Lesson #3 From #MarchMadness: Unique Talent Helps Cinderella Hang With The Big Boys...

Capitalist Note: Throwing a couple of talent/business lessons I was reminded of as I watched the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year.  March Madness has something for all of us.  I think this is the last one - enjoy!

My job would be great if it weren't for the people.

I kid.  HR people think that from time to time, but actually, people are our most valuable resource.  Who just groaned?  I heard that! Cinderella-bracket

I'm going to change that last quote a little bit.  The right people are our most valuable resource.  Which brings me to the third lesson I heard loud and clear from the first weekend of March Madness:

Talent Lesson #3 from March Madness - Great individual talent can overcome huge disadvantages in company size and resources when it comes to your competitors.  If you ever find yourself going up against Microsoft, Google or whoever the 800-pound gorilla is inside your industry, never forget that a key hire with high talent can help you win more than your share regardless of the product or service you're providing.  This is shown to be true time and time again in March Madness as well.  Whether it's UMBC beating Virginia or Buffalo taking down Arizona, once you step onto the court, only five players can play. Get yourself some great talent and unbelievable things can happen.

The right time to pay more for talent isn't when someone asks for more money.  The right time to pay more for talent is when that talent allows you to play above your weight as a company.

Make the right hire, and all the sudden you can hang on a limited basis with Microsoft, Google or whoever the 800-pound gorilla is inside your industry.  Of course, paying more doesn't mean the candidate in question is going to help you do that.  You might find the most powerful candidate at a level below what you're looking for, just waiting for the promotion that gives them the opportunity to shine.

How good are you at evaluating talent?  Do you know the difference between the candidate who will help you take on the world vs the candidate who wants more money but doesn't help you transcend ###t?

That's why talent selection is part art and part science.  Every low seed left in the NCAA Basketball Tournament has a player that they didn't deserve on paper, but ended up at the school in question.

The more of this type of talent you find and sign, the more you win.  The more you hang with the big boys and girls. 





Lesson #2 from #March Madness: Being Conservative Can Get You Beat (UMBC Cinderella Rule)

Capitalist Note: Throwing a couple of talent/business lessons I was reminded of as I watched the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year.  March Madness has something for all of us.

Some organizations/teams play to win.  Assertiveness rules the day, which means those organizations and teams are always Umbcgoing to be on the attack, looking to improve their circumstances by being active and aggressive on all fronts (this can be professional in nature, by the way).  From the top down, they are always looking to attack.  From a corporate standpoint, think Uber as an extreme case of this.

Other organizations are more conservative in nature.  These entities generally have already had some level of success and they're looking to remain successful.  In the DNA of these organizations, the best way to protect a lead is to circle the wagons and be very pragmatic about the risks they take.   These organizations want to win - the risk aversion is more of a stylistic choice on the success they've already had.

But being conservative doesn't mean you've eliminated risk in business - or in basketball, as evidenced by lesson #2 from the first weekend of March Madness 2018:

Talent Lesson #2 from March Madness - Conservative approaches decrease your margin for error.  The  UMBC upset of Virginia is a great example of this truth.  Virginia plays a conservative style on both offense and defense - they aren't incredibly talented, but they execute their base strategy very well.  That conservative approach wins a lot - but in a "lose one game and you're out" type of environment, it can be deadly.  The other team gets hot, and suddenly you're out.  The moral of the story? Even if you have a good to great team, never stop trying to upgrade the talent you have.  Conservative approaches in basketball - the grinding out wins mentality - are often there because it is the best way to win with average talent.  Same thing is true in business.

Virginia has a very conservative approach.  They're a defense-first, grind it out in the half-court type team.  They are world class using that system, but playing conservatively means they don't beat teams by large margins to begin with - mainly because the number of possessions in a game goes down as a consequence of their style.  That means inferior teams can hang around, if it they hit a couple of shots - watch out.  The opposition can get confidence and it can spin out of control into an upset.

The same thing is true in organizations, and happens most often when a company is protecting a cash-cow, dominant position in any marketplace.  You're the leader, you're making money and things are great.  That means you get away from taking risks, you've probably got a large legal department telling you "no" and the talent on your team is generally poker-faced and unemotional when something goes wrong.  

Just play our style.  Protect the margin.  Don't rock the boat.

Then you look up and the UMBC of your industry or market wins a HUGE deal in a head to head match up with you.

You do a loss analysis, ask the prospect for feedback and it comes back clear - your company was to locked into the way you do it.  The upstart was willing to do things outside of scope to customize the solutions.

You just got UMBCed.  


Lesson #1 From #MarchMadness - Uniqueness Is Always an Advantage...

Capitalist Note: Throwing a couple of talent/business lessons I was reminded of as I watched the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year.  March Madness has something for all of us.
Sometimes it's better to zig when others are zagging from a strategy perspective.  Here's Syracuse23zonedefense-768x511something I was reminded of via March Madness:
--Uniqueness wins because it's hard to prepare for. Whether it's hoops or business, being different from others means you're hard to prepare for.  Syracuse deploys a defensive scheme called the 2-3 zone while most other schools use a man-to-man approach.  That means they are hard to prepare for, which was a key in them knocking off one of the tourney favorites in Michigan State.  When you have a strategic or tactical plan that's different than your competitors and the talent to pull it off, your organization will get unexpected wins - simply because you look and feel different from others.
Of course, the decision to look and feel different from your competitors isn't an easy one.  It's much easier and safer from a career perspective to be a "fast-follower", which means you go with the crowd and try to be acceptable to the largest percentage of clients/prospects/whoever you're trying to gain the interest of. 
The old saying that my bosses had back in the day was that "no one ever got fired for buying IBM".   No one ever got fired fast for looking like everyone else either - because looking like everyone else is the acceptable thing to do.  Of course, the key there is no one ever got fired fast.  You'll get fired for being a fast follower if results ultimately don't follow.  
So the big question is - how are you going to get results?  By looking like everyone else or doing something differently?
Syracuse uses a freaky 2-3 zone to be different.  It rose up at the right time and provided the advantage needed to take down a March Madness favorite.
Are you like everyone else or do you have a differentiator up your sleeve when you need it most?

ADJUST/EVOLVE: The Biggest Thing I've Learned In The Last 5 Years...

Quick thought on a Monday.  I've been lucky to have a great career in the world of HR and recruiting.  I've been active on the side in basketball as well.  The two are interconnected when it comes to times that I didn't get the results I wanted.  At work, in projects, on the court, etc.  Here's the common lesson I've learned in both:

When I don't get great results, I can almost always look back and blame myself for not adjusting or evolving quickly enough.  I didn't scrap Plan A quickly enough.  I held onto what worked in the past and didn't experiment with a new approach when performance was flat.

The biggest enemy of sustained success in your career is the success you've already had.  That success makes you hold onto the way you've always done things - even when your present day results are telling you that change is necessary.

It worked before, so it should work now.

Things aren't going well, but if I hang on, it will get better.  My way works.

They're wrong. I'm great.

Your way won't be successful forever. Eventually your competition figures you out, your market tunes you out or you simply become flat in your delivery.  The first time you feel failure with the way you've always done it, maybe it's a fluke.  The second time you feel failure after a great period of success, you should check the crispness of your delivery/plan.  If that detail check doesn't solve it, you probably need to reinvent the way you're approaching your goals.

March Madness is all about survive and advance.  Your career is all about evolve or die.  Or at least evolve or fade away.

Change your approach to something this week.

Welcome to the Hoops Coaches Absolutely Losing their **** Conference Room...

Capitalist Note - March Madness starts today.  I'm re-running a post from a few years back on a conference room theme I think would absolutely rock.  Survive and advance, people.  Survive and advance.


At Kinetix, we have some themed conference and breakout rooms.  There's Boiler Room, Tommy Boy, Moneyball, etc.  I think it's time to have a room - to be named later - which includes portraits of basketball coaches absolutely losing their ****.  Here's some photos that could be turned into portraits to create just the right look and feel for our next remodel.  Take a look and enable pictures if you can't see them on the email.

The working title is "Can We Talk?".  Hit me with your better name for this conference room in the comments.

H to the Izzo:



Bob Knight:



The always crazy Frank Martin:



Calipari calling "Double Claws Right":



The Bo Ryan "Fake Happiness Pose", also known as the "I dare you to T me up for being happy":



The Bob Huggins "I don't have to yell, just look at this suit":



And last, but certainly not least, Kim Mulkey showing her players how to get into a defensive stance - in 3 inch heels:


Do you have any pictures you can lend to my cause?  Now that I think about it, the room should absolutely be named SURVIVE AND ADVANCE.

How Your HR Coordinator Can Steal 200K From Your Company...

HR Coordinators who read my blog - don't do this.  No matter how dumb you may feel the person/organization you work for is, you'll eventually pay the price.

Of course, you'll have some nice vacations leading up to that.  You'll also probably have a nicer place as well.  In addition, wait... I'm off track.  An HR Coordinator in Hoover, AL has robbed a WalMart location of 200K across a span of three years.  More on this shifty coordinator from AL.com:

"A former employee of a Hoover Walmart is expected to plead guilty to defrauding the company out of more than $200,000. Angelia Steele entered an agreement with prosecutors in Otfederal court last week in which she will plead guilty to one count of computer fraud, court records show. She was also ordered to pay $201,488.96 in restitution.

According to a report by Alabama Media Group, Steele worked at the Walmart store in Hoover between 2000 and 2017 as a personnel coordinator. Between May 2014 and March 2017, investigators learned at least one assistant store manager's credentials were being used to approve time card adjustments for Steele's account, which added 10,681.52 hours of reporting pay to her payroll for that time period.

Court records show that in 2014, Steele added 939.6 hours for a total unearned income of $16,827.04; in 2015, she added 3,817.34 hours for $70,239.12; in 2016, she added 4,964.65 hours for $96,339.76; and in 2017 she added 960 hours for $18,083.04.?

How did this happen?  It's pretty easy to see.  It could happen in a lot of places:

1.  The coordinator was responsible for payroll.

2.  There's enough OT flowing through the location that the coordinator could use someone's sign in to approve OT for herself and due to the volume of OT, it was a small % of the total.

3.  She started slow. Then she realized no one was watching and got ballsier every quarter.

4.  The operations and HR leadership side was busy enough that they never had a reason to catch it.  It just slipped through for a long period of time.  I'm guessing the ballpark payroll for a Walmart Supercenter is in the range of 10M annually.  Do 10% OT and that's 1M.  That means her 16K and 18K numbers could slip through.  But the 70K and 96K numbers she put in for OT.  Savage.  Testing, 1...2...3.... Is anyone out there?  Anyone watching?

But as with all good things, the free OT party came to an end.  My guess is that the coordinator got tagged in a wave of change.  New leadership came into the store or HR (possible she was the primary local HR contact for the store in question) and said the following:

"What is up with the OT at this store?  Angelia, run a report for me of all employees over the last 3 years with their hourly rate, the total annual amount of normal pay, the total annual amount of OT, etc.  Need it in 10 minutes and want a stamp from the system.  You know what, I'll just walk with you back to your cube and you can run it for me then..."

At which point Angelia threw up at her desk.  And then went on a Leave of Absence - approved the same day!  By... you guessed it! The same manager she was using to approve the time cards with phony OT for herself.

She was trying to wean herself of the fraudulent OT and almost made it!  Single points of failure.  HR's not immune.

Read your OT detail quarterly, HR Leaders...

HBR Research on Complexity of Promoting High-Performers to Management Roles...

The best widget-maker becomes the widget-maker manager.  Which means we promote the people who are best in the functional area role, right?

And sometimes it's an absolute disaster.  We've all been there.  We promoted someone because they were strong as an individual contributor, then they became a manager and it turned into an absolute dumpster fire.  That's when we pledge to look at manager competencies differently.  Then we get busy and forget about it.

It's widely accepted that we promote strong individual performers into manager roles.  But there's little data to actual prove it - but HBR recently took a look and the results are interesting.

More data on the Peter Principle from the Harvard Business Review:

While the Peter Principle may sound intuitively plausible, it has never been empirically tested using data from many firms. To test whether firms really are passing over the 220px-Horrible_Bossesbest potential managers by promoting the top performers in their old roles, we examined data on the performance of salespeople and their managers at 214 firms. Sales is an ideal setting to test for the Peter Principle because, unlike other professional settings, it’s easy to identify high performing salespeople and managers—for salespeople, we know their sales records, and for the sales managers, we can measure their managerial ability as the extent to which they help improve the performance of their subordinates. The data, which come from a company that administers sales performance management software over the cloud, allow us to track the sales performance of a large number of salespeople and managers in a large number of firms. Armed with these data, we asked: Do organizations really pass over the best potential managers by promoting the best individual contributors? And if so, how do organizations manage around the Peter Principle?

First, we found that sales performance is highly correlated with promotion to management. For salespeople, each higher sales rank corresponds to about a 15% higher probability of being promoted to sales management.

Second, sales performance is actually negatively correlated with performance as a sales manager: when a salesperson is promoted, each higher sales rank is correlated with a 7.5% decline in the performance of each of the manager’s subordinates following the promotion. We found similar results regardless of whether salespeople were promoted to their own team or to new teams. In other words, firms tend to promote top sales workers into management, even though they become the worst managers.

 Does that mean we are promoting the wrong people?  Maybe.  Or maybe the performance of the team comes up as a new manager gains experience and understands what's required in the role.  

In our data, among people who were actually promoted, better salespeople ended up being worse managers. But if we could observe the managerial potential of all salespeople, and not just those who were promoted, would we still find a negative correlation between sales performance and managerial performance?

Answering this question is difficult because the promoted managers we observed in the data weren’t promoted at random. For example, if firms promoted by flipping a coin, then poor salespeople could get promoted because they were lucky, rather than being promoted because their employer observed qualities that overcame their deficiencies as salespeople. Although people aren’t getting promoted by coin flips, they are more likely to be promoted if they happen to be in the right place at the right time: using variation in the promotion rates across industry over time to act as our coin flips, we still find that better salespeople tend to be worse managers.

We also found that firms underweight other indicators that a salesperson would be a good manager. In particular, we found that salespeople whose sales credits were shared among a large number of collaborators become very effective managers. Credit sharing for enterprise sales is typically a mark that the salesperson was involved in large, complex deals requiring collaboration. This type of collaboration experience positively predicts managerial quality.

What do you do with all that?  I think the choices are pretty simple.  You can:

1--Do a better job assessing who in your company has the DNA of a manager.  There's a set of skills - much like the collaboration element cited above - that can tell you who is naturally inclined to the do the job.  Find a great provider like Caliper to help you dive in.

2--You can actual train your managers of people to get better in the most important conversations that drive business results.  If you're looking for that type of training series, don't forget about the BOSS Leadership Series I've put together at Kinetix.

3--You can keep doing what you're doing.  Godspeed.

Hit me in the comments with what you think about the research from HBR.


The Five Most Important Things To Do To Show The World You're Freaking Awesome at What You Do...

Professional awesomeness. You've got it. The world needs to know about it.

I've mentioned in the past that you need a plan if you want real career traction. Some of my rants have focused on the reality that you have to be willing to tell the world about everything you've accomplished. If you don't do it, no one else will.

Now here's the tricky part - you have to share your awesomeness without looking like a jerk, or someone without any redeeming social skills.  How do you do that?  By setting the broadcast of your awesomeness in a cloak of humility.  

Awesomeness in a cloak of humility. You think I'm joking with you. I can assure you I'm not joking with you. There's a path you can travel where people will get to view your accomplishments and won't think of you as a Dale Carnegie/Eddie Haskel blowhard/suck-up.

Put your helmet on - the first two methods/tools are the toughest one to get your head around.

Here's the Five Most Important Things To Do To Show The World You're Freaking Awesome at What Your Do:

1. You must actively mock yourself in every public profile you set up so the world knows you're not a stiff/dork/moron.  Seriously, drop the formality and take it the other way.  If you look at my LinkedIn profile, I'm citing the crossover dribble as a skill and using "BOOM!" to reflect the totality of my first paragraph. What's that mean? I have no idea, but I do know that people routinely tell me my profile is refreshing and different, which automatically gives me more license to talk about what I do, as long as it's not inconsistent with that context.  You don't have to be me, but be you. Write like you talk and stop being corporate.

2. You have to be willing to provide portfolio items as templates to help others in need - for free.  I've talked a lot in the past about portfolio development.  Here's the dirty little secret - no one is going to give you max credit for the work you've done and are highlighting unless you're willing to be a resource for others.  You're giving me screenshots and refusing to give me enough details to put your work into context?  You're a poser - simply there for yourself.  You publicly state you'll share what you did to help get others started?  You're now a thought leader, and helping people inside and outside your company in this way has the obvious affect of making you more attractive as an indiviudal talent in the marketplace.

3.  You have to make your LinkedIn profile not suck.  I'll do a complete post on this later, but for now, you can download a whitepaper from my company by clicking here.  Download it and do what it says - it's my gift to you.  Make. It. Be. Less. Lame.

4. You need to get in the habit of following news/blogs/developments in your industry/profession and sharing what you find valuable.  You see where this is going?  If you want a great career, you've got to give gifts, because the average people aren't giving gifts.  They're hoarding.  When you hoard information, I have no idea whether you're great or lame. Since the risk is high that you suck, I'm just not going to take the chance of hiring you. With aggregation tools and social media, it's never been easier to broadcast what you find interesting in your industry/profession.

5. BRAINSTORM and PLOT - Use items #1-#4 to brainstorm about what's next.  You set it up so you can broadcast your awesomeness in a cloak of humility - Excellent.  The great thing in doing that is you're now helping people and sharing news related to what you do, which if you have any curiosity at all, should lead to you figuring out the next big win at work.  

Don't ever apologize for being awesome. But never broadcast your awesomeness like you think you're the S###.  Use your portfolio strategy in a way that generates authentic conversations with people inside and outside of your company and one thing is for sure - you're on your way to a great career.  

Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Miss Robin - A Story on the Value of Employee Retention...

Take a look at this Instagram post below (email subscribers, click through if you can't see it) and I'll tell you more after the jump:

So here's your backstory on this-- I spoke Monday in Atlanta in front of a large group of franchise owners at Primrose Learning Centers.  The Dunn's are former Primrose parents, and
IMG_3669happy ones at that.  So I was excited when Primrose choose my company (Kinetix) to provide Recruiting and HR services for the parent company, which is headquartered in Atlanta.

That would have been enough.  But when pulling together my presentation, I got to tell a great story.  Drew Dunn, my oldest, was a Primrose student for 5+ years before he entered Kindergarten.  He was at Primrose from 2000-2005.  

Flash forward to 2017.  Mrs. Dunn and I are headed somewhere with Drew and he wants to pull into a Taco Bell (that's his hangout, don't judge) to get a drink.  So we pull in there and notice that it's taking a long time for him to get that Mt. Dew.  We look in and see him talking to an adult.  Another couple of minutes pass and he walks out with someone we immediately recognize as a former Primrose teacher - Miss Robin!

Miss Robin (pictured above ) recognized Drew- 13 years after she was his teacher at a Primrose school - and picked him out of a crowd! She’s still at Primrose. How many referrals do you think they will get from us based on the power of that?

Who needs facial recognition from a computer when you have Miss Robin?

That's the most powerful lead I could have for my presentation - The power of committed employees is remarkable, which makes hiring AND retention key.

Looking forward to helping Primrose find better ways to locate talent that makes a difference in our world.  The more people like Miss Robin they can find, the stronger they will be!

T-Mobile: Sometimes People Strategy is Zigging When Everyone Else Is Zagging...

This blog is generally about HR.  One thing about HR though - the best HR leaders generally help their clients (internal leaders of business units and functional areas) think differently about business problems.  Since the solution to most business problems generally involve workforce alignment and OD issues, it stands to reason that HR people could have something valuable to say.

But a lot of us allow the status quo to go on even if we think there's a better way.  We're busy. We've got shit to do.  How they approach business problems is their job - let them do it, right? Tmobile

That's fine until you go back to the central theme in the first paragraph - that the solution to most problems involves people.  And if you don't have opinions and hot takes about that, then you/we deserve the administrative tag that so many put on us.

Let me give you a great business solution that could have been the idea of any above-average HR leader in the field.  T-Mobile is a company that is shaking up all kinds of shit in the wireless industry.  They recently made Fortune's 100 Best Places to Work list, but the focus of their profile was as much about business solutions as it was about perks and ping-pong.  Which is another way to say that how you approach business can drive your culture as much as anything.

More from Fortune on one such strategy at T-Mobile:

T-Mobile is doubling down on “do what they tell you” under an effort called “Team of Experts,” which has given call-center employees unprecedented authority. Under the plan, which launched last year, T-Mobile divided its customers into blocks of about 120,000, who are each assigned to a specific group of a few dozen employees at a specific call center. When customers call for support, they are routed to their assigned team, instead of being assigned to a random rep at the least busy center in the country, as is typical in the industry. There’s no transferring of calls elsewhere in a frustrating ducking of accountability. Reps are held responsible for the outcomes of their customer group, measured by metrics such as how frequently customers defect to another carrier or how often they call support, and reps and their managers are empowered to hand out service credits or alter bills.

“People in the industry told us we were crazy to do non-randomized routing,” says Callie Field, T-Mobile’s executive vice president in charge of customer care. But T-Mobile’s cost to serve customers has dropped by 9% overall since it was implemented, while customer satisfaction scores increased by 20 percentage points, Field says. Legere says that the customer-care team’s new responsibilities give them even more data they can use to assess how promotions are going or whether customers understand new plans. “These people talk to 20 customers a day; that’s your gold mine.”

How many HR leaders have looked at the dehumanized, cattle call, big box call centers and thought "there has to be a better way"?  Not only for your people, but for the business?

I think a lot of us could have come up with that solution.  Putting people in the right type of role to do their best work leads to great business results, and culturally, it's more sustainable than almost anything else we can do to build great company culture.

Few of us would naturally go against the grain against something like big box, next globally available rep call centers.  But it's where the biggest impact for HR is.

What is your company doing that's incredibly stupid in your business when it comes to people? If you want a big win in 2018, be a proponent of a business change involving people that gets business results.

Do that, and you'll get your culture thing.

Age Bias and the PricewaterhouseCoopers Case...

Hey companies filling your employment coffers with low priced talent!  You might want to take a look at the numbers...

In case you missed it, PricewaterhouseCoopers took an Age Discrimination case in 2016.  Some legal details from the site that's inviting others to join the class action: Old school

On April 27, 2016, Steve Rabin, an older CPA who was denied employment at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (“PwC”), filed an age discrimination class and collective action on behalf of himself and all other unsuccessful PwC accountant applicants aged 40 and over from 2013 to the present.  The lawsuit is titled Rabin v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Case No. 3:16-cv-02276, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The class and collective action complaint alleges that PwC has engaged in systemic discrimination against older applicants for accounting positions.  For instance, PwC primarily hires entry-level accountants through campus recruiting, does not post entry-level accountant positions on its website, and provides no ready mechanism for individuals no longer affiliated with a college to apply for these positions.  Moreover, PwC prides itself on maintaining a young workforce, focusing on attracting and maintaining “Millennials,” and requiring partners to retire by age 60.  The ageism that pervades PwC’s recruitment system and corporate culture has resulted in older accountant applicants being almost completely shut out of accounting positions at PwC. 

In February 2017, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs can pursue disparate impact claims against PwC under the ADEA.  PwC had argued that job applicants are not allowed to pursue such claims under federal law.  You can find more information about this recent ruling here.

In December 2017, the Plaintiffs asked the Court to allow all applicants covered by this case to proceed together on a collective basis rather than individually, in what is called a motion for conditional certification. A decision by the Court is likely this spring. Please check back in April of 2018 for updates.

The Goal of the Lawsuit
The class action seeks seeks to require PwC to hire accountants based on merit alone, without regard to their age, and to compensate accountants who might have been hired but for PwC’s discriminatory practices.

Yowza.  The Wall Street Journal reported some interesting numbers on Tuesday as a District Court Judge heard arguments from both sides on whether to allow 14,000 other older candidates who didn't get a job with PwC to join a class action on the same claim.  I can't share the exact text from the WSJ since it's behind a paywall, but here's a couple of tidbits:

--PwC hires less than 5% of the 300,000 applicants who apply annually in US.

--PwC hired 18% of the applicants who were under 40 to it's tax and assurance business, while only hiring 3% of the candidates over 40.

--Older workers claim that older workers are steered to part-time and seasonal roles are aren't considers for the entry level roles the company lists as full time opportunities.

For now, the judge is simply ruling on whether to allow the 14,000 older candidates who have raised their hand to join a class action suit.  An actual ruling on the matter could be years away.

Interesting legal battle.  Without question, companies like PwC prefer to hire young talent that's cheaper right out of college.  Is that bias? If so, will they be held accountable for it?

Going to be interesting to track this one.


My Best Snoring at Work Story...

Tim Sackett hates people who snore on planes.  He's right.  He also thinks it's a form of dramatic low self awareness that shows you shouldn't hire that person.  He's right there, too.

Let's face it, the guy/gal (I've sat next to both on planes!) who dozes off and snores at 5 decibels has given up on life.  They know they snore because they've been told that at home, yet here they go.

They've given up at work.  They are on the active roster, yet semi-retired in the role they are in. Snorers

Here's my best snoring at work story:

The year is 1994.  I'm an assistant basketball coach at UAB, fresh out of college.  In college sports, you have roomies on the road.  I bunked in the same room as another assistant who was a snorer.  

The first year on the road (think 15 road trips) was incredible hard, I didn't sleep much.  I was young, so I survived.  Then I learned the secret.

What you have to do to a heavy snorer you are sleeping near is interrupt the pattern, take them out of Stage 4 REM sleep.  If you go over to the other bed and shake them, well, they know you've woke them up and then you have to deal with the why.  The tenured assistant in question was kind of my boss, so I had to find another way.

1994 was a different time.  There wasn't as much ink on domestic violence and violence in general.  Good thing for me, because my solution could have been misinterpreted as a distress signal.

Here's what I did to the assistant in question.  I would yell - not as loud as I could but at 60% of my volume - for 2 seconds.

The quick yell broke up his REM pattern.  I learned I had 10 minutes to get to sleep before he would be back to the heavy snoring.  As you know, the hardest thing to do is sleep when you're focused on the fact you have to get to sleep.  Thus, my average was 2.4 yells per night on the road to get to sleep.  Once I was asleep, I was good.  He never knew.

Security never came to our room.  Your boy's gotta get his rest.

KD out.


The Dysfunction of Running Teams Where Everyone Has a Voice...

Somebody's got to be in charge.

--Quote from random assertive people everywhere


My good friend Tim Sackett had a post earlier this week on The Cancer of Speaking Up.  Go check out that post, because I immediately had flashbacks to grad school where we worked in teams on business cases.  A big part of those business cases was creating position papers and presentations as work product.  Because it's grad school, it's the educational sector and because we were all equals on that team, we had some hiccups.

The primary hiccup is this: We sat around the laptop, creating slides and papers on the fly.   Laptop

Imagine 5 people huddled around a laptop, all with an equal voice.  The problem wasn't so much that everyone had ideas, it was that differing personalities valued different things as part of the process.  That meant that at times we got derailed by little details that we didn't have time to debate.

Yep - you guessed it!  The high details person wanted to talk about comma placement (which is opinion-based, you high detail freaks!) and conjunctions. 

Which made me want to address that person in the following way the next day - "What's up, freak?"

We were editing grammar in real time rather than dealing with big ideas and doing the grammar/punctuation scrub later on.

The biggest lie the devil ever told us is that everyone should have an equal voice.  Feedback and idea generation is great, but there comes a tipping point when you have to get shit done.  At that point, someone has to be in charge.

Our goal as leaders should be to involve people enough to be inclusive, but have a process where we don't get paralyzed by the very average ideas or focus points of others.

If you need help with involving everyone but protecting yourself vs the time it takes to deal with bad ideas, I've got three things for you:

1--Never create work product with people huddled around a laptop or looking at a screen.  Put someone in charge to create the first round, then send it out for feedback.  I'm still amazed how many teams are create work product in the aforementioned way.

2--If you have a need to do idea generation/brainstorming but want to run the session in an efficient way, see these tools I've written about in the past as a part of Change Agile.

3--If you're goal setting with a team member and you want them to give you ideas on what their goals should be, use this 3-step process I've done videos on in the past.

Remember - the concept of every voice matters is a good one.  But don't let that participation prevent you from getting things done.


LEADERSHIP: How The 1998 Chicago Bulls Eliminated Dissension and Reached Their Goal....

I'm not a big gimmick/team-building exercise guy.  I find most team-building stuff to be a little forced, although I will say that I always dread it and emerge from it with some type of positive.  The positive I get is usually empathy towards a team member that I didn't necessarily like or feel close to.

I ran across a team building/unity exercise yesterday and wanted to share.  It's from the the 1998 Chicago Bulls, who had won 5 titles and where getting ready to start the playoffs for what everyone was sure would be their final run. Jackson

Their season was full of distraction, arguments and distrust.  Here what Phil Jackson, the legendary coach, did to quiet the noise and circle the wagons one last time.   More from Bill Simmons at The Ringer:

Jackson gathered players, coaches and trainers for a special meeting before the 1998 playoffs, asking everyone to write a message about what that final season meant to them. A poem, a sentence, a song, whatever. It had to be 50 words or fewer. Everyone obliged. They went around the room reading their messages, even Jordan, and when they finished, Jackson burned them in a coffee can. All the chaos and dissension burned away with it. They banded together for eight weeks and prevailed again, for a lot of reasons, but mainly because they employed the greatest player ever.

Before you kill me - I get it - this exercise doesn't work for most of the team building needs you have.

But I like this one a lot for teams who are getting ready to have to come together for a big challenge, teams that maybe could be fired if the next month or two doesn't go well, and especially if those teams are generally bitchy towards each other.

50 words or less.  Maybe you frame it as what your job means to you.  Who knows what comes out of these people's heads, right?  Could be stupid stuff, or it could be fascinating.

One thing's for sure - no one is going to try and look stupid if they have the floor and they've had some time to think about it.

What I love about this exercise is that it gets you into the head of your teammate.  Maybe it's someone you don't like very much.  What happens when they try and have a serious moment is what I mentioned before - empathy from others.

Ahhhh.  That's who you are.  Got it.  With empathy and understanding comes a couple of other things.  Patience.  A little bit of trust.

Can you use this exercise today?  Probably not. Should you be looking for ways to make your team more empathetic to each other?  Absolutely.

The Bulls won their 6th title in 1998, primary because they had Michael Jordan.

But a little bit of that title belongs to Jackson, who kept the lid on long enough to make the last title run with Jordan.

Don't forgot to burn the paper your people bring in.

The Bain "Expert Generalist" Model and the Increasing Value of a Liberal Arts Degree...

With all the talk of automation and AI changing the nature of jobs in the future, one question we should all be asking (especially those of us with kids) is "what degrees, education and skills are going to have the most impact in the future?"

Mark Cuban has an opinion - he thinks some of the degrees we're most focused on now are going to fade in importance and liberal arts - yes, liberal arts - is going to make a comeback.  Here's an excerpt of what he said in a Liberal artsrecent interview via Business Insider:

I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data. And so having someone who is more of a freer thinker.

Cuban's forecast of the skills needed to succeed in the future echoes that of computer science and higher education experts who believe people with "soft skills," like adaptability and communication, will have the advantage in an automated workforce.

Cuban highlighted English, philosophy, and foreign language majors as just some of the majors that will do well in the future job market.

"The nature of jobs is changing," Cuban said.

If you've followed the breaking news out of Cuban's Dallas Mavericks organization, you can insert witty joke on the most important training for future professional workers <here>.  Regardless of Cuban's recent troubles, his thoughts on the future of the workplace is interesting.

Cuban's thoughts made me think more about the Bain "Expert Generalist" model.  Here's a taste of that model:

Orit Gadiesh, the Bain & Co. chairman who coined the term, describes expert-generalism as “the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines.”

Research shows EG’s have:

Hmm, sounds like the world could use a few more EG’s.

More from LongNow.org:

From his perspective as a psychology researcher, Philip Tetlock watched political advisors on the left and the right make bizarre rationalizations about their wrong predictions at the time of the rise of Gorbachev in the 1980s and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. (Liberals were sure that Reagan was a dangerous idiot; conservatives were sure that the USSR was permanent.) The whole exercise struck Tetlock as what used to be called an “outcome-irrelevant learning structure.” No feedback, no correction.

Tetlock’s summary: “Partisans across the opinion spectrum are vulnerable to occasional bouts of ideologically induced insanity.” He determined to figure out a way to keep score on expert political forecasts, even though it is a notoriously subjective domain (compared to, say, medical advice), and “there are no control groups in history.”

So Tetlock took advantage of getting tenure to start a long-term research project now 18 years old to examine in detail the outcomes of expert political forecasts about international affairs. He studied the aggregate accuracy of 284 experts making 28,000 forecasts, looking for pattern in their comparative success rates. Most of the findings were negative— conservatives did no better or worse than liberals; optimists did no better or worse than pessimists. Only one pattern emerged consistently.

“How you think matters more than what you think.”

It’s a matter of judgement style, first expressed by the ancient Greek warrior poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.” The idea was later expanded by essayist Isaiah Berlin. In Tetlock’s interpretation, Hedgehogs have one grand theory (Marxist, Libertarian, whatever) which they are happy to extend into many domains, relishing its parsimony, and expressing their views with great confidence. Foxes, on the other hand are skeptical about grand theories, diffident in their forecasts, and ready to adjust their ideas based on actual events.

I've always been a fan of the HR Generalist - the HR professional (manager, director and VP level) that is responsible for all of the areas of HR.  A lot of the research today is telling us that the need for deep specialization is going to fade in a world of automation and that the generalist - regardless of profession - is going to be on the rise.

The real question is - are you willing to bet your kid's future and have him/her get a liberal arts degree?

Wow.  I don't know about that.  I just don't know.