Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gone Fishing

It's NFL draft day! Today, young men who have dedicated themselves to the game of football will have their lives changed forever. It is a glorious celebration of potential. The lights in New York shine bright, suits are worn, and the game becomes a business. Some players are invited to the formal event, others throw classy parties...the limelight is shining and players are about to become celebrities.

My favorite approach to draft day was taken by Joe Thomas of Wisconsin. While other's put on suits and poured Campaign, the 3rd pick in the 2007 NFL draft got on his Dad's fishing boat. He was as far from Broadway as he could possibly could be. He was still a player, he knew what his job was going to be and he was ready to go to work with his helmet and lunch pail (not a briefcase).

Believe it or not, Joe Thomas was chastised for not showing up in New York for the draft. Many conveyed that the NFL is big business and an opportunity of this size required more respect for the share holders involved. Joe Thomas didn't comment, he just went to work with his helmet and lunch pail in hand.

The hype of the NFL draft raises a larger question that plagues all of our professional lives:
Why can't we just let our performance speak for itself?

Every company has that person who is transparently "full of it". There are others who seem to be on-the-clock at all times and some have made the full metamorphosis into robots. In contrast, other people find a breaking point in the bravado and choose to shut it all out. They jump on the fishing boat and come back with dinner for the town. If the Mayor needs a statement for the local newspaper, they point to the basket full of fish.

A friend of mine recently left a job after 10 years. She told me she couldn't take the office politics any more and that she was not willing the play the game. She was never under quota, always promoted her company with grace, and never missed a day of work. Her knowledge, experience, and cordial representation hit the exit because the bastards wore her down. In a process like this, mediocre people stay at companies while superstars leave and the company becomes like any other. Ordinary.

The Game
I was once told that in order to move up the corporate ladder I had to align myself with the right people. I had to find those who were on the fast track to success and cling to their coat tails. Align yourself with the winners and they will take you along with them. Regrettably, I followed this advice. I ignored the things I was good at to become a pawn on an over-crowded chess board.

After a great deal of trial and error, I got tired of "the game". I came to understand that pretending to be someone you are not always catches up with you.

"You can fool some people some times, but you can't fool all the people all the time"
- Bob Marley

The Ring
It seems that the excuse of being a better teammate only comes up when you are not winning. If the scoreboard works in your favor the off-field bravado goes away.

In simple summation: Do Your Fighting in the Ring!

Have a deal pending? Waiting to hear back from your employer of choice?

Go Fishing! If its meant to be, it will happen!

Don't Forget to Remember!



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Departed

I have been a traveling salesman for over 15 years. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area many of my commutes are accompanied by sports talk radio. As such, I was disheartened to hear that the great Ralph Barbieri was fired by his employer KNBR. In a statement he released, Ralph discussed that he arrived to work, was taken to the GM's office, was then told to hand in his keys, and to grab his belongs. He was escorted out of the building and his voicemail was immediately disabled. Standard firing procedure. But, after 28 years of service to the organization, I think Ralph deserves better.

Ralph Barberi was given the nickname 'the razor' for his edgy on-air demeanor. With this in mind, one might consider that his aggressive behavior may have worn on his employer after so many years. KNBR should have simply explained this. Now the parting of ways is mired in legal discussion that encompasses ageism and physical workplace limitations. Uncertainty breeds questions and formulates assumptions. The whole situation could have been addressed with more class on the part of the industry veteran's long time employer.

Of course, there are 2 sides to every story. Over time, the legal process will exercise itself and the real story will be reveled. So let's examine the lessons learned from this unfortunate parting of ways:
1. Performance should be measured daily
2. Animosity toward one's employer never produces results
3. Every day is Day 1
4. There is such thing as manners

Performance reviews suck! Annual reviews of performance are a legal charade to document areas and concern that will serve as defensible grounds for firing in the event that needs to happen at some point. Managers and Employees alike hate doing performance reviews. There is no dignity in telling people where they are falling short or by grading their life's work. Too much goes into a 10 hour day to quantify human effort. Ralph Barberi's firing is an advertisement for performance reviews. If you are going to shit-can someone, you better have documentation.

Ralph Barberi is a 70 year old man who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. This is not why he was fired, but he will site the aforementioned assumed disabilities in a lawsuit, and probably win a few dollars as a parting gift.

Tom Tolbert and Ralph Barberi had a special relationship. The 2 men separated by a few decades in age developed a camaraderie that warmed the heart. There is nothing more special than seeing people who genuinely appreciate one is even better when these individuals are on seemingly separate sides of the spectrum. The 2 gentlemen lived out a Hemingway story and a Neil Young song for all to hear...every day. The only thing better than receiving sage-like advice from an elder is when this process works in reverse.

Even Tom Tolbert recognized the blessing and the curse of Ralph's strong personality. That's why he was fired. His employer simply couldn't put up with his disruptive behavior any more.

I have been enthralled by Reid Hoffman's book, The Start-Up of You. This book is a manifesto of the entrepreneurial ethos that drives today's working world. No longer is longevity a word that encompasses greatness in the workplace. Each and every day one must recreate themselves to stay relevant. The minute you stop moving forward, you start moving backward.

Employee's know when they are under performing. At a certain point in everyone's professional life they plateau, for some it takes just a year others endure it for 30 years. When you face professional 'burn out' you are faced with 2 realities:
1. Refocus on the task at hand
2. Get a new job

In both cases the key is to find the passion in what you do and let that drive. You can ruin the job of your dreams by taking it for granted. You can also fool yourself into believing you are doing the thing you should be doing because it is convenient.

The world of work is a heartless machine. So much is involved in running a business and thousands of decisions are made every day. Some decision are made it haste and they are usually fixable. Certain decisions made in haste can be ever damaging to a company's reputation.

KNBR will not soon be forgiven for the manner in which they released Ralph Barbieri. They could have allowed him to play out his contract for another 7 months, had an on-air ceremony in his honor, and sent him on his way. This leaving a proud company alumni and a new directions for the loyal listeners of KNBR to be proud of. Regardless of reason for Ralph's dismissal, it could have been handled better. I would venture to guess that hindsight creates regret in this case.

In his famous walk to the Exit at SMI, Jerry Maguire, makes a plea for decency in the workplace. The premise of the Jerry Maguire story is finding a heart in the professional meat grinder that we submit ourselves to every day. With each day a loyal employee sees 20 years of their life dismissed in a walk to the exit. Then there are those who view every day of work as their last and perform accordingly. It is impossible to be the greatest version of yourself every single day for 20 years. We all get complacent, it's human nature.

I would leave you with this question:
If Ralph Barberi really loved his job and his employer would it have ended in the way it did?

If the answer to this question is "no" then it seems the parting of ways will ultimately be best for everyone involved.

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened" - Dr Seuss

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, April 6, 2012

The 4 Intricate Disciplines

There are 4 Intricate Disciplines essential to professional success:

...of course, there are a million other things that the readers of this blog can site as "absolutely essential" to success. Be that as it may, I would be willing to bet that any more specific skill set would fit in one of the 4 categories mentioned above. Today our mission is to explore the 4 intricate disciplines of professional success and to figure out how to put them into action. Sound simple? It is so very far from simple. Let's dive in.

Some people have amazing strategic planning discipline, others are very good at executing at the point of customer engagement, there are those who have an uncanny ability to persevere in lieu of failure, and some people just know how to find the best in every situation. Which of these areas best characterises your professional excellence? If you execute just one of the 4 intricate disciplines well, you will be successful. If you are able to execute all 4 intricate disciplines really well, every day, you will be a professional Rock Star!

Let's Rock!

All Points Considered
Aaron Levie the CEO of Box has an uncanny ability to articulate solutions in the enterprise with rapid fire precision. It might come as a surprise but Levie's admirable leadership is a result of introspection. The best talkers are not those who talk the most. People who speak well are well thought out. They spend more time preparing what they say than they do saying it. So, in fewer words they can articulate with greater precision.

Preparation is not just a matter of writing a check list. Preparation is the art of fact finding and differentiating a solution that engages personal relevance. The true visionaries rehearse every potential conclusion with the board of directors of their mind.

I used to think I could get by on product knowledge and my ability to entertain. I assumed I could call myself an expert if I knew what my product did while possessing the gift of gab. It worked for a while but eventually people got tired of my bravado. I learned to slow down, ask questions, and share knowledge. It is about sharing not grandstanding.

Selling is not telling. You can no longer pretend your good looks and fast tongue will help you succeed.

Know your audience, speak their language, and make it look effortless!

Fall Down, Get Up
I remember getting upset when I heard Michael Jordan proclaim that he had failed more than he had succeeded. It was the point when I realized that there is no finish line. Every day presents a new challenge and those of us wired for success are always seeking a challenge. We are not willing to accept winning as an end point but rather an opportunity to do more.
Did you know Rovio failed 51 times before creating Angry Birds. This overnight success took 8 years to develop. Nothing comes easy! Everything that produces interest is a result of hard work and conviction.

Anger is Easy
Anger is a result of frustration. Frustration results from having all the tools but being unable to utilize them in the proper fashion. Everyone possesses massive talent. Most people choose to let their fear prevent their potential. Ultimately, the ability to develop momentum is permanently disabled. This produces bitterness.

The easiest thing in the world is to be negative. To sit on the sidelines with arms crossed, criticizing those in the game. Then there are those who have the moxie to get out there and make things happen. With every effort you are open to criticism, with every failure the naysayers nod in disgust, then you look up and you are on top of the mountain.

"Do or do not, There is no try" - Yoda 

4 Intricate Disciplines
Every day our world is advancing. What an exciting time to be alive. With progress comes competition and the need to do more with greater efficiency. No longer can you be good at just one thing. You have to be good at everything!

Don't Forget to Remember!