Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Discovering Irreplaceable Excellence

Sir Ricahrd Branson wrote a LinkedIn editorial about the traits he identifies in preferred job candidates. He noted the importance of personality fit more than resume bullets. We all know that a candidate can customize their resume to fit a job description and speak to said points in an array of interviews. The sad thing is that our hiring processes have become so predictable that the aforementioned process usually lands someone in a job they may not be qualified to fill. Much like the process of memorizing and passing a test, the hiring process is usually a search for "the safe choice". What we fail to recognize is that the job's incumbent left because safe practices were stifling innovation.....and then someone with a fresh perspective came along.

I was further intrigued by Vijay Govindarajan & Jatin Desari's piece for the Harvard Business Review on employees they call "Intraprenuers". Intraprenuers are your employees with a unique ability to transform your organization. They are not rule breakers or loud mouths but those who seek to challenge the safe path....usually under their own breath. Their actions speak louder than their words and if your organization is reluctant to support forward thinking, they will leave.

We often fail to recognize true talent: in the hiring process, through our organizational development and in performance management. This is because the organizational function is fragmented in each of the aforementioned Human Resource areas. He/She doing the hiring may have different standards for excellence than he/she who designs performance initiatives. The managers who are in charge of developing talent may hold back in doing so to keep star performers on their team.

As we enter 2014, HR will begin a 5 years journey in Succession Planning like never before. Baby Boomers are retiring, the forgotten heroes of Generation X are progressing into senior management positions, and the millennials are looking for progressive organizational standards.

Are you ready?  

Who's Fault?
Why do we wait for exit interviews to find out why we cannot retain top talent? What do we do with the information gained from exit interviews? Why are managers not held accountable when extraordinary talent departs? What came first the system or the manager?

If our performance management curriculum is based in outdated performance standards we cannot blame the managers when people leave.

Value Driven Interviews
How can you stifle those who seek jobs by memorizing job descriptions? Ask them about your company's Core Values. You may by surprised how very candidates will take the time to review your organization's mission, vision and values before deciding if the company is a fit for them.

Core Values should be given metric qualification in both the hiring and performance management process.

Take Chances
Every great leader has stories of failure. They were passed up for promotions, fired, or a venture they started had gone under. Then someone took a chance on them....

We always remember those people who saw our true talent through our nervous eyes across the interview table. Our success is driven by those who have enough confidence in their leadership ability to develop our talent into skill. Are these leaders a dying breed? As the economy controls "head count", people become numbers, and managers hire based on the "safe bet". This is no different than buying based on price. As soon as a better deal comes along the candidate will chase it. They worked you over in the hiring process and they can do it anywhere else.

Finding an organizational fit is difficult! You have to take time to get to know people, to assess their contribution to your culture, to have the intuition to see their true talents and the ability to develop them into organizational advocates.

It seems we prefer to hire safe and re-hire often. A number filled cog with no recognition of the genuine human traits that would transform journeymen into loyal advocates.

We are human beings not FTE's!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Get The Poison Out

I spend a lot of time advising Human Resources professionals regarding the calculation of the return on investment of their Strategic People Programs. There are a variety of ways to assess if the money you are paying vendors is contributing to revenue producing behaviors. Much of our conversation analyzes the value of retaining top talent.

How much does it cost to hire and train new talent?
How much production is lost when tenured employees depart?

It would be a perfect world if Succession Planning started on our date of hire. Essentially, streamlining the Human Resource functions of hiring, on-boarding and exit strategy (for lack of a better term) into Performance Management. But, that's about as likely as eliminating performance reviews.

Performance Reviews are a necessary legal document that are in place in the event you need to fire someone. They do not motivate, but they are not going away.

Succession Planning should not be predicated on the average retirement date of Baby Boomers. Nor should we pretend the preferred style of leadership as applicable to Generation Y matters more than developing Generation X leaders.    

With all the focus on retention one interesting question has come up:

How much attrition is healthy?

People who hate their job ruin company cultures. Some of them are top performers who others look up to. Others are highly-tenured employees who have deemed themselves the keepers of the flame.

Would it be insane to have a member of your staffing department assigned to help actively disengaged employees find another job?

There is never an easy way to off-board an employee. Forcible exit may cause a lawsuit and managing out can sour an employee to your organization for life. None of us want bad Glassdoor reviews.

So what if your culture was so strong that your employees simply wouldn't stand for negativity? Would the actively disengaged be crowd sourced to the exits?

Sometimes our greatest talent are the least vocal because they have been over-shadowed by those who have assumed the conch through tenure. If our employees believe so strongly in the organizational cause, the complainers will eventually fire themselves.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013


There are people everywhere who are struggling. The middle class is getting closer to penny poor and the rich are keeping up with the Joneses. Money cannot buy happiness but lack-there-of certainly can ruin everything. There is a lot of pressure that goes along with making a buck and hoping the fruits of our labor will bring us something sweet. It's not the money, its what the money says.

"When money talks, I hate to listen, but lately its been screaming in my ear"
- Ben Folds

I see young couples arguing over money (some get divorced because of it). A man and woman work really hard for a month and once the bills are paid there is barely enough to buy your sweetie flowers. That really isn't fair.

Let's Assume Life Is Not Fair!
I used to be a miserable person. I bitched so much about what wasn't working that I forgot how lucky I was. There have been a few people in my life who have caught me in my self-absorbed moments and have told me I was acting like an asshole. I remember these interactions because they served as a wake up call. Show me a complainer and I will show you someone who is not maximizing their potential.

Our plight is to look upon what isn't working and to make it better. Because we can.

Have You Forgotten?
As we advance through this world we tend to get comfortable. When we stop moving forward, we start moving backward, and then it all catches up with us. We may fail at our job because we have lost the willingness to fail. We tend to forget that we have been here before. We have faced challenges and conquered them. We have looked upon the impossible and made it possible. It is not our duty to tell tails of the past, it is our duty to repeat our success.

If you forget how to love yourself, no one else will.

The Turning Point
15 years from now will you look up from a bar stool and try to remember where it all went wrong or will you smile from your porch swing at what you have made possible?

Everybody faces disappointment. You will work hard and it won't be good enough. People less-deserving will get promoted. The man with everything will throw it all away. People will misunderstand your effort. You can choose to let life's unfair swings control you or you can take control of your life.

Be brave and conquer your challenges. Remember to be patient with those who do not understand you.

Keep your head strong and your heart soft....We can do this.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Practical Application

It seems I live among people who are incredibly smart and astronomically stupid. Please allow me to explain...

Last week, we spoke of the fractured learning development process in the American education system that has spilled over into the corporate world (or vice versa). As Dan Pink brought to light a few years back, we are focusing far too much on memorization and testing. This seems to be the preferred method for educational advancement, certification, performance development, career escalation.... It is also a broken system. Process doesn't always ensure results, memorization for the sake of receiving a certificate has nothing to do with skill development, and management by metrics deters talent (it doesn't develop talent).

I see far too many people walking through the streets with their heads up their asses. They are smart, successful, wealthy, genuinely caring people....they just suck at articulating themselves.

Knowledge Attainment and Practical Application are two very different things.

We all know how to read and pass a test. Very few of us know how to bring in the knowledge, process it, and then tell others not only what it means to us but how it will help them. Simplicity has been trumped by an over-indulgence of knowledge attainment with no intent of application. Anyone can hole-up in their cubicle and read. No one volunteers to stand up and prove what they know: for fear of rejection, for fear of being tested and being unable to defend our attained knowledge, for fear that if we have learned but are unable to articulate we have not learned at all.

Stand Up
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Ask me to financial plan, run a report, or populate a spreadsheet and I will instantly fall asleep. We need to either adapt the skills to amend our weaknesses or to find a supporting cast with skills contrary to our own. What we cannot do is ignore what we are not good at and expect the job to get done. What we can do is amplify what we are good at....!

Be Uncomfortable
I do a number of speaking engagements, go to networking events, conduct focus groups, volunteer for the local HR Leadership Organization, and coach girls under 6 soccer. None of it is easy, all of it takes time away from my more pressing priorities, and each of the aforementioned activities comes with a great degree of discomfort.

There is still an element of discomfort speaking in front of crowds. Meeting new people is never simple. Putting personal challenges aside to perform one's job requires some agility. There is a degree of difficulty in accepting a challenge.

Get Over It 
It is easy to focus on what you are not doing well. There are a whole bunch of people who will take every opportunity to remind you where you could be doing better.

Ignore the insults and build your own truth!

No one has earned the right to tell you what is important to you more than yourself. You've got to keep your heart soft and your head strong. You have to accept what is going to suck about each day and conquer it. Nothing is determined indefinitely at the onset of any day.

The future is yours to create!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, September 9, 2013


My occupation allows me to swim in many waters. I work with Marketing, Sales and HR Leaders across the Globe. While we want to believe we live in a time of organizational alignment, we simply do not!! Marketing wants Big Data, Sales wants to see the ROI and HR wants to be accepted for their Leadership contributions. We say our mission, vision and values align us; but far too often they are swept under the rug in difference to our more immediate goals. With the recession concluding, employees have taken the power back: Jobs are more readily available and our personal brands are now stronger than our company logos.

What can bring us together?

The understanding that results are not produced by managing metrics. Results are produced by empowering people.

Regardless of your title or role you would rather be told you are awesome than you suck. Your manager may believe differently.

Indeed, there is still a large contingency of "leaders" who believe that only numbers matter. You can choose to adapt or spend half your time hiring replacements for your extraordinary producers.

Numbers Lie
No one would advise you that production is not the most important function of any given job. Let's assume that everyone on your team is at their quota (this goes along with receiving your ID badge).

Now what?

Many Managers are far too consumed with under-performance. They spend their time disciplining the least of their talent. They look at their broken system of micro management and intensify it when their producers fall short. As if to say, I have failed to help you because I rely on a system that focuses on results, not the learning process (much like cramming for a test). Yet, I ask of you to do more memorizing and to prospect by numbers....this will ultimately produce a 10% production ratio that we have come to call success.


Let me remind you that you can motivate by the bench of the basket. If I tell you I will bench you if you do not play well, you will do just enough to stay in the game. If I provide you with the skills and the trust to manage the game, you will score....and win!

Wake Up Call
We are experiencing a New Economic Order. Buyers are far more educated because information on every product/service is readily available. The recession has taught us to live with only the things that intrigue and inspire us. Slick talk that is merely a re-iteration of what your buyer has already read in researching your company will get you no where.

Differentiation is the new American Way! The one thing that cannot be re-produced or outsourced, is the ability to understand what your customer needs. Your creativity and understanding of how to solve business problems cannot be packaged or sold.

Under Your Nose
The Managers greatest gift are the employees that serve him/her. It is incumbent upon both parties to understand where strengths lie and to formulate a holistic strategy that blends your skills.

~ Managers are good at certain things - forecasting, strategy, market knowledge - stick to that!
~ Employees are good at certain things - presenting, researching, relationship building - stick to that!

Let's not denigrate one another by trying to do aspects of each other's jobs. Let's not try to motivate our employees through consequence. Let's try to bridge generational gaps. Let the old guard know that their legacy is outside their office door. We should be willing to teach to keep our legacy in-tact.

We should bounce out of bed every day, invigorated by purpose. We should be willing to be uncomfortable all the time. We should seek to solve problems and to take on new adventures.

While hate doesn't motivate, it should be noted that the company picnic is not a year long event!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Price of Confidence

Johnny Manziel did the improbable last football season....he won a Heisman trophy as an undersized underclassman. Since achieving this great feat against all odds he has received nothing but criticism. That's how things work in this day-and-age of published opinion. He's too small, he's too reckless, he's immature, he's cocky.

People will state: If I had his talent, I would be in my dorm room studying.

How do you think he got his talent?

You don't have his talent because you were unwilling to work hard enough to earn it: when people said you were too small, you believed them. When people got up in your grill, you backed down. You didn't have the unflappable self-confidence to fight back!

Mark May the self-appointed guard of the flame of football tradition was incensed by Johnny Football's antics on Saturday. The little man was talking smack and scoring touchdowns at will. No, he can't do that....Mark May never could...and we wonder why there is a generational divide.

Admittedly, I would bench my son or daughter if they taunted another player. They are 5 and 8. When they are twenty being chased on the world's largest stage by people three times their size, I would be relieved to see them standing up-right. At that point, the right to celebrate is theirs.

We all grow up at our own pace. Very few of us have to do it on television amid millions of skeptics with arms folder. What we share with Johnny Manziel is the fact that we face our doubters every day. Far more people will line up to criticise your effort than those who will celebrate your achievement.

Be honest: it feels good to prove people wrong.

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

- Luke 14:7-11

Don't Forget to Remember!