Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Creating the Essentials

None of us enjoy Monday Mornings. My Monday this week was especially challenging. Despite the transition from weekend wonder to work mode, our neighborhood experienced a power outage. I was awaken by my i-pod and showered in the dark. I navigated the halls by i-pod light, woke the kids up early, and we drove through the dark to find breakfast. Many of our neighborhood establishments were closed. Monday Dread: no light, no food, and 2 kids in-tow unsure why the Apocalypse was upon us.

With a character building morning behind me, the rest of the week seemed easy to conquer. It made me think: what do I really need and what have I been taking for granted? Indeed, our success is determined by a disciplined loyalty to a few simple actions.

Unconventional Approach
People are now more connected than ever. We no longer have to rely on publications for filtered information. There are people who speak with our own voice who we can interact with every day...people who we may never meet in-person. Consumerism is search-based, advertising is visual, and selling is no longer a matter of convincing but connecting.

If you do not speak with a unique voice, your time here will be ending soon.

The Ability to Differentiate
If consumers spend half of their time researching and there are millions of options; you better be doing something different. Likewise, if you come to meet with me you better know as much about my company as I do.

No one wants to be sold to anymore. People want you to paint a picture of the future with their brush...to inspire, to personify a future of infinite possibility.

What do you create that no one else can and why does it matter to me?

Genuine Purpose
Are you interesting? When you sit across from me will you bore me to sleep with corporate speak or will you grab my attention?

Think about the people who you remember meeting. Not so much friends or colleagues, but that person who caught your attention in the coffee shop by challenging your interest.

If you don't believe in what you are doing, no one will buy from you. If you don't have the ability to create something completely unique, no one will need it. If you can change my life in one conversation, I will follow you.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Set My People Free

Our developments in life are often predicated by tough love. Some times people tell us what we want to hear and some times people tell us what we have to hear. It is the metaphorical slap in the face by someone we respect telling us to stop acting like a baby and get our shit together.

People who risk alienating us may indeed be brave enough to save us. It might be a performance review, advice on the state of our start-up venture, or a friend telling us to dump the person we have been pretending to love.

We would rather hear that we are great than to hear we suck. This validates our behavior and keeps us on our path....which is awesome if we are moving forward. However, if the path we are strolling is a downward spiral to mediocrity, someone might need to grab us by our collar and slap us.

We all want to be loved by our peers, but if we love the people with whom we work, we owe them the favor of honesty.

When is it time to ring up the proverbial wake up call?

It's Time For You To Quit!
There are studies that measure one's level of engagement. Most of these studies tell us that half the people in the workforce hate their job. There is no merit to a survey that uses canned questions to tell a detached CEO that the company is doomed. You can, however, tell if someone is actively disengaged just by sitting next to them.

If a morning salutation is met with 17 different complaints (involving deeply personal insults at one's boss and co-workers) that person is beyond help. Some times the best advice you can give someone is that it is time for them to leave. I consistently preach the value of organizational culture and how engagement can improve retention. With that said, a certain degree of autonomy can be healthy. Some times people need a clean slate simply for the sake of losing their baggage.

Disengaged employees are poison! They turn Super Stars into skeptics, destroy optimism, and deflate every room they enter. They give the well-intentioned a reason to hate life because misery loves company. Over time, we tire of these grumps and they end up in the break room talking to themselves.

I'm Going To Tell You Something You Don't Want to Hear!
The majority of our peer conversations could be categorized as verbal complaint files. When we are frustrated we want to hear that our side of the story is the truth. We want validation that our frustration is not a result of our failure but the fault of others to understand our brilliance. In reality, when we fail to recognize our faults, we default to neutral.

People will nod their head, pat you on the back, and buy you a beer. Shortly after, they will call everyone of your co-workers and tell them to stay away from you. We often think that we are influencing others to join the resistance when they are actually marking us to be quarantined.

The Power of Giving Up
Are you motivated by the need to prove others wrong? There is no achievement in that game. Are you trying to motivate your employees by telling them they can keep their job if they perform well? If so, they will do just enough to stay employed.

Some times you need to pack up your baggage and leave the past behind. There is always reflection in change and an ability to re-create ourselves. There is no shame in quitting something you hate doing.

The best way to help someone understand that they are ruining your company culture is to ask them to validate their complaints with action items. If they have no answers, they will cast themselves upon the island of the malcontent.

Let them go. They will thank you later!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Assumed Authority: A Cautionary Tale

Last week, I wrote a piece about my journey to finding the perfect job. I know many are not so lucky. Some studies even indicate that most people hate their job. I found Dave Kerpen's latest contribution to the LinkedIn blog famously entertaining. The post highlighted the worst job candidate traits uncovered by a myriad of hiring professionals. Some examples were laughable, others were simply human. As I read Dave's post I found myself slightly put off by the assumed self-importance of these so-called hiring experts.

I investigated the marketplace for a solid year before joining my current company. I took any interview I could get to sharpen my skills and understand my options. I must say that the habits of interviewers can be as ludicrous as those of the worst job candidates.

Hiring professionals are the first line of promotion for any company. Make no mistake about it, the hiring process is a two-way street. I understand the notion that beggars cannot be choosers, but I would assume that any company would want to hire the best people and retain them for as long as possible. Many of the experiences I had speak to the contrary.

Don't Even Interview Over-Qualified Candidates
I was shocked by how unprepared many hiring professionals were. In many cases, I was called the wrong name and several neglected to research my qualifications.

If your job requires 3 years experience and I have 15, do you really think I want to go through the process of validating my skills to your commission only, fresh out of Jr. College, recruiter?

Don't Assume The Candidate Is Desperate For A Job
I received unsolicited advice from hiring professionals about how to format my resume and how to position myself in an interview. In some cases, I was never even extended the common courtesy of a "thanks but no thanks" email.

It is dangerous to assume a candidate is desperate for a job or to underestimate any given candidate. In fact, I would venture to guess that those who are most polished in the interviewing process are most used to interviewing.... so hire them, watch them leave in a year, and count your losses. At least your recruitment firm will have a solid spot in your budgeting plan.

Be Aware That Any Given Candidate Could Be Interviewing You Some Day
Whether you are interviewing potential hires, evaluating vendors, or managing employees; you should put yourself in the seat across the desk. Assuming you hold the seat of authority in any of the aforementioned processes is nothing more than a crutch of formality.

Have a little empathy...

I understand we become a slave to our process. I know that we all have directives and standards by which to achieve our objectives. I know our time for nonsense is limited and those asking for employment cannot determine hiring standards.

The greatest companies find the greatest employees. Long term employees come naturally to organizations. The process is effortless; not strained. It's called a natural fit: we've got a great job, you have extraordinary talent, let's have a conversation to see if there is a fit.

It's that simple.....

How much money is lost in the vicious cycle of filling spots for the sake of filling them and then back-filling them again?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

One Year Later

Unlike a lot of my friends, I have only had a few jobs in my 16 year professional career. Some in the Silicon Valley see this stability as a red flag, I see it as a badge of honor! This blog (and several seminars that I conduct) impassion the need for companies to foster culture. The premise of the economy stifling the hiring process may help control HR budgets, but truly talented people always have options. So, this week I figured I would flip the script and advise the employee. It is true that HR needs to create engaging programs, but at some point, employees need to carry the torch.

Making a career change is one of the most difficult processes anyone has to navigate. I had the good fortune to make an educated choice a year ago. Here is what I have learned in my first year of employment at the world's most awesome company.

Hard Work Still Works
We can look back at our professional failures and pin point areas where we could have done more. While it is never wise to confuse effort with results, those who work hard (and smart) always find a way to win. Indeed, if you are the first one at the office and the last to leave; success is immanent.

Learn to Read People
Every company has the can-do, super-energized, bastions of empowerment: Believe in them, follow them, and help them grow the company in their likeness. Every company has the excuse-making, self-important, spoilers of motivation: Ignore them and they will go away. We have to accept the good and the bad in every company and learn to navigate accordingly. While I am not one to posture, it is important to know where to spend your energy.

Study Your Audience
In this day-and-age of the educated consumer; traditional selling is dead. People don't want to be cold-called, they don't want to hear slick talk, and they don't need you re-iterating what they just read on-line. Sales people should not go to seminars to sit among other sales people. You should go where your audience is, sit by their side, and learn their issues.

Trust me, it is far more important to be seen as a peer than someone who is selling something!

Believe in What You Do!
The blogosphere is run amok with smart asses. I know because I am one of them. We challenge convention, insult the uninventive and call out stifled creativity. This cannot be the way we conduct ourselves in the workplace.

My friend Steve Browne is a breath of fresh air because he combats the skeptics with unwavering positivity. He simply refuses to let the bastards grind him down. People like Steve are proof that one person can make a difference.

If you do not empower those who complain, they will stop complaining.
If you transform complaints into action items, you will make progress.
If you believe in what you are doing, people will jump on your back and take the journey with you.

Some people will run out of professional options. This will cause compromise which will lead to the hating of one's life. Don't let that happen!

Move forward every day. Pay attention to the people who are doing extraordinary things. Ignore those who seek to destroy progress.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, October 7, 2013

The Fault Line

I have no problem admitting my faults, I just need you to forgive them

It is interesting how little we focus on vulnerability in the workplace. It seems we are consistently promoting what we are doing well without recognition of our faults. Specifically in middle management, it seems absolutely forbidden to show your hand to your subordinates.
Hundreds of thousands of workers are reaching the legal retirement age. Positions will need to be filled by others who may have never managed and those people will be managing people who don't want to be managed.
Are those exiting the workforce still trying to prove themselves?
I don't get it..... If you have 30 years of workforce excellence behind you, you should be proud of your experiences and willing to share them. I try to give insight to young professionals
to help them avoid making the same mistakes that I have. While we all want to prove we still matter, shouldn't we be grooming the leaders of tomorrow to ensure our legacy remains in-tact?
Are those entering Leadership roles ready to lead?
As a Generation X-er, I feel we have been a forgotten generation (and I am fine with that). Studies have focused on the stereotypical workforce habits of Generation Y and the Baby Boomers with very little mention of those in the middle of their careers. If the Baby Boomers are clinging to their titles and the Gen Y-ers are changing the way we lead, how will Generation X lead?
My contention is that by leaving Generation X out of the workforce motivational argument, you have allowed (us) to focus on our work.... Imagine that: a workforce driven to succeed on the basis of their merit.
Are those entering the workforce ready to be lead?
A young man recently asked me what I thought about the current hiring landscape. I told him that his talents would land him a job. He was instantly relieved by the advice. Everyone had been telling him how difficult it would be to transition from College into the workforce, no one told him to trust his ability. Do we warn young people of the perils of the professional world because we want them to be prepared or because we are envious of their youth?
As we discussed last week, a title wave of Succession Planning is roaring toward shore! With the above mentioned scenarios in mind, we should ask ourselves the following question:

Why is it so important to label employees with a motivational score based on when they were born?
No Generation Y-er has ever agreed with the articles written about their generational habits. Baby Boomers are tired of hearing that the corporate world is changing. Generation X.....who are they?
What if the title wave gave way to common sense? What if we were willing to admit that we don't know everything? What if we were ourselves in interviews instead of memorizing bullet points and pretending we possess skills we do not? What if we focused on collective progress instead of protecting our titles?
Save the drama for your Mama and get to work!
Don't Forget to Remember!