussion:

“You can’t have democratic elections without people being informed.”

-Socialism Discussion

“The government is the DMV at scale. Would you want that?”

(Jane reports this take received a lot of laughter)

-Regulation Discussion

“If there are more regulations passed, eventually everything will be illegal. Tell kids why it is important. Engage kids.”

-Immigration Discussion
“Immigrants are talented, hard working and honest. Legal immigration is a bizarre process.  It’s insane. You can pop across the border easily.  What’s going on? Need to expedite legal immigration. Need to tighten who gets in.” 

-AI Discussion

“How will AI affect our daily lives?  Eventually all intelligence will be digital. We need to develop AI that will be beneficial to humanity. Ms. Truth Seeking AI. Truth telling AI. We need to maximize curious AI. AI has not been helpful in space exploration.”

Jane’s Takeaways:

I know a lot of people don’t like Elon Musk for political reasons, but I found him to be incredibly smart, funny, charming and a basic libertarian. The session consisted of Mike Milken, reading back quotes he had made in the past. With every quote, even those 10 years old, he would say “yeah I agree with that” and everyone would laugh, and Mike Milken would laughingly say “Well, it’s good that you agree with yourself. “

He spoke about how important the First Amendment is, and says you can’t have democratic elections without being informed.

Musk shared historically, prosperity and lack of war reduces the birth rate. The richer a civilization, the lower the birth rate. At that point in his talk a woman posed a question (we are all given QR codes to post questions during talks) that said, “Come pick me up on the way to Mars and I’ll give you a baby”.

What keeps him up at night? Musk worries about the fall of civilizations and listens to podcasts mostly at night about this subject. He ended his session by saying “Maybe I need to stop listening to podcasts on dying civilizations at night.”

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is “How do I get on a corporate board if I’m not already on a board?” The hardest board will be your first board.

Here is what you need to know.

1) The Process Is Different than Applying for a Full Time Position

A board seat is usually not a position for which you apply. It is much more like a sorority, fraternity, or even a posh club: Candidacy is by invitation only. While it is helpful to visit and make contacts with search firms, it should not be your only strategy. Search firms fill only a relatively small percentage of board seats though this number is increasing due to the need for highly specialized talents and an commitment to greater diversity.

Because someone can work and still serve on a board, it’s relatively easy for board members to recruit friends, former colleagues or executives with whom they’ve done business. A search firm may not be as helpful to you in seeking a board position as it would if you were looking for a C-suite role, simply because board searches are not put out to search nearly as often as executive positions are.

Secondly, Board positions do not turn over as frequently as C-Suite roles. Average tenure for directors in the larger companies of the S&P 500 Index and the broader Russell 3000 index is nearly ten years.

Lastly, it is expensive. Search firms charge anywhere from $70,000 to $200,000 to complete board searches. Many Boards inquire among their network before retaining a search firm.

2) Know Thy Strengths

What value could you bring to a board? Determine the industry and type of company where your background would be an asset. Would you meet the requirements to serve on a company’s Audit Committee? Do you have a background in a sought-after functional area, such as compliance, data security or executive compensation? Are you a diversity candidate? There are many functional areas or qualifications that boards are seeking to ensure that they have a well-rounded board.

Prepare an “elevator” speech that you will use to introduce your candidacy to search consultants and sources of referrals for board positions that articulates what you have to offer. You will also need a different type of resume that highlights your value to a board, ability to represent shareholders and includes interactions with your own or other boards.

3) Define Your Brand

What would someone learn about you if they Googled your name? Does your resume reinforce the assets you would bring to a board? (Define your strengths; see number 2 above). Who are you and how have you established yourself? What is your reputation? What enterprise challenges have you faced and successfully navigated?

4) Be Visible

It is not enough that you are good at what you do. Being selected for a board requires both an internal and external effort. This requirement is especially important if you are not currently working. One of the fastest ways to disqualify yourself from a board is not to be “current.” Board members today must be up to date with changes in business and technology. To this end, it is critical to becoming versed in social media. Have a LinkedIn profile complete with picture. Have an account with—and understand how to use—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok (even if you don’t actually use it). Submit articles, blogs or comments to industry association websites and publications. Engage in online dialog with your peers on social media. Publish an article on LinkedIn that delves into your area of expertise.

5) It’s All About Contacts and Networking

Landing a board seat is both a numbers game and a contacts game. Let your investment banking, law, bank, public accounting, and consulting firm contacts know of your interest in being on a board and the value you would bring. Use LinkedIn to identify board members of companies whom you can contact. Note if any of the directors are close to retirement. Many individuals have found board positions by contacting venture capital firms. In addition to search firms, check out top registries such as the National Association of Corporate DirectorsCatalyst (for women), and various universities that have board training programs. StanfordNorthwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Dartmouth offer corporate governance programs.

6) Start Small and Leverage Those Successes

Be willing to start small. Are there any not-for-profits for which you have a passion? If so, volunteer to be on their board, even at the local level. Are there small companies that are looking for a volunteer board? What about your church, child’s school, or trade association? Once you’re on an organization’s board, fellow board members are often senior executives from public companies with whom you can network. It may take two or three not-for-profit boards before you get the opportunity to join a for-profit board. We know several executives who got their start on public boards by working with emerging growth companies and rode with those companies as they went from a garage operation to a Fortune 1000 company.

Most executives agree that it is harder to land their first board position than it is actually to serve on a board. Look at your contacts and networking as investing for not only one board but future Board positions. Not surprisingly, most search firms who conduct board searches look first to those already serving on public boards.

Additional resources:

The Executive Leadership Council: Helps provide opportunities for African American executives.

The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility: Serves as a resource for Hispanic executives vying for board service.

Looking Outside the Box for Your Inner Circle

“We want someone who can think outside the box.”

As a well-worn business cliché, this phrase elicits groans from hiring executives and recruiters alike. But considering the competitiveness of the executive talent market, driven by the lowest unemployment rate since 1969—along with increasing awareness of the need for diverse perspectives in the workplace—looking outside the industry for leading candidates is on the rise. A non-traditional hire with different perspectives can inject sorely needed energy and creativity into the mix, and prevent “group think”—one of the root causes of the 2008 financial crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“The upside for an organization can be huge,” says Margaret Neale, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business who has studied the effect of diversity on companies. “When you increase the diversity of a group, you increase the probability that the group can have the necessary perspective to create the next big thing. People with different backgrounds ask different sets of questions. You ultimately get more information.”

A non-traditional hire with different perspectives can inject sorely needed energy and creativity into the mix, and prevent ‘group think’

Hiring an executive from outside your industry, at least at the highest levels, has been a popular way to accomplish thought diversity for a while. In 1983, John Sculley left Pepsi for Apple. As PepsiCo’s youngest-ever President, he’d had considerable success and Apple had faith that his marketing prowess was just what they needed to sell personal computers.

In 1993, IBM brought in former Nabisco CEO Louis V. Gerstner Jr. as their new CEO. He knew nothing about technology, and though shares in IBM dropped considerably when his appointment was announced, he was a seasoned executive with a strong history of organizational leadership, and he was thus able to successfully deal with the internal problems affecting a company with a solid product.

In 2002, United Airlines recruited a ChevronTexaco and Dynegy executive to be their Chairman, CEO and President. Though he had little experience outside oil and gas, they believed that someone from outside the industry could revitalize the struggling airline.

Beyond the CEO role

What’s changing about this long-established hiring strategy? It’s moving beyond the chief executive role.

As consultants, we’re starting to see clients open up to the idea that the best person for a number of C-suite positions, as well as VPs and regional level positions, may not be waiting in the most obvious places. Boards and hiring executives are finding that the most important skills for someone on the front lines of management aren’t necessarily tied to knowledge of the company’s product or sector.

Depending on what the new individual is being brought on board to do, cultural leadership and functional skills may be more important than direct industry experience. And, “an external hire, with experience in different competitive landscapes and unburdened by a long history and tangled relationships within the company, can have an easier time driving major changes,” writes the Harvard Business Review.

It’s as much about chemistry as credentials.

Recently, The Alexander Group conducted a CFO search for a law firm where the successful candidate came not from another law firm, but from Playboy. Similarly, we identified and recruited the CTO for an Am Law 100 firm from a global marketing communications company. In both cases, the successful candidate came from a different industry but with a similarly sophisticated and complex operations environment.

“It’s as much about chemistry as credentials,” says Managing Director John Lamar. “There are times that an outside-the-box, outside-the-industry thinker may better serve the role.”

For example, a manufacturing client looking for a Regional Vice President of Human Resources isn’t nearly as concerned with the candidate’s experience in heavy industry as they are with his or her previous work history with companies known for their outstanding human resources practices. And a law firm looking for a Global Operations Director would rather see candidates with strong experience managing multiple global offices in a corporate environment versus those with a direct competitor who may not have the international leadership background.

Skills that span industries

We recently looked at the background and careers of Fortune 500 CEOs. We found that, while there is no cookie-cutter pedigree, there are some commonalities in career paths: The typical chief executive holds a general management position that allows her or him to demonstrate measurable success in directly driving top line and/or bottom-line revenue or profits. Financial experience is important, but the largest share of Fortune 500 CEOs is selected from the positions of COO or President. These positions give executives a platform to prove their ability to set strategic vision, be an effective leader of people and interact with the board and key stakeholders. And these positions also typically weed out those who are unable to handle the pressure of managing a large organization.

Top- and bottom-line results, strategic vision, leader of people, ability to withstand pressure—none of these skills are industry-specific, but rather span industries. Successful leaders know how to transfer and apply these core strengths to any new role, organization or industry.

Turn outsiders into insiders

Experienced and savvy leaders also know how to get up to speed quickly and approach a new role with an open mind. We recently interviewed executives who had been in their roles less than a year for their approach to on-boarding. “I spent my first few weeks meeting all of the leaders from the business, asking questions to understand the culture and the history, developing my opinions and testing my thinking,” said the strategy officer for an Am Law 100 firm. “Because of this, I built credibility as someone who was looking to come in, understand and ‘get it’—not someone looking to shake things up unnecessarily.”

The Chief Technology Officer for another law firm agrees: “There’s no shortcut for learning and adjusting to a new culture. I spent my first month getting to know people.”

Wharton Management Professor Matthew Bidwell found that external hires who get beyond the two-year milestone often get promoted more quickly (a positive indication). “So hire outsiders as successors in waiting,” recommends Ben Fanning, consultant and bestselling author of “The Quit Alternative“. “Give them time to learn the ropes before they are needed to step up.”

A deeper candidate pool

Obviously, hiring outsiders won’t work for all functions, and some companies or sectors haven’t been able to jump on this trend. In particular, positions in life sciences, energy and engineering require specific technical knowledge and skills, and the company could actually be hindered by someone without contextual knowledge and an understanding of the industry.

Coming from outside our industry, he looks at what we do with a different set of eyes.

Moreover, you have to be comfortable with a certain level of risk. It can feel chancy to hire someone who isn’t from a similar environment and you have to know if your company can afford to take that chance. Ultimately, the hiring manager has to make the time commitment to help fill in the gaps for the outsider coming on board.

However, if you’re willing to have a little faith, this strategy can breathe fresh air into a team at every level of management and allow for the best possible candidates to be found by broadening the candidate pool.

As one of our clients said, “Our new VP of HR brought many best practices to us that our industry has not yet embraced. Coming from outside our industry, he looks at what we do with a different set of eyes. We realized it would be a risky move for both him and us but we have been richly rewarded with a visionary executive who has had significant impact.”

9 Nightly Habits of Highly Successful People

Several years ago, we wrote about the importance of morning routines and how successful leaders-both today and from the past-start their day. Now let’s look at the other end of the spectrum: nighttime routines.

Why is it important? Generally speaking, success starts and ends with mental and physical health which is highly dependent upon getting enough sleep. It can be tempting to pour a glass of wine, turn on the TV, and pore over social media or clear your in-box right before bed, but the most successful people recognize that those final hours can be just as crucial as any other.

While everyone is different and has different routines, we find the following practices are common among successful leaders.

Make a to-do list

Clearing the mind for a good night sleep is critical for a lot of successful people,” Michael Kerr says. “Often they will take this time to write down a list of any unattended items to address the following day, so these thoughts don’t end up invading their head space during the night.”

For example, Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, writes down three things he wants to accomplish the next day.

On Sundays, The Alexander Group’s Managing Director Jeff Early looks at his calendar and prepares for the upcoming week. “If any prep can be done Sunday evening, I try to get it done prior to Monday morning so I can hit the ground running.”

Disconnect from work

Studies have found that if you associate your bed with work, it’ll be harder to relax there, so it’s essential you reserve your bed for sleep and, er, other extracurricular activities only. Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author, says that “truly successful people do anything but work right before bed. They don’t obsessively check their email and they try not to dwell on work-related issues.”

Give yourself a buffer period of at least a half hour between the time you read your last email and the time you go to bed.

In fact, unplug completely

You shouldn’t just disconnect from work. You should unplug completely-including social media and games on your phone. Researchers agree that any kind of screen time before bed does you more harm than good.

The blue light from your phone mimics the brightness of the sun, which tells your brain to stop producing melatonin, an essential hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm and tells your body when it’s time to wake and when it’s time to sleep. This could lead not only to poor sleep, but also to vision problems, cancer and depression.

If the research isn’t convincing enough, take it from Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post’s Cofounder, President, and Editor-in-chief. After collapsing from exhaustion, Huffington revamped her approach to sleep. As she details in her book, “Thrive,” she has banned iPads, Kindles, laptops, and any other electronics from the bedroom.

Exercise

While it’s a popular belief that exercise before bed can prevent sleep, the National Sleep Foundation actually found in a 2013 study that exercising at any time of the day, even at night, leads to better sleep. Numerous studies have also found that walking reduces stress and anxiety.

Joel Gascoigne, Cofounder and CEO of Buffer, takes a 20-minute walk every evening before bed. “This is a wind-down period, and allows me to evaluate the day’s work, think about the greater challenges, gradually stop thinking about work, and reach a state of tiredness.”

John Lamar, Managing Director, The Alexander Group, says that he usually “hits the elliptical for 30 minutes-a great way to de-stress and wind down.”

Decompress

If exercise doesn’t sound appealing, then find another way to unwind and decompress before bed, such as taking a warm bath, listening to calming music or meditation. Dale Kurow, a New York-based executive coach, says meditation is a great way to relax your body and quiet your mind. Apps like Headspace, Calm and The Mindfullness App offer guided meditations and reminders to incorporate meditation into your daily routine.

Plan out sleep

Much has been written around the dangers busy people face running chronic sleep deficits. Plan ahead for a good night’s sleep just as you would any other priority. Decide when you want to wake up, count back by the number of hours you need to sleep, and then plan to be in bed, ready to sleep, by that time. iPhone users: Take advantage of the “Bedtime” feature of your Clock app. It allows you to set a bedtime, wake up at the same time and stay consistent with your routine. There’s even an option to set a bedtime reminder.

Skip the wine

When researching her sleep manifesto, “Thrive,” Arianna Huffington consulted a number of sleep specialists for tips. One of her favorites is avoiding alcohol right before bedtime.

While alcohol can certainly help you fall asleep, the National Institute of Health finds that it robs you of quality sleep. Alcohol keeps people in the lighter stages of sleep from which they can be awakened easily and prevents them from falling into deeper, more restorative stages of sleep, the institute finds.

Read

One study by the University of Sussex found that just six minutes of reading a day is enough to reduce stress by 68 percent-“an excellent excuse to start curling up with a good book before you turn in for the evening,” points out Fast Company magazine. And you’d be in good company: Former US President Barack Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are known to read for at least a half hour before bed.

This isn’t reserved just for business reading or inspirational reading. Many successful people find value in information from a variety of sources, believing it helps fuel greater creativity and passion in their lives.

Sarah Mitchell, a Director in our San Francisco office, agrees: “I almost always read for 30 minutes before bed-typically fiction or, if it’s nonfiction, something not related to business. If I’ve got a big day or I’m feeling the stress, I will spend part of my evening preparing for the next day and then, 30 minutes before lights out, I put down my phone, shut down the laptop, and relax my brain with a book. This helps me sleep better and gives my brain a needed timeout so I can wake up fresh in the morning.”

Reflect on the good things from the day

It’s easy to fall into the trap of replaying negative situations that you wish you had handled differently. Instead, take time just before bed to reflect on or write down three good things that happened during the day. Focus on the positive moments and celebrate the successes, even if they were few and far between.

Jennifer Hill, Startup Advisory and Venture Lawyer at Gunderson Dettmer LLP, says she takes “two minutes to stretch, align my posture and think of the three things that I am grateful for and proud of today. (Yes, I really do this.) It sends me off to sleep peacefully and with positive thoughts.”

Benjamin Franklin famously asked himself the same self-improvement question every night: “What good have I done today?”

Regardless of how the day went, successful people avoid that pessimistic spiral of negative self-talk, knowing that it will only create more stress. Taking a few moments to think about what went right over the course of the day can put you in a positive, grateful mood-which leads to better sleep, giving you the energy and clarity to face whatever the next day holds.

What are your nighttime success secrets? Share them on LinkedIn or Facebook.

In 2019, I wrote about changes in the workplace during the past 20 years. Little did any of us know two years ago of the dramatic changes ahead of us in 2020. I wrote last November of our new normal of no business travel, remote work policies, and how the pandemic widened the gender inequality gap. Now that we are vaccinated (hopefully), my road warrior colleagues and I are gradually traveling and returning to in-person meetings with our clients. We are heeding the awkward cues of individual preferences for shaking hands, waving, fist bumps, masks, or no masks. Thankfully, the humor in the awkwardness is a nice ice breaker.

As John F. Kennedy said, “There is nothing more uncertain and changing than uncertainty and change.” The permanence of the following pandemic-related workplace changes remains uncertain.

Working remotely

As companies continue to bring employees back to the office, permanent workforce policies are taking shape in various formats: employees who will continue to work full-time from home, hybrid in-office and remote work arrangements, and back to the office full-time. Companies continue to grapple with policies that best support their business, culture, and employees.

A 2021 list of remote working statistic reports:

  • 4.3 million people in the U.S. currently work remotely
  • 16% of the world’s companies are 100% remote
  • 44% of companies do not permit remote work
  • 74% of workers say that having the option to work remotely would make them less likely to leave a company

TAG colleague Jean Lenzner recently wrote that many employees working remotely do not want to return to the office, and one-third would look for a new job if they were required to return to the office full-time. While employees will undoubtedly dig in their heels (er slippers) to continue to work from home, many executives are bringing employees back into the office. The Managing Partner of a large Midwest law firm required all of the firm’s attorneys and staff to return to the firm’s offices. He said that his firm’s collaborative, team-oriented culture was bruised by the pandemic and that he considered in-person interaction invaluable to the success and growth of the firm: “we walk the halls, pop in offices when we have thoughts and ideas; the spontaneity and collaboration are not the same when you have to send someone a calendar invite with a Zoom link to talk to them.”

Working nine to five is no longer the way to make a living

Standard office hours may become a thing of the past and, as a recent Robert Half survey reported, nearly 70 percent of professionals who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, and 45 percent say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before. I frequently receive emails from clients and colleagues at all hours who have changed their sleeping and waking hours – some hoot with the owls, and others are soaring with the eagles. I regularly find several emails in my inbox when I get up in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning. The convenience of working from home also makes working convenient at any time. Perhaps it’s a blurring of home and office time, and although I find it essential to be responsive, I try not to respond with an incoherent message while half asleep at three in the morning.

The death of the suit and birth of ‘workleisure.’

When I packed for my first business trip earlier this year, I had to dust off and shine a pair of dress shoes and make sure that my suits still fit – they did, albeit they were snug. At the client’s office, I was overdressed and noted that many in the office were in comfortable casual attire. I would have been better served to take note that popular ‘workleisure’ dress for Zoom meetings is also acceptable in-office attire for many companies. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that more than two-thirds of American consumers plan to change their wardrobe from pre-pandemic styles as they return to the office to wear more comfortable clothes.

Video killed the radio star and is coming after business travel

As companies adapted to remote working, so did they to virtual meetings and conferences. A Deloitte survey reports that corporate travel is expected to reach 25 to 35 percent of 2019 levels this year but may increase to 65 to 80 percent next year. Although some believe that nothing beats in-person meetings, many companies are eager to reduce their travel expenses, and executives who previously traveled 80 to 100 percent of the time have adjusted to being home more than on the road. My partner John Lamar, who regularly traveled 300,000 miles a year pre-pandemic, is one of those people. He states, “One silver lining of the pandemic is that I realize I can maintain my client relationships by not being on the road four days a week plus I like being at home and the sense of normalcy it offers.”

Those of us in the executive search industry have mostly been strong advocates of in-person client meetings and candidate interviews. With more than a year of quarantine, we too have had to adapt and determine the best way to conduct virtual interviews while achieving the same results our clients expect.

Quite honestly, video meetings are not as effective as in-person meetings, and it is not as easy to form a long-term client relationship by video, but now that our industry has proven it can be done and our clients have a choice—and that is a good thing for everyone. Alex & Red and The Alexander Group will officially return to the office at the first of the year, though some of us are starting to work in the office on a part-time basis. Like many, I have missed seeing my colleagues, many of whom I have worked with for two decades, on a regular basis. I appreciate the routine, comradery, and sense of normalcy our offices offer.

Last month we wrote about the explosive changes that have occurred in law firms over the past decade. Perhaps no non-practicing lawyer position has changed as dramatically as that of the leading marketing professional, which bears no resemblance to the position in the 1990s.

The Bigger Picture

An increasing number of law firms have become complex global organizations. They have grown both internally and by acquisition, mirroring the combinations so frequent in American business. Clients have changed, too, and can no longer be counted on to remain with a law firm for generations, to be passed on from senior to junior partners. So, marketing which was considered undignified and proscribed by rules of professional conduct, has gone from the activity no one wanted—or thought they needed—to a virtual must-have function.

Firms recognize that they can no longer wait for the phone to ring to get business. Simply stated, there are too many law firms chasing too few business opportunities and they must compete rigorously for corporate clients.

The Good Old Days

The Alexander Group conducted its first marketing search 25 years ago. At that time, we were asked to recruit an individual who could put together brochures and operate a collating machine. One retired Am Law 100 CMO recalls joining his firm in 1990, when partners were wondering what the “world wide web” was and if it had anything to do with them. Back then, this manager’s responsibilities included preparing seating charts for client and partner functions. Yep, it’s a different world today.

Business Development: A Critical Part of Marketing

The role of the law firm’s CMO has evolved dramatically and taken on increasing importance as firms adapt to globalization and define their markets, and implement a go-to-market strategy to remain competitive. Not only is the CMO viewed as a business partner with the firm’s lawyers in defining and communicating a firm’s brand, but a growing number of CMOs are charged with helping the firm secure and expand client relationships. And it goes without saying that today’s marketing leader has to recruit, retain and develop a cohesive and often geographically dispersed team.

An outstanding CMO can move into the COO/ED role, as Karen Braun formerly CMO of Kirkland and now Executive Director of Sullivan & Cromwell, has successfully done, because the CMO must understand all aspects of client relationships, firm strategy and pricing.

Chief marketing leaders charged with the business development function are recruiting senior business development professionals embedded in practice groups this requires search firms to broaden their recruiting targets to organizations outside the legal industry that have proven business development functions.

Law Firm Marketing and Business Development Continues to Evolve

Because the role of a law firm’s marketing leader has grown, the necessary skill set required has also evolved. As they seek talented and effective marketing and business development leaders, law firms are increasingly open to recruiting marketing leaders outside of the legal industry. Some of the early recruits to law firm marketing were from public accounting and consulting firms that had established a global brand at least a decade ahead of law firms. Others were lawyers who saw marketing as a better and more desirable fit for their talents. Later hires have come from financial service firms and businesses that serve the legal industry.

In the early 1990s, Howrey & Simon (since dissolved but which at its peak had 700 attorneys in locations worldwide), made a distinctive statement by recruiting Mary K Young, a consumer products marketing manager, to lead its global marketing efforts. The firm’s Chairman, an antitrust lawyer, had worked extensively with consumer companies and believed they were a great source of marketing talent. Interestingly the firm’s prior marketing leader was a brand manager from General Mills.

Our research found that about 25 percent of Am Law 100 firms have hired their CMOs from outside the legal industry. Recent external hires include marketing executives from PwC, Thomson Reuters, and Alvarez & Marshal to name a few. The incorporation of business development into the purview of CMO responsibilities is reflected in new titles including Chief Business Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chief Client Services Officer. Of the 40 Am Law firms that have hired or promoted a new CMO in the last three years, 15 have “business development” included in the title, as do 35 of the Am Law 100 overall.

What Are Future Trends in Law Firm Marketing Executives?

Law firms and their marketing functions will continue to evolve at breakneck speed. One trend we’re seeing now is business development professionals embedded in global practice groups, working in tandem with the practice management function. Some firms will be charging one individual with oversight of both business development and practice management functions within a practice group, opening up career-broadening opportunities for both marketing and business development and practice management professionals.

A FORMER JOURNALIST OFFERS INTERVIEW TIPS

Interviewing is a skill, and not an easy one to master. There’s something new to learn every time you sit down across a desk, share a cup of coffee or connect across an ocean via FaceTime or Skype for an interview.

In my 13 years in TV news, I have had the opportunity to interview thousands of people from all walks of life—politicians, celebrities, criminals, grieving families, heroic first responders—and no two interviews were the same. Even so, there are methods, models, techniques and tips that can be applied to bring out the best, or, in some cases, to (necessarily) discover the worst, in people.

Executive search involves interviewing a different set of people than TV news, of course; and the individuals we interview are generally happy to speak with us, seeing us as the gatekeepers to their next career move. But we still need that focus: bring out the best; weed out the worst.

Here are a few interview techniques I’ve perfected as a journalist:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask offbeat questions and catch your interviewee off guard.

Everyone comes to an interview with a script, rehearsed answers, and a determination to make the interview follow the direction that best suits them. Get them off script.

In my previous life, celebrities were the worst offenders. Having conducted hundreds of red-carpet interviews, every actor or director comes with a handful of sound bites that they’ve been given by their handlers. So instead of starting off with, “Tell me about your role” or “how difficult is it to transform into that kind of monster?” I would often ask something they weren’t expecting driven by the headlines of the day: “Is the #metoo movement changing Hollywood quickly enough?” or “Where do you stand on equal pay?”

In executive search, that translates to questions, such as “What has been the hardest time in your career?” or “What is a lesson you’ve learned in the past year?” I had one client who asked candidates how much sleep they got or the last book they had read.

I had a client who asked candidates how much sleep they got or the last book they had read.

By starting with something completely out of the blue you can shock your interviewee out of the script they have in their minds. Don’t be afraid to throw them off.

2. Be empathetic; realize that your subject is often under stress.

While some people need to be challenged, others need to be drawn out. As a journalist, I would invest more time with families who just lost someone to a terrible accident or crime, or families who’d lost everything in a wildfire or hurricane.

Some candidates also have great potential, but need more time to calm their nerves and reveal their best selves. As an interviewer, it is our job to accurately assess a candidate, even if that requires patience and some extra time.

3. Make it a conversation, not an interrogation.

Early in my news career, I covered the bust of a large marijuana-growing operation in a small town in Arkansas. We knew that the grower had been released on bail, and I wanted to see if we could get him to explain his side of the story. After knocking on dozens of doors in the neighborhood, we found our subject. We approached him conversationally and—to our utter surprise—he invited us to the back yard to show us where the police had been. It was quite the operation: The entire backyard was equipped with rows and rows of planters and hydroponic systems; the scent of marijuana was still in the air. I asked him what he had been growing, and he emphatically replied, “I thought they were tomato plants!” It made for some of the most entertaining TV I have ever produced.

I asked him what he had been growing, and he emphatically replied, “I thought they were tomato plants!”

Had I adopted the more aggressive approach, chasing this man into his home with a camera and a microphone, he would have slammed the door, and we never would have had that exchange (which later helped the police in their investigation).

In the interview process, whether it’s with an alleged illegal drug dealer or an executive, engaging your candidate in conversation and making them feel comfortable from the beginning is crucial. The more at ease your candidate is—even if they’re lying, as I believe my ‘tomato plant’ interviewee was—the more authentic the individual is going to be.

4. Short and to-the-Point.

Long-winded questions, with sub-clauses that meander this way and that, and pose one question while over-riding it with another slightly tangential point (think last week’s Congressional hearing with special counsel Robert Mueller), while trying to circle back to the original thought, leaves everyone confused and muddled. Just ask the question. One at a time.

5. Not everyone wants to tell the truth. We have to find it.

Have you ever met a politician who wanted to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Neither have I. As a TV reporter, I couldn’t call any of the countless politicians I interviewed—Republican or Democrat—a liar on-air. But it was my duty to push them as much as I could, to put them on the spot, to call them out in a polite and probing way. It’s a balance of rephrasing the question and, if the subject tries to divert attention, re-directing the focus back to the initial point (even saying outright ‘that’s not the question I asked’ if necessary).

We all know candidates interviewing for high-level positions sometimes shade the truth, pad a résumé, highlight their strengths while trying to bury their weaknesses, demur over gaps in their resumes, etc. Everyone is a politician, to some extent, in an interview, selling themselves above all else. It’s our job to probe; it’s our job to get to the true character behind the facade.

6. Trust your intuition.

All good reporters have a sixth sense that tells them when something is amiss in a story. Good recruiters are no different. If an answer does not ‘feel correct’, follow your instincts and probe a little more.

From time to time, we interview candidates who have had a short stint in a position. Did the candidate leave because it was an uneasy fit or a bad experience, or was the company in financial trouble?

I follow up with questions, such as ‘What would your manager say about you, given your short tenure?’

My colleague Jane Howze, Managing Director at The Alexander Group, says, “I usually have a sixth sense about whether the person was asked to leave, or whether he or she left on their own accord. I follow up with questions, such as ‘What would your manager say about you, given your short tenure?’”

Her advice? “Follow your gut.”

Many companies today have introduced behavioral interviewing processes where the interviewer asks specific questions that test how a candidate behaves in a certain situation. In our opinion, this process, while beneficial, can rob the interviewer of the opportunity to pop a surprise question (as in tip #1 above) or to rely on the intuition that steers questions in a more relevant way.

Instead, the next time you interview, think like a journalist, and get the full story.

LATE ARRIVALS, LAVISH BREAKFASTS AND YOUR LATEST SQUEEZE—5 BLATANT BLUNDERS THAT BROADCAST A LOW EQ

Much has been written lately about emotional intelligence and the role it plays in a successful career. But what is emotional intelligence? I suppose I could take the position that the U.S. Supreme Court took with pornography: “I can’t define what [it] is…but I know it when I see it.”

Let me start by saying what emotional intelligence is NOT.

  • Emotional intelligence has nothing to do with your intellect or IQ. We all have seen many executives who are incredibly intelligent but don’t have a modicum of common sense. Recently, I interviewed one of the top software executives in the country. He arrived at the interview late with no apology and, after ordering a glass of wine at 3 p.m., continued to take call after call. And he really wanted the position for this start-up technology company.
  • Emotional intelligence is not friendliness or empathy. While solid interpersonal skills play a role in emotional intelligence, all recruiters have stories of candidates who overstep boundaries by being overly familiar and talkative. My colleague Bill recalls an executive who sends him birthday and Easter greetings every year despite the fact he met her once eight years ago. While Bill enjoys the shout out and it makes for a good story, he is not sure that the candidate has appropriately sized up their relationship or lack thereof.
  • Emotional intelligence has nothing to do with honesty and integrity. Actually, I believe that some of the best con artists, embezzlers, and self-promoters have a high degree of emotional intelligence, which makes them effective at their dubious profession.
  • Emotional intelligence is not equivalent to good judgment, though they overlap. Good judgment is synonymous with making solid business decisions and choices. While someone who has emotional intelligence often has good judgment, many make sound judgments from facts but miss the unspoken cues that someone with emotional intelligence gets.

There is substantial disagreement over what emotional intelligence is, how it is measured, and whether it can be taught. Emotional intelligence starts with reading the environment, listening to your audience, and assessing the appropriate response based on spoken and unspoken prompts. Here are five ways that it or the lack thereof has played out in the interview process.

  • You have a meeting scheduled from 5 to 6 p.m. Evidence of poor emotional intelligence is arriving at 4:10 p.m. or taking 45 minutes to address the first question of “tell me a little about your firm or background.”
  • Your meeting is at a hotel restaurant at 10 a.m. Your host orders black coffee. You, on the other hand, notice there is a lavish breakfast buffet and excuse yourself before it closes, so you order a custom-made omelet and pile your plate with an assortment of pastries.
  • For your meeting with a top recruiter for a CMO position, you think the best way to show why you could work from Frankfurt rather than move to London is by bringing your newest squeeze to the interview. You fail to notice the look of horror on the recruiter’s face as your companion orders snacks for the table and monopolizes the conversation.
  • You are meeting the CEO of a company and, granted, it is a sunny day outside, but did you really have to don a red dress and heels when on your prior meetings you noticed that navy suits were the order of the day?
  • You meet with executives for a company for which you want to work or do work. The executives disagree among themselves about the position or project. While it would be easy to spout off a quick response and jump into the fray, the better tack is to pause, listen and ask more questions so that you are not jumping in on an internal political issue or have not misread the underlying communication that was taking place.

These are obviously bury-your-face-in-your-hands kinds of blunders. But the news is not all bad. Many executives have a highly developed emotional intelligence.

THE KENTUCKY DERBY: HATS, HORSES & MINT JULEPS WIN THE DAY

Well, some have the Masters, and others have the Super Bowl but for me, the true bucket list item is the Kentucky Derby.

So, after many years watching the “greatest 2 minutes in the history of sports” on television, and happening to be a third generation Kentucky boy myself, there I was this past Saturday, up close and in person at Churchill Downs for the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby.

What made it even more surreal, was that I was fortunate enough to be there with the Mayor of Louisville — the honorable, Greg Fischer — in his motorcade and on the red carpet, with the the world’s paparazzi in tow. It was an experience any attention-loving Leo would covet.

We arrived on Thursday to an airport abuzz with live ragtime music, pretty “ladies” dressed in clothes of a bygone era handing out bourbon balls, and enormous urns of long stemmed red roses that lined the walkways for yards. Louisville is not shy about their Derby weekend, the prices are jacked up beyond all recognition. “Thurby” –as they call it– is part of the show, so a brief, 5-minute cab ride can set you back $25.00, with a whiskey-throated, chuckling driver visiting from Ohio, taking your money with guiltless glee.

Swiftly, bourbon becomes the perfect solution to part with pain.

Kentucky folk love their bourbon, and supply about 95% percent of the world. The problem is the best labels cannot leave the state. Rather than go to the Kentucky Oaks on Friday-the locals favorite day of racing– we opted to do a little bourbon tasting and found some extremely hard-to-find labels. Now, we had our final challenge…smuggling them home!

After a welcome gala at the Mayor’s building, a gorgeous turn of the century colonial, followed by the Vanity Fair party where we spotted Lindsey Vonn and Bob Baffert, it was time for the Saturday spectacle.

And, spectacle it truly was. A mostly crisp and sunny morning, around 72 degrees, with one hundred and sixty thousand people wearing everything from a double-breasted suit covered in Tito’s Vodka logos, to almost transparent dresses—all with hats to match. TV does not do justice to the famous Twin Spires and perfectly manicured grounds of Churchill Downs. It is an all-day affair. At 8 am the doors open, and the mint juleps start flowing in preparation for the races that start around ten am.

Now, if you have a chance to go, expect the lines to run around 90 minutes to get seated, but you needn’t catch the first race. Thousands of cars are parked on home owners’ front yards, where many of the residents prepare barbecue as an additional income generator to their parking services. Yes, the whole town participates in this Derby Day circus!

Now, luckily for us, we arrived by a police escorted motorcade, whisking by the traffic to the front door, or should I say red carpet, and were requisitely handed a mint julep. That same mint julep was magically full for the entire day. One of the perks of knowing the Mayor.

While everyone else was peering from the outside of the paddock, we were some of the few who walked through the horse’s paddock and into the winner’s circle. An unbelievable experience: the beauty and grace of the horses, the seriousness of the trainers and jockeys, the over hundred years of tradition, the array of colors and hundreds upon hundreds of glorious hats.

The tradition of the Derby really can be summed up in three words: horses, juleps and hats. At times between races, the main event was to roam around, people watch and snap hat shots instead of checking the odds for the next race. Enormous rainbow colored, plumed hats; over-sized floral hats; hats with brims so expansive there was no way you could find a face below; hats that resembled mini movie sets with horses and buildings and dollar bills.

The pride of the spectators is palpable, and the gracious southern manners are never overlooked. Our host family has sat in the same box for 40 years, a little outdoor area with six folding chairs where the family of about 20 ensure that they all have their julep ready to huddle in for the 6:34pm post.

We were fortunate in that we could watch the races from the box, or Turf Club, an indoor area with many screens, open bar, and eye candy galore. Not to mention the likes of Kate Upton, Megyn Kelly and Ted Cruz. Not found all together, of course. (I’m resisting comment on the luminaries.)

When it was time to bet on the big race, my phone started pinging like crazy. Friends from all over the country called and texted wanting to place bets. Exactas, trifectas, win place show. Lucky for me, I travel with my lucky girlfriend who with no homework seems to sniff winning horses by name. We had already banked $750.00 on a $20.00 bet on winning horse Camelot Kitten and were smugly watching the pros feign enthusiasm for our amateur accomplishments.

As the big race neared, people moved into the stands in throngs, the crowds roared, the classic “My Old Kentucky Home” was sung in unison, and with the ring of a bell they were off! The tough part for gamblers was that Nyquist, the favorite by a landslide, had little upside on the odds so we had no option but to bet on Exaggerator to win place and show. We did just fine. Exaggerator came in second. The best two minutes in sports had come to an end.

A beautiful buffet awaited us in a Louisville penthouse with all the trimmings: Smithfield ham and biscuits, mini hot browns – a real family favorite –and classic Derby pie. As we stared out onto the drizzly Louisville skyline, we raised a last glass of bourbon to the evening, toasting a day that neither Nyquist, nor I, will forget.