Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Performance Empowerment

Throughout this year I have had the pleasure of teaching a seminar on "Cultivating Employee Engagement" to a variety of professionals. I moderate an interactive conversation as we explore the pillars of what attracts and retains great talent.

I told the story of the Goldman Sachs employee who posted his letter of resignation in the New York Times. This example was used to validate the fact that most exit interviews are dismissed as discontent from a soon-to-be former employee. Why wait until your employees are fed up to the point of quitting to ask for their input?

This lead us to the topic of "stay interviews" - a process of checking the organizational pulse by gathering input from all ends of the organization. We were told the story of a company that promoted the "best place to work" survey to their employees...the Executives soon found out that they were the worst place to work....the culture was broken and the brass didn't know.

In all of the sessions there has been one overarching theme....Performance Reviews are not working:
  • Assessing areas of weakness once a year is hardly a retention strategy
  • People need encouragement every day to achieve their goals
  • Everyone should have an opportunity to support their peer's performance
Here's What You Are Not Doing....
If we cannot learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it. However, if our past failures are used to overshadow our past accomplishments, we will be distracted (not motivated).

Let's be very honest. Performance reviews are a way to document areas of concern so in the event you need to fire someone you have documentation. You send along a word document rating hours of human effort and note your areas of concern. So I have put in 3,120 hours away from my family to make the organization better only to receive a 3 out of 5. Hardly motivating.

If you are measuring performance simply as a means to validate termination your culture is broken!

Here's What You Are Doing Right....
What if one-on-one meetings and the annual performance reviews were replaced by daily goal setting sessions? What if you looked forward to interacting with your boss because he/she existed to encourage your success instead of berating your effort? What if performance assessment became goal empowerment?

It would be nice to hug your boss when you see him or her instead of turning in the other direction to avoid criticism.

We know our business critical objectives and we need input to achieve them. We need to be empowered every day! With the recognition of our path to success we get closer to the sunset (instead of doing just enough to stay out of trouble). Picture a world where we all work together to achieve greatness...I would be willing to bet we would get more done with greater purpose.

"Hand me the club and tell me I'm the best golfer in the world"
- Jack Nicklaus

Here's What We Can Achieve Together!  
Working in silos is a way of avoiding transparency. Transparency is avoided not because you suck at your job but because your boss has been forced to act as a manager not empowered to lead.

That's right! That poor review you got is a result of disabled coaching not lack of effort on your behalf.

What if our goals were transparent? If we all knew what we had to achieve together and were able to encourage one another while we navigate our collective path to success. The collective is empowered to help one another instead of using accountability as a means for motivation.

The workplace is changing. Employees have never been more empowered. The greatest organizations are using bottoms up feedback to drive their organizational strategy. No longer is ivory tower dictatorship acceptable. Micro-management will only encourage employees to do one thing: revise their resume.

It is time to help one another succeed instead of planning who to blame when things don't go well. It is time to tear down the silos and tear up the performance reviews.

We all just want to be happy. We are happy when we succeed. It is even more fun to succeed together.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Commencement

Congratulations to the Class of 2012! Your college degree is the greatest pre-qualifier you can posses. With that last canned beer in hand you are about to receive a plethora of advice. People want the best for you, so you will hear grandiose tales of the importance of your graduation day. While my intentions for you are equally caring, my advice is far more simple.

You now consider a career path. Here are a few simple habits that will assist in the foundation of your success. I wish someone would have advised me with subtlety when I was in your gown:
1. Do One More Thing - with each day when you go to shut down your mac book, perform one extra task. This often opens your thought pattern to create new doors of perception to take you into your evening.

2. Be Humble - you are part of the most stereotyped generation in history (albeit unfairly). The best way to earn respect as the "new kid on the block" is to work hard and keep your head down. Save the post-work commentary for your guest post on this blog.

3. Don't Listen to Advice - people will tell you that you are entering a tough job market....this is because they hate their jobs (and their lives). If you allow people to discourage you by premise of their miserable past you sink to their level. You are young, talented, and you do not carry the baggage of the past. Find something you love and love it every day!

4. Let Your Passion Lead - at your tender age your overhead is low. You may have a few student loans to pay off and you will want to take the girl from apartment 2A out for drinks. With this in mind, you can work at the local Whole Foods for a few years if you need to. Don't jump into a job with a company you hate because they are giving out pay checks. If you do, you will look up 20 years from now and realize you are the one giving bad advice to young people.

5. Love Your I-pod - there is a tune for every moment in your life that will help you celebrate the good times and will get you through the bad times. You would be surprised how 4 minutes with the head phones on can change your entire day.

6. Exercise - it is a scientific fact that your brain is more powerful when you get an hour of physical exercise. It helps to take a break from the office to take a walk.

7. Give People the Benefit of the Doubt - your natural inclination will be to roll your eyes at people. It helps to be aware that the best advice you will receive will come from the most unlikely sources.

8. Allow No One to Put a Finger in Your Face - if your boss pushes you around, quit! I promise you that nothing good will come of a boss who seeks power through a title (because they have no life).

9. Be Nice to the Starbucks Guy - people who work in retail have very hard jobs. Please do not project your frustration from the workplace on the person who works at the local coffee shop.

10. Smile - the easiest thing to do is to be negative. The only way to create endurable success is to be positive. Positivity is not a sign of naivete'.

If at any time, you need any advice, I will take time out of my day to listen. Feel free to contact me:

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Best Laid Plans

I am often asked about the keys to leadership. Of course, there are core characteristics that we can list and quantify. Most often, however, I hearken back to sound advice. The best bosses I have had assisted my career development through very human interactions. The strategy book is thrown out the window and you talk to one another in caring terms.

Here is some of the best advice I have received:

"If you keep working that hard, you will be a State qualifier"
At a tender age I began to participate in the sport of wrestling. To be an exceptional wrestler you have to have outstanding physical conditioning, unflappable will power, and extraordinary patience. You workout for hours a day to get to a 6 minute match in which every muscle in your body is used to exhaustion. All the while, you are controlling your diet to make weight. When you lose, you have no one to blame but yourself. Wrestling is not the world's most popular sport because very few people have the courage to endure it.

In wrestling your hard work is validated with gold medals. Wrestling also allows you to overcome your greatest opponent in life....yourself! When you know that you can push yourself beyond your limitations, you are consistently willing to try harder.

The season is long and tiresome. You work so hard and occasionally you lose. You question how far you can push yourself. While your friends are cruising chicks and drinking their first beer, you can't even eat. So, when my coach pointed to me at the end of practice and told me the words highlighted above that was all I needed. Indeed, our success is often predicated on one compliment from someone we respect. When my coach told me he recognized my effort, it made me want to try ten times harder.

"Once you have wrestled, everything in life is easier" - Dan Gable

"You will not beat them, you will become one of them"
In our professional lives we are always looking for opportunities to improve ourselves. I was with a company for some time and I was getting restless. I needed some variation to the daily grind. I did everything I could to get promoted. When the opportunity for advancement finally came my way I sat down with a senior leader in the company. He asked me why I wanted a position in management. I went into my professional mission statement of making the company better by evolving the workforce.....he stopped me and said. I'm asking you why you think it is a good idea to get out of sales and go into management? After a slight pause, I told him that I thought the middle management in our company sucked and that I was willing to commit myself to inspiring our workforce instead of regulating them. He smiled and then he proclaimed the statement highlighted above.

This senior staff member could have recommended me to the hiring manager but he felt I would be wasting my life if he did. He cared enough to tell me that I could do more than position myself for lifelong mediocrity. I cherish his advice to this day....because he was right!

"Don't go gettin' insecure"
People love having a new job because it allows them to wipe the slate clean. I cannot recommend strongly enough that when changing careers an attitude make over is absolutely critical. You probably left your former job because there was some bad blood....leave it there. Easy for me to say!

I had a new job and my boss was in from out of town. I had worked hard to get a meeting with a key prospective client and was really excited to showcase my talent for the new boss. I picked him up at the airport, we arrived at the client's location, and she was not there. The excitement deflated by the need to reschedule, my boss's precious time wasted.

As we hopped back into the car, I expressed my frustration. How could someone agree to meet and then neglect the importance of our time? To which he said, "don't go gettin' insecure on me". It was a critical turning point in my career. My boss didn't hire me to see me display my skill in front of a new client, he trusted my talent. Here I was still interviewing two weeks after being employed. Despite my career change, I was still carrying the baggage of the corporate politics from my former occupation. My boss's words caused me to remember my greatness, for far too long before meeting him I was ruled by people who managed to make me believe I was not good enough....and that I had to prove myself.

These three lessons have one thing in common. They are all simple words of advice given to me from people who genuinely cared about me....and in their simple words I came to understand that.

Leadership is the act of inspiring confidence. Management is the process of challenging job function.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hold My Hand

I saw a product demo a few weeks back in which the young man described that they wouldn't have to "hold my hand" because their technology is so streamlined and easy to use. Well, I wish he would....

There is so much made of Big Data and analytics these days. Vendors are developing applications that quantify human interaction in an effort to produce efficient business practices. Statistics and surveys may be the basis for go-to-market strategy, but at some point they need to be interpreted.

At the same event, I talked to a young lady who proclaimed herself a Director of Sales. When I asked about her organizational function she told me that she fields inbound calls, qualifies which prospective customer most need their services, and passes that information along to an Account Executive. That sounds like a customer service role to me...?

With so much happening in the world of social media, companies are being founded across the globe that address a specific market need. "Social" is a great niche market at present. The enterprise is infinite and experts are partnering with companies to help them develop go-to-market strategies. Analytics are being tracked so organizations can best utilize this cutting edge form of communication.

I have 2 questions:
1. What happens when these products stop selling themselves?
2. At what point did Marketing become Sales?

Being Human
My company wants to use what?

There is a succinct go-to-market strategy that is necessary to ensure you are using social media as an advantage (not allowing it to destroy your brand). With that said, numbers lie!

We cannot pretend that technical platforms of any measure are more important than the people who use them. The design might be cool, the function may even be fun, but at some point you need a strategy relevant to producing critical organizational results.

The world of Sales 2.0 is fascinating! The social enterprise is driving business. The same way the wave of technical options has swelled, it will need surfers to carve it up.

Role Clarity
It is so refreshing to see a demo of a product on you-tube. You are able to see function and hear the story of its development without dealing with an annoying sales person. Which is relaxing until the question is posed:
WHY does it matter to my business?

Product features and function do not interpret an organizational strategy.

Here lies product Z. The label is shiny, the font of the lettering is fancy, and the lady on the back of the box looks happy.

Who Cares!

I need a person to tell me why that product matters to my business. To know my business as well as I do and to diagnose and prescribe medicine for our pain. To interpret a product or service into language that my company speaks.

To Hold My Hand!

Don't Forget to Remember!



Friday, May 11, 2012

Why Salespeople Lie

The world of business is currently mired in platform development, entrepreneurial risk taking, and cutting edge business planning. The most profitable companies are the best places to work because the culture is relaxed but the players are putting in long hours. Technology has streamlined the way we work. The politics and formalities are breaking down in favor of collaborative business improvement planning. It is as it should be.

Ties are not comfortable, meetings that tip toe around issues are not productive, and people who pretend to be experts are anything but. We are becoming more honest with one another because we have learned from the mistake of trusting the wrong people. Business partnerships are built on personal relationships. Mistakes are forgotten when the intent is right and partnerships are destroyed when the expert is revealed as a court jester.

In simplest terms, a lot of the things that used to be characterized as "professional" were a smoke screen. So how do we see through the smoke...?

Stop Lying
I have been in sales consulting and sales training for 15 years and I can tell you this....sales people are liars. It's the thing that makes people hate salespeople. So the process for success is incredibly simple:
Tell the truth!

In the movie, "In Good Company", the great Carter Duryea convinces a bunch of industry veterans that his education and youthful motivation have applicable relevance in the marketplace. It works for a while. But when he meets the boss' daughter in the elevator he admits to her that he has no idea what he is doing. It is a refreshingly human moment. While it is probably not best to completely reveal your cards, I can tell you that in time the pretenders are always revealed for their true selves. Why fake it?

As a salesperson, your target buyer will often ask you leading questions in an effort to measure your BS meter. Many salespeople see this as an opportunity to showcase their expertise (and it often might be). But if you talk yourself in circles, you destroy your credibility. Let me advise you are 3 simple things:
Allow silence to linger.....don't believe you have to keep talking
Address questions directly
Don't allow the past to sidetrack your strategy

We Weren't There
Have you ever asked a salesperson a yes/no question and gotten a 20 minute answer? Did the answer even address your question? In sales anticipating pitfalls is critical. If one knows their product cannot perform a certain function, they might seek to disguise that. In fact, they may overexpose their fact masking because they are so afraid that their past product failures will resurface. Often times, the aforementioned paranoia exposes an inefficiency that does not even apply to the situation. Then, you lose because you lied.

Quick tip: don't buy from someone who does not directly address your questions, they are hiding something.

So Then...
Be honest but don't reveal your hand. Sound contradictory? Not really.

The process is simple: Someone needs something and you have something to give.

Why complicate the issue?:
You do not want to leave any stones ask good questions!
You do not want to miss a buying do your research!
You do not want to validate your buyers be honest!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, May 4, 2012

Personal Prophecy Perspective

Let's examine the life of a critic. Your occupation is to criticize. I would guess the underlying premise of said occupation would be to spend your life judging others to avoid any judgement upon yourself.

I never put stock in reviews. In fact, a bad review from one of the aforementioned deflectors of personal accountability may even prompt me to engage the art that they seek to destroy. Reviews are meaningless. If reviews were of such profound merit, we wouldn't have to see a film at all, we would simply let a few interpret the creation of others. All things created are yours to interpret in your own way. No one's opinion should matter more to you than your own!

In this blog we have frowned negativity as a motivational tactic and we have scrapped popular opinion in favor of unique individual inspiration. Today will be no different.

No one lives every minute in your shoes. Still, you will be told of ways to improve yourself and on the surface level this may seem like an attack. In most cases, people see your path to potential and want to help you kick the pebbles aside. It is vitally important not to let a pebble slow your pathway stridings. Be aware that the intent of your accuser is nothing more than a pebble on your motivational path.

Consider the Source
My friend was interviewed recently for a job she was entertaining. She called me afterward in disbelief of the interviewer's arrogance. The 20 year sales veteran was questioned by an accusatory staffing pro who's time on earth barely matched her career length. She explained to me that the job offered less money than she was currently being paid, the company was not a proven, and that the person interviewing her made no correlation of her applicable skills to the position. In short, she had met the gatekeeper to a land she didn't even want to enter.

You will walk into "no win" situations. It is always better to be polite, give the gatekeeper a few cookies, and to move on to a land in which you will be appreciated. The company may have another candidate in mind, you may be column fodder for due process, and maybe the interviewer's brother wants the job. It is my candid advice not to over-analyze strange misgivings. If you start a climb at the bottom of the hill with a ton of bricks on your back, two things can happen:
1. You succeed at the behest of your accuser
2. You will fail

Neither is an all-fulfilling formula for winning. When you prove someone wrong you usually put money in their pocket for betting against you. Why would you want to do that?

Path Assessment
The best partnerships are not forced. You can point to people and companies with whom you have worked who just "get it". They understand that you add value becuase you are not trying to fit a big square in a small circle.

You may love your I-pod but that doesn't mean Apple is a good company to work for. You may be a music fanatic but a position in Def Jam's marketing department might cause you to hate music. You could be an awesome golfer but your drive accuracy will probably not make you a better salesman for Callaway.

It's about finding partnerships that fit:
Do your organizational cultures align?
Does your product address their need without a ton of work arounds?
Does the person with whom you will work appreciative of you as a person?

Find Your Kingdom 
I would venture to guess that a dream job is out there for every one of us. A place where we can have fun, make money, and bring value to the world.

Professional life offers two options:
a. Search tirelessly for that perfect fit and do not compromise until you find it
b. Make your current job the best it can be

Start by considering the criticism you face every day. Sometimes you are given advice that you have to will help you remove obstacles and make you a better professional. Accept advice, assess how it will fit into your strategy and apply what will make you better. If in considering the criticism of your accuser you cannot find merit, politely ignore them!

You are in charge. You can make your current job your dream job. You know better than anyone if you have given your maximum effort. Listen to others but let your personal motivation drive. Take advice with a grain of salt and thank those who help you grow. Ignore the unkind. Be critical of your effort without beating up on yourself.

It's not just a job, it's your life. You will succeed by being honest with yourself. You are the only person who knows your genuine truth! Let your genuine truth lead!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How to Avoid Being Ordinary

Monday mornings often come with ponderance:
What am I doing with my life?

No matter what your career path, there are days when a feeling of monotony creeps in. We question if we are doing the right thing and/or if life could be more fulfilling. Even star performers hit a plateau.

I heard an interview with a young man who stated that he started doing drugs not because he was depressed or that he had a poor upbringing but because he was bored. There are those who quit their jobs in corporate America to work on a fishing boat in Alaska. Then, there are those who do the same thing every day and eventually die.

My contention is that you do not need to find a new job to re-invigorate yourself. All you need to do is manage your life by a few simple principles:
Learn Something New....every day!
Question the Norm
Find Beauty in Everything

Knowledge Expansion
Do you still read books? You should. The process of shutting down the lap top, phone, and I-pad to ponder new doors of perception over the written page is a very healthy practice! If you slow down the multi-tasking, read a story, and align it to your life; you see beyond the general structure....and discover new frontiers.

The most interesting people talk far less than they listen. We have a perception that the most affluent and passionate people are those who have the gift of gab. That is not true. The aforementioned mavericks of innovative thought are consistently consuming new ideas, taking fragments of them, and applying them to their life view. Try it!

Normalcy is not the Answer
A young lady told me recently that she just wanted to be normal. A brutal and mislead shame. I get the fact that growing up means finding a desirable norm. Then over time you come to understand that the club you aspired to be part of is a sham. Adulthood is no different.

It is profoundly simple to fit into the system. ANYONE can follow the rules and succeed. It is a matter of writing down tasks, taking action, and checking a list. Yes, it takes effort but it does not take ingenuity.

Every great leader, successful athlete, and amazing musician did something different. It is far more important to put your distinct style into playing guitar than to learn the chords perfectly. You will not differentiate yourself by doing the same thing that everyone else does better than they do it. Eventually this is the premise for the aforementioned burn out and it's correlated pondering of life's larger meaning. To follow the over-trampled path makes your existence a commodity. Life is a guitar solo not a chord progression.

Everything is a Miracle
If the light peaking through the trees doesn't strike you as a miracle you are forgetting to observe what is genuinely important. We chase questions though our tunnel vision while we whisk by the answers.

There was a point in your life when you believed in things, when you were excited, when predictability was the fodder of old people. Get that feeling back!

"life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it"
- Ferris Bueller

Don't Forget to Remember!