Staying focused while working remotely

Are you having trouble focusing while working at home?  Executive Partner David Brown and Partner Christina Nickerson have some advice for you!

Just do it. Or not.

I wasted a whole evening watching Wife Swap last night.  I don’t know why or how I got sucked in, but I looked up and it was almost 9:00 p.m. and I had nothing to show for my night.

To be fair, I was recovering from a pretty bad bout of vertigo and hadn’t been able to lift my bowling ball of a head up to do much of anything for the past several days, but still, I could have at least watched a documentary or the news.

Who am I kidding though?  I actually like completely zoning out every so often with a good Netflix binge or, as of late, mindless reality T.V.  And I don’t feel bad about it.  Well, most of the time.

Until I see another Facebook post from one of my friends who seems to do it all.  I call her my Rockstar because that’s really what she is.  Amazing in every way, she manages to make her busy life look fun and easy.  She works full time as an attorney, raises two great boys, spends time with her husband, her family, her Sikh community, and her friends, travels, speaks at community events, appears on TV, radio and podcasts, lobbies civil rights issues to state and federal governments, volunteers with about a dozen worthwhile nonprofits and charities, and campaigns for political candidates in her community.

I bet she doesn’t watch a lot of Wife Swap.

Seriously though, I asked her how she does it all, and she said she just doesn’t think about it.  She said if she did, she might get overwhelmed by it all, but she follows her calendar religiously, and she goes where she’s needed.

I questioned whether she gives up sleep, and she confirmed that no, she actually gets at least 8 hours a night.



Much like Nike’s iconic slogan, Just Do It, she doesn’t think about whether she has time or energy.  She just does it.

And that got me thinking about all of the things I don’t “just do” and wondering how different my life would be if I “just did.”

Honestly, I don’t think I’d Life Swap, if given the chance.  Aside from working, I’m raising a wonderful daughter, and we have a pretty great life.  And I only have one more year until she leaves me for college, so I am glad to be in the slow lane, for now at least.

But I’m glad people like my Rockstar friend do what they do.  I am amazed by her, and I try to tell her that often, but that’s not why she does what she does.  She isn’t one of those annoying Facebook braggy types who just wants people to think she lives an amazing life.  She is driven to help as many people as she can.  She doesn’t think about how hard it might be, how long it might take.  She just does it.  And we’re all so lucky she does.  The world is better because of people like her.

And my world, small as it may be, is better because of me.  I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.  Next year, I might be fighting the good fight right along side my Rockstar friend.  Or I might be on my own crusade.  Whatever I’m doing, it’ll be the right choice for me.

Unless I’m still watching reruns of Wife Swap.

If I am, it’s time for an intervention.



Breaking Bad…Habits

I’m a nail biter.  Well, a nail picker, actually.  And I can count on one stubby-nailed hand the times I’ve grown my fingernails out in my 47 years on this earth.  I keep my nail guy happy because I even pick off the nails he glues on.  But this month, a friend and I decided to give up our addictions.  Well, most of them.  No one is touching my addiction to Netflix.  I’m not ready for that yet.  She’s tackling smoking.  I’m tackling several, including nail biting.

And here we are, halfway through the month, and I have actually let the things grow.

It hasn’t even been hard.  All it required was my being conscious of the habit and not mindlessly engaging in it.  The first few days, I noticed I would start picking when I was in deep thought, or when I was bored.  My office buddies were prepared to shoot me with a water gun or make me do squats if they caught me, but honestly, I caught myself.  And chose not to do it.

I’m not suggesting abandoning every bad habit is that simple.  But it probably starts with the very same exercise in consciousness.  And as much as I hate those articles on the internet that give you “Three simple steps to change your life,” or “The eight things you never want to do in a job interview,” this really does lend itself to some simple steps.

  1.  Identify the bad habit, and why you want to stop doing it.  I have ugly hands with chewed on fingernails, unless I want to waste money at the nail salon to have pretty nails for a little while, until I pick those off, too.  But I’d like to have nicely manicured hands.
  2. Set a time goal for yourself to kick the habit.  “They” say if you keep something up for at least three weeks, you’ve created a habit.  Or in this case, kicked one.  We chose the whole month because keeping track of our success on a handy dandy monthly calendar was easy.  Each day we get through without reverting to bad habits, we get to mark off a day.  So far, all my days are marked off.
  3. Pay attention to what makes you engage in the bad habit.  For me, boredom mostly. Stress sometimes.  I’m definitely more of a stress eater, which is the reason I also gave up snacking between meals this month.  Write them down if that helps you to recognize them.  There are patterns to uncover if you’re being mindful.
  4. Understand that your triggers will still be there after you give in to the bad habit.  My girlfriend who is quitting smoking had an epiphany about cigarettes this month:  she has stress, as we all do, but she can survive her stress without her cigarettes.  Smoking didn’t eliminate the stress she felt.  It was still there when she finished the cigarette.  Using our bad habits as crutches doesn’t make life’s struggles any easier.  Instead, you still have whatever triggered your bad habit, plus the baggage the bad habit brings.  In my case, ugly hands or extra pounds.  In hers, potential health problems from smoking.
  5. The next step is just stop.  And that’s certainly easier said than done for some habits.  Some require professional help, and I’m not a professional trained to give that help.  But there are plenty of resources available to get that help, no matter the bad habit you’re trying to kick.  If you’re committed to quitting, you’ll find the help you need to do it, whether it’s a friend armed with a water gun, a self-help book, meditation, a professional counselor, group therapy, or some combination of the above.

It sounds simple.  And steps one through four really are.  You can do those on your own, today.  Step five is where the work is, but if you’ve committed to breaking a bad habit, don’t give up at the last step.  If you feel like giving up, go back and review steps one through four again.

Now, what does quitting nail biting have to do with recruiting, or work in general?  Nothing, really, but the formula can be used for any bad habit, like spending too much time at work daydreaming of swinging in a hammock on the beach, posting to your SnapChat story, avoiding a big project you know is going to be really tough, or fighting with a challenging coworker.

I’ve got two weeks left in my May Addiction Challenge, and after growing my nails out and quitting all my mindless snacking, I can’t wait to see what bad habits I can tackle in June.


When you ask Google “How to Write a Resume?”, within 0.50 seconds you will have 310,000,000 resources at your fingertips to confuse you even more. Over my almost 6 years with Joseph Chris Partners as a Senior Recruiter I have been able to narrow down the answer to one very simple question. “What are your bonuses, pay raises, and promotions based on?”

Think back to your last job performance review or evaluation.  Those successes are what you want to highlight in your resume. How do you compare to your peers and colleagues in similar roles? What makes you stand out?  If you were a cashier at your local grocery store would you describe your position as “I scan groceries for prices and collect payments from customers” or would you say “Compared to the average cashier, I have the fastest lines in the store, moving 50% more customers through the lines”?


This is an actual email I sent to a candidate who had all the experience my client was looking for in an employee, but his resume read like a boring job description.  Some information has been changed to protect the candidate’s identity.

[Candidate], I’m going to give you some constructive criticism.  Your resume does not serve you justice.  Remember all the specific numbers and projects you mentioned in our phone call?  Those should be mentioned in your resume. Hiring Managers like to see numbers and measurable data rather than an interpretation of your job description.  It’s common knowledge in the industry what a Production Manager does. They want to see what made you exceptional at your job. What did you do that was above and beyond what an average Production Manager would do? Numbers, volume, special assignments, etc. are the things that make the Hiring Manager say “I need to interview this candidate ASAP”.

Imagine if you ran into your favorite High School teacher today and was excited to tell them about all the things you have accomplished so far in your career.  Would you tell them that you “lead budget review meetings with clients” or would you tell them you worked for a large public home builder who was pushing out 3000 homes a year, and you were responsible for organizing all their processes during the buyout in a new major city?

Being able to paint a picture of your measurable successes in your job performance makes the hiring manager more excited to call you back and learn more about how you may benefit their company.

Now go rewrite your resume then send it to me so I can help you climb the corporate ladder and earn more money!

How do you feel about E.Q.?

It is my job to talk with folks who plan, develop, build, and design for a living.  The other day I was talking to a candidate who shared more about his personality then about his success in completing projects on time and under budget.  He led in with his “emotional intelligence” scores and how he measured his success from understanding his strengths – emotionally.  As a recruiter, I find these conversations most intriguing.

Personality tests in the work place are not new.  In my experience, I have been measured by Meyers Brigg, Strengthfinders, Enneagram, and DISC to name a few.  I may or may not be a willing participant in skewing the outcome of such tests. After all, if I know this is a pre-employment evaluation for a sales role, my answers may be more aggressive in my desire to make a buck so as to appeal to the hiring powers.

One question I like to ask candidates is what you can say about yourself that a LinkedIn Profile or resume does not show?  I rarely get answers that relate to a high-end project that is not on the list, or how much money was made at Company X .  They don’t share what they did, they share who they are and how they want to be perceived.  I notice a positive inflection in their voice when they can share a personal attribute instead of a work-related accomplishment.

e·mo·tion·al in·tel·li·gence (EQ)


  1. the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

“Emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success.”

So, is this EQ a solid and trustworthy benchmark when determining a good fit with your organization?  I am not sure I am completely convinced it is a good thing, but I do value the intent of being sensitive to this dynamic After all, we have a whole new generation who are in position to take over senior leadership in many organizations.  My future boss may want to know how I feel about that.

So, is EQ a measure all on its own, or should it be used in conjunction with other personality type tests?

I researched a bit about the topic and noted a dark side of EQ measurement. I found that being vulnerable and sharing one’s emotional vulnerability can lead to social manipulation.  At work, we often measure success by achievement.  Many times, competition and manipulation become a means at which we gain a place at the top.  Are we measuring ourselves strong against the nice guy or the shy girl?  Are people to be used as tools to push around or perhaps certain people will use their soft side as an excuse not to succeed? Hmmm.

It may be a bit too soon and presumptuous of me assume how much EQ will be implemented in the workplace, however, I can say that knowing our own emotional intelligence and that of those we associate with is a key component in relationships.  And after all, isn’t everything about our relationships?


More Lessons from Dad

Dad’s lessons continue..

Last time I wrote about one of Dad’s lessons. It was about the importance of doing your homework, being prepared, and how you can benefit from working a little harder and knowing a little more than the other guy. It was one of many lessons my dad taught me.

My dad was a proud marine, a classical pianist, sailboat racer and father to five sons. He was a leader. I’d like to share a few lessons he taught his sons that apply to our work, our lives, and how we are perceived by others. Things he taught us were necessary to be a good leader.

1. Integrity matters. As a kid we learned about this when we were asked if we did our chores. Lying always turned out to be a bad idea.  Do the right thing when no one is looking. Always be honest and truthful in everything you say and do. It doesn’t matter who your connections are or what your experience is, you can’t be a good leader if you are untrustworthy or devious. How did you learn you learn about integrity?

Set yourself up to be a good leader in advance. Embrace integrity. Good leaders don’t lie.

2. Take initiative. I remember dad saying; “don’t wait until I tell you to cut the grass. If it needs cutting, cut it,” or, “if it breaks, fix it.” It didn’t matter if we did it the right way or made a mistake trying, we were always praised for taking action. Even if we got it wrong.

When problems pop up at work, don’t hesitate to work around them to get the job done. Take action, don’t waste time, push yourself, have moxie and set the example. That’s what leaders do.

3. Have courage. Dad showed us there is Moral courage and Physical courage. Moral courage is having the inner strength to do the right thing and to take the blame if you are at fault. Physical courage means you can hang in there and you have the strength to keep on going, even when you are exhausted, and that you can be strong and effective in good times and tough times. Be a leader.

When everything looks bleak be the one to stand up, lean in and be strong. Have the courage to be the best example and don’t be afraid to try. You will be recognized as a leader.

There were a lot more lessons from dad but I’ll save some for later. Today I’m going to reflect on these three qualities that he thought were necessary in order to be respected and to be a leader: *Integrity, *Initiative, *Courage.

Thanks again Dad, I miss you.

To stay or not to stay: that is the question.

It’s no secret that we are seeing a shortage of proven talent within the real estate development and construction industries in many skill sets.  At a time when we need people/talent the most,  professionals are seriously questioning whether to make a change because of the timing of the economy, timing in our industry and timing in their own lives.

“Is it time to make a move in my career?” These thoughts, nerves, doubts are making it more difficult today to recruit proven, successful talent for open positions due to growth or vacancy.

Many clients are forced to promote people who aren’t ready to take on more responsibility because of the talent shortage, and starting a leadership program within companies won’t grow the talent fast enough to fill the needs.

In my practice, I speak daily with and recruit Vice Presidents, Division and Regional Presidents and professionals in Corporate level roles. Professionals are asking themselves “should I stay or should I go?” for a few reasons:

  1.  Recent builder acquisitions. Executives who are open to considering opportunities or desire that next step in their career are asking themselves, “Am I going to a builder that is gobbling or one that will be gobbled?” Since company CEO’s or Corporate CFO’s cannot share this information, professionals are left to the worry about the rumors and, therefore, may choose to stay rather than risk being the last person hired when a company is “gobbled.”  People do not want to be the less tenured in this case because some say the purchaser will keep most of their own team if in the same market. So be honest with interested candidates. It still may prevent someone taking a position with your company but at least you stayed true to what you know. Also know, even if it doesn’t feel like the case, builders are starting to interview all candidates in like roles within that market seriously so they can build the next best team.
  2. The next downturn.   Those of us who survived the last downturn always have our eye on the future, looking for signs that it may happen again.  While economic indicators are still very strong, professionals want to ensure they’re working for a company that isn’t in danger of going under if it does happen, either because of their financial situation or land holdings.  But professionals need to remember that the people working at the company they’re interviewing with likely survived the last downturn as well, and everyone in our industry made adjustments to their financial forecasting, land strategy, and processes to weather that storm should it arrive.  They are making hiring decisions based on long-term, not just short-term, growth projections.
  3. Counteroffers.  When people are hard to find, companies do what they can to keep the good people they have.  So companies making offers should expect counteroffers each and every time.  And to prevent the professional from staying put, companies should make their first offer their best offer.  The days of negotiating back and forth to save a few bucks are long gone.  If you don’t demonstrate to a candidate their value to you right off the bat, you can bet their existing company will, and you’ve lost valuable time in your search to fill that role.  It helps to have consultants like Joseph Chris Partners in on the formulation of offers so you can offer competitively based on market conditions and competition.

Our industry will always have mergers and acquisitions and there will be lay-offs during any economic slow down we experience. But that should not stop a strong professional from accepting a new role, proving their worth, and moving up the ladder.  If the opportunity is a great one, the company has the culture people thrive in, the team is strong and collaborative, then the normal things that affect our industry should not keep a professional from taking on a new position.

Joseph Chris Partners can help you with your search for the right professional, and we can help them answer “should I stay or should I go” in your favor!

Turn Kings Harbor Blue by Joseph Chris Partners: past, present and future

Senior Recruiter Dawn Bahan of Joseph Chris Partners was raised to Back the Blue.  The daughter of a Louisiana police captain, Dawn landed her job as Turn Kings Harbor Blue organizer unassumingly.  In a round-table discussion with our team about what community service event to host 4 years ago, Dawn and several others expressed their desire to do something to thank our local law enforcement officers for keeping us safe.  With a few more brainstorming sessions, Turn Kings Harbor Blue was born.

Joseph Chris Partners is headquartered in Kingwood, Texas, a northern suburb of Houston.  Our offices are literally on the banks of Lake Houston in a mixed-used development called Kings Harbor.  The first Turn Kings Harbor Blue was a small affair, with blue lights in the trees, some representatives from the four separate law enforcement offices in our area and employees of JCP wearing blue and snapping blue chem-lights at dusk, listening to live music provided by a local music school, and raffling off some donated gift baskets.  The second year was bigger, but the third year saw significant growth in the event.

Before August of 2017, the tree-lined sidewalks of Kings Harbor were filled with restaurant-goers and shoppers, but Hurricane Harvey changed all that.  Office builders, shops, and restaurants filled with eight feet of floodwater, and while some have returned, many are still rebuilding. So last year’s Turn Kings Harbor Blue took on a whole new meaning:  #KingwoodStrong.  A community devastated by rapidly rising water rallied together and came out in force, happy to be back in Kings Harbor after floodwaters made the roads here impassible and shuttered beloved businesses.  Area businesses and schools clamored to donate time, volunteers, and food and set up vendor tents for our Kingwood neighbors, local law enforcement and first responders enjoyed the evening with their families and friends, and last year’s event topped all expectations.

After such a monumental success, organizer Dawn Bahan knew she had to bring her “A”game and build on the momentum from the post-Harvey gathering.  She and Project Assistant Tiffany Kenton started planning for Turn Kings Harbor Blue 2018 at the beginning of this year, and through their tireless efforts, our November 2nd event is slated to be our biggest ever in every way.  Police agencies from across the Houston area will be on hand with their rescue vehicles, equipment, and available for meet-and-greets with the community supporters, with special things just for the kids!  They’ve found 40+ local vendors offering deep discounts on their products and services to law enforcement officers and their families.  The Kids’ Zone is new for 2018, and it’s got several inflatables, a track-less train, a collection of cool Jeeps, Mustangs, and show cars, as well as many other surprises!  Live music right on Lake Houston will be provided by a local classic rock band, and as always, we’ll share a moving moment of silence for those we’ve lost along the way, with our signature blue lights adorning all the trees and blue chem-lights glowing at dusk.  And the cost for this wonderful family festival:  absolutely nothing.

The team at Joseph Chris Partners wanted to show law enforcement officers and their families how much their bravery means to the community, and how lucky we feel to know they have our backs.  The event was never intended to cost a dime, and thanks to the overwhelming support of the community and the tireless efforts of Dawn, Tiffany, and the rest of the Turn Kings Harbor Blue team at Joseph Chris Partners, this year’s event promises to be the best one yet!

For more information, or to contact our organizers, check out our event page on Facebook:

This event is a lot of work for our team, but it’s so worth it, and has managed to grow and become a community favorite year over year.  It’s now one of the largest events in Kingwood, and we look forward to hosting it for years to come.


Market Check–Video Blog

Check out the latest video blog from Senior Partner Angie Truitt!

How do companies know which Executive Search Firm is best for them?

In today’s world, it is a candidate driven market.  Candidates are getting called repeatedly by recruiters and quite a large amount of them end up with multiple offers to choose from in the end.  As a company searching for talent, the decision to hire a firm to help can be a daunting one.

The Solo Recruiter.  In a robust market, like the current one, recruiting is good business.  People who have little to no experience see an opportunity to cash in, hang out a shingle, and often offer slashed rates to compete with the established firms.  While saving money on an executive search may seem attractive to your HR team, the old adage “you get what you pay for” typically rings true here.  The cost of a bad hire far exceeds the difference in bargain basement search fees and the

The Big Guys.   There are some very large executive search companies that service multiple industries.  Their business model is usually more segmented, with one person courting client business, and once the contract is signed, the client is handed off to an account manager.  A search team is made up of other individuals, usually with a researcher, someone to recruit candidates, and someone who ultimately presents resumes to the client.  This assembly line approach might not be the best way for all companies to fill critical roles as it can be perceived as impersonal and disconnected to the candidates.

The Niched Firms.  Then you have your niche, boutique firms that focus specifically on specific industries, such as our own firm, Joseph Chris Partners.  Our niche is real estate development and construction.  There are multiple benefits to working with a firm that specializes in the field in which you work.  In most cases, niched firms have been in their chosen business for a considerable amount of time.  In our firm’s case, we have over 41 years of speaking the same language as our clients, developing relationships with professionals over the expanses of their careers, keeping current on industry news, attending conferences, and really understanding what our industry is about.  Our teams our small, and clients always get a personalized approach to their search.   For more clients needing a professional with industry-specific experience, it makes sense to work with an Executive Search Firm that already has the relationships with the people they are wanting to hire, one that “speaks their language” and knows who’s who in their industry sector already.

Am I promoting my own firm?  Sure I am! But clients and candidates I’ve worked with over my 16 years in the industry will attest that their partnership with my company and with me has been a very successful one.

Claire Spence

Executive Partner