Friday, July 22, 2011

The Pursuit of Sadness

My favorite music source, NPR's All Songs Considered, recently opened their channel to a collection of people. The request: "what song makes you cry?". I loved the idea of the invited discussion. As we grow older our intuition to cry tends to fade away. We become more aware of our ability to control our emotions and we compartmentalize accordingly. I found it surprising, however, that people who shared stories with Bob Boilen and the crew talked mostly of love lost.

I have loved and lost but it helped me find my I don't have to cry about that any more. The tears always revisit me through great music....mostly because I am so happy to be alive in this god forsaken place. When the aforementioned love of my life and I sat at my birthday dinner a few years back, I told her that I was saddened that the ride may be half way over. Sadness hits me when I realize that this life is fleeting - and then I Go Live It!

For the record, a few from my "songs that make you cry" list would be:
A Letter to Elise by The Cure
Never Went to Church by The Streets
Keep Me in Your Heart By Warren Zevon
Troubled Times by Fountains of Wayne
...these among thousands

As a dude in his late 30's with a wife and kids, the tears these days are those of joy. I cried about a lot of stupid shit in my 20's.

Lady Gaga turned the world's most apathetic haters into fans with her in-studio performance on The Howard Stern show. One could not help but love the assumed over-hyped diva because she showed up, played the piano well and shared unadulterated emotion through her art.

It is a shame we have become so sanitized in our human delivery that a little genuine humanity makes us cry. But, that's life. We get so caught up in day to day detail that we forget to LIVE. We worry about the insignificant and forget the people who genuinely matter as they frown in the background of our tortured lives.

When it comes to Love, sometimes you lose that battle. I have news for you my little 25 year old heart broken hearted angel: It Doesn't Matter! I promise, you will find the one you are looking for and those tears will show up again for the right reasons. A reminder that life is fragile and it cannot be wasted in fussing over trifles. Celebrate your every moment for at some point they will be tears on anothers pillow: irreplaceable, delicate, the premise of survival.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Easy is Nothing

I have been reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek and have enjoyed the book immensely. Among other great concepts, Simon introduces the difference between Manipulation and Inspiration.
It seems to be common place in the working world that we believe the way to motivate people is through manipulation (carrot and stick). There has been an onslaught of criticism of Generation Y and their unwillingness to conform, yet we keep the carrots and stick at hand. In essence, we know that manipulation is an inelegant approach but we continue the practice. I interviewed Dan Pink a few weeks back and asked why he thought defacto training was replacing education in the workplace. He noted that it was easier and we tend toward the simpler solution.

So there we have it: trade the practice of changing lives in the workplace for a safe and uninventive process. 

Purpose driven companies are acutely aware of their differentiators and use them as their Primary Organizational Mission.

Unfortunately, purpose driven companies are few and far between. At some point, inspiring people in the workplace became too risky. You have to monitor what you say, ask only of your employees what seems reasonable, measure performance by job the safe thing, leave well enough alone and wallow in mediocrity. It's easier that way.

Zappos have created a model for company culture. People are now saying, "we have embraced the Zappos model".....No, you haven't! We are so hung up on manipulation that we are in denial of our inability to inspire. Zappos makes a daily practice of doing the hard thing. This is why their culture is great. They empower employees, put themselves on the social media edge, use 'above and beyond' customer service as their SOP, allow the personal aspects of their team to drive their company brand, and always think a step ahead. Unless you have enough balls to practice the aforementioned engagement mission, don't pretend you have embraced the Zappos model.

By starting with why, Simon Sinek has helped companies rediscover their genuine organizational purpose. They need not concern themselves with appeasing Generation Y or trying to be like Zappos. They simply need to know that people buy not what they do but why they do it.

Remove the dust from over the Core Values on your lobby wall. Remember what made your company great and continue to be great. There are no easy answers or defacto training...every day will be an inventive challenge. If you want to be a great company these are the things that you need to consider. Doesn't that sound easy?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Social Awareness

As a Human Resources Strategist, there are 2 requests that are consistently reiterated to me:
1. How can my company be more like Zappos?
2. How do I write an iron-clad Social Media Policy?

The enquiries of competing ideologies are a microcosm of the double life delegated to HR Pros.

The Great Tony Hsieh recently address the question of social media policy at Zappos. I will paraphrase his feedback:
Our social media policy is pretty simple, we hire people for reasons that would validate that we are comfortable with them using social media under the Zappos brand.

Zappos is a great organization because they understand that people come first. Zappos is a company driven:
1. Individual Personalities
2. Core Values
3. Great Customer Service will note that policy and/or organizational process are not listed in their drivers to success.

So, I can't "make your company like Zappos" if your position description is driven by words like: governance, regulation, policy, performance reviews, exit interviews, etc....

HR has been commoditized to corporate police. Do you think HR at Zappos faces bet they do...they are HQ-ed in Vegas and have a bunch of 20 somethings working for them!!!! However, Tony Hsieh, his senior leaders and his legal team would don't heap said liability on said 20 somethings when they enter the office on any given day. Zappos remains an exemplary corporate culture because they keep their policy in the ivory tower and let the natives play. They celebrate what's great about their talent and leave the "legal implications of one's behavior" to the lawyers.

Too often in HR we focus on protecting our brand instead of sharing it. We regulate behavior instead of rewarding it. We write policy instead of educating of core values. We focus on performance reviews instead of service celebration.

Tony Hsieh also commented that you don't need to be a start up with a young workforce to be like Zappos...all you need to do is to align your people with your core values. Question: do you know your company's core values? Can you recite them? Do you live by them? Core Values are the only thing, in any company, that promote uniform purpose to all people regardless of title. Unfortunately, they have been reduced to words on a wall covered by dust in most places.

I know HR Pros want to focus on hiring not firing. I know HR Pros want to spread culture not regulate behavior. We just can't seem to shake the commodity we have allowed ourselves to be reduced to.

Want to be like Zappos? Trust your talent and align them with your uniform organizational that so hard to do?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How To Get To Heaven

With the insane amount of work I do on a daily basis, I occasionally get immersed in detail. At the point my sanity begins to wane...I make an effort to pull myself back into reality. Through a long walk with my I-pod my reflection keeps me grounded. My latest development:
No One Ever Got Into Heaven for Doing Their Job Well

(I am not an overly-religious person but you get the almighty metaphor)

Simon Sinek's book "Start With Why" has been a pillar in our organization. The premise:
The WHAT (detail of job requirement) is insignificant. One must be driven by the WHY (genuine personal purpose).

Mr. Sinek validates the point of my recent stress reduction walk in the woods. We will never be remembered for submitting a report on time, hitting our quota, or for ordering office supplies efficiently. The mundane detail comes and goes. We get task obsessed, expect a great deal from one another and question our professional relevance. My guess is that the last time you walk out the office door people will remember you not for what you did but why you did it:
Were you a decent person to be around?

I regret to inform you, dear readers, that I have lost sight of my children's moments in the sun because I was side tracked by my blackberry. I have insulted people I care about and have missed countless hours of sleep over things that are out of my control.

As foolish as it seems...I just care (a lot). I wish I wasn't as intense as I tend to be. I sometimes wish I didn't care so much.

Here's what I know:
~ I go to the same coffee shop every day. Not because I like their coffee, I like the people who work there.
~ I drink the same beer all the time because of the dedication the brewer puts into each and every pint.
~ There are certain musicians whose words hug my heart (the accompanying instrumentation not the song's primary attraction).

In starting with WHY:
*People make up for faulty products
* Business Mission trumps inefficency
* People who have walked in our shoes remind us how to run

This life is fleeting. We cannot let the job description distract us from that which is genuinely important to us.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5 Questions for Dan Pink

I became aware of Dan Pink when a colleague of mine introduced me to his book, "A Whole New Mind". Having an appetite for business journalism, I was constantly seeking new professional motivation via the printed page. Mr. Pink's book provided a shocking reassurance. His description:
Lawyers, Accountants, Computer programmers. That's what our parents encouraged us to become when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future belongs to a very different type of person with a very different kind of mind.

He goes on to describe how right brain thinkers (me) will rule the world. He was right. Mom and Dad were wrong....that's all I needed to hear.

A lawyer by degree, Dan Pink has a knack for enticing healthy debate. This trait served him perfectly in his break through presentation at TED. In this presentation, Mr Pink introduced the concept of his latest book, Drive. Where "A Whole New Mind" challenged the relevance of formal education to one's professional motivation, "Drive" promotes education in the workplace. In debunking the carrot and stick process of motivation, Dan Pink frustrated the less inventive thinkers in the incentive industry and opened the door for a new breed of motivators...focused on the process of education as the greater goal to long term development.

Dan Pink afforded me a few minutes on the 4th of July 2011. He is an all-American guy who is willing to take time away from the parade for his admiring public.

1. I loved the concept of Symphony in "A Whole New Mind". Do you have a formula for bringing consistency to seemingly unrelated events?

No. I think it's less of a formula and more of a general attitude. Are you open to new ideas -- no matter where they come from? Are you reading in areas outside your own professional expertise? Are you talking to a wide range of people? When you put together a team, do you make sure there are diverse viewpoints? People who make this sort of behavior habitual generally do pretty well on Symphony.

2. In “Drive” you challenge the carrot and stick formula of prize for performance. How has this message been received by HR professionals?

So far, the response has been great. But I think HR professionals are more astute on these matters than many others in organizations -- because the very best among them spend their time and energy working on talent. They know that money does matter to talent -- but that it's not ultimately what gets them up in the morning. HR professionals can be hugely important ambassadors in bringing the science of motivation inside of organizations.

3. How important is Empathy in leadership?

It's hugely important. It's very hard to lead without being able to see the world through the eyes of those your leading. That's especially true for creative teams. And it's doubly true for the growing ranks of people who are leaders but who don't have much formal authority -- and therefore must rely on influence rather than command. There's also some recent research, led by Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University, that shows that as people accumulate power, they're less likely to see the world from another's perspective, which can often hamper their abilities to get others to go along with them. Leadership turns out to be a very delicate balance between action-orientation and perspective-taking. Too much of one rarely works.

4. Why have some companies simplified the process of education in the workplace down to product knowledge?

It's easier -- and they know how to do it. Plain and simple.

5. You are one of the most recognized business authors of our time yet you always make time to respond to your readers. How do you balance this?

Hmmm. I'll resist my lawyerly instinct to disagree with your premise and instead thank you for the overly generous assessment. On the matter of responding to readers, it's not all that complex. First, I like it. I learn a heckuva lot from readers and I always appreciate hearing from them. Second, it's the right thing to do. If someone spends 10 or 15 dollars and several hours of their time reading one of my books, the least I can do is spend zero dollars and five minutes of my time responding to their question. To me, what's weird is that everybody doesn't do this.

To find out more on all things Pink visit:

Don't Forget to Remember!

- Dave