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October 2013

MORE BEZOS, PLEASE: The 2-Pizza Rule of Team Size...

More Bezos goodness for you today, use it when you're trying to convince a power-hording micromanager that they need to split up their direct reports and that maybe a span of control of 16 isn't in anyone's best interests.  From 99U:

Follow the “two pizza rule.” Bezos

Bezos believes in avoiding complacency at all costs, especially when reinforced by groupthink. From a Wall Street Journal profile:

One former executive recalled that, at an offsite retreat where some managers suggested that employees should start communicating more with each other, Mr. Bezos stood up and declared, “No, communication is terrible!” He wanted a decentralized, even disorganized company where independent ideas would prevail over group-think.

His antidote? Make his teams as small as possible while throttling communication where appropriate. Bezos said he believed in “two pizza teams”: if a team couldn’t be fed with two pizzas, it was too big.

Just simple enough to work. And influence others.


The 5 Biggest Lies In HR... (#2 - We Want All 'A" Players)

This is a post in a 5-part series targeting the 5 biggest lies in HR.  Lucky you.

That’s right. I’m here today not to give you the normal PR spin about how strategic the HR function can be, but instead to call B.S. on the biggest lies in HR. It’s not that HR people want to lie, it’s just that we’ve created our own prison: urban myths developed over last 20 years as the HR function has matured.

As a result, we’re trapped. We’ve spawned narratives that make the HR function appear like a cross between Mother Teresa and Stuart Smalley, while the team members we serve need more tough love, a cross between Jack Welch and Dennis Miller.

You know, that little thing called the truth, effectively washed down with a bit of leadership, personality and at times, humor.

Here's the second biggest lie in HR:

Lie #2: We only want “A” players. I gave Neutron Jack some love earlier related to work/life balance, so allow me now to take a Tonya Harding-like whack at his kneecaps. Like many of you, I love the sexy GE thought leadership and NetFlix slides that say you’re either up or out, and that our companies should be on a quest to fill our entire ranks with “A” players. There’s just this one little problem with this theory, which I’ll outline next.

The Truth: All “A” players doesn’t work. We can’t find enough of you, and even if we could, the world needs ditchdiggers too. We need steady people who come into the office and crank out a solid day’s work, don’t bitch and don’t act like divas when the company doesn’t stop the operation to thank you personally every Tuesday. Granted, we still have the little issue with 90% of team members thinking they’re “A” players, but that’s an issue to solve another day. For now, we appreciate the fact you get where to put your nose – on the grindstone.

Thank you for being average and just looking not to get whacked in the next reorg.  While we can't tell you that won't happen, your low maintenance vibe certainly is appreciated.  You got 2.8% for a raise this year?  Greaaaaaaat.

Even Jeff Bezos knows that the B team is around, as evidenced by this larget than life B-Team quote:

[After reading a start-of-meeting memo] “This document was clearly written by the B team. Can someone get me the A team document? I don’t want to waste my time with the B team document.”

If you’re a good HR pro and don’t feel like you subscribe to this lie, I’ve got one question for you:

If you don’t actively pitch the lies outlined above, do you actively preach the truth?

If the answer is no, you’ve got work to do before you’re part of the solution.


CAPITALIST READERS CARRRY SMARTPHONES: Multi-Purpose Signs in the "Loo"...

Capitalist readers are some of the smartest people in the world.  Much smarter than me.

Check this one out from Capitalist reader "Jennie".  Captured in the bathroom of a Buffalo Wild Wings...(email subscribers be sure to display photos)

Bww

Like Jennie, I give props to companies that are smart enough to add recruiting functionality to traditionally boring, stale messages.... Especially if the bottom 20% of HR pros would be offended by or see risk in it.

+1 to Buffalo Wild Wings... 

Jennie's number is obvious if you want to talk to her about this - 867-5309.

 


The 5 Biggest Lies In HR... (#3 - We're Into Pay for Performance)

This is a post in a 5-part series targeting the 5 biggest lies in HR.  Lucky you.

That’s right. I’m here today not to give you the normal PR spin about how strategic the HR function can be, but instead to call B.S. on the biggest lies in HR. It’s not that HR people want to lie, it’s just that we’ve created our own prison: urban myths developed over last 20 years as the HR function has matured.

As a result, we’re trapped. We’ve spawned narratives that make the HR function appear like a cross between Mother Teresa and Stuart Smalley, while the team members we serve need more tough love, a cross between Jack Welch and Dennis Miller.

You know, that little thing called the truth, effectively washed down with a bit of leadership, personality and at times, humor.

Here's the third biggest lie in HR:

Lie #3: We’re into pay for performance. Everyone loves seeing a high performer get a ten percent raise just for being a star, unrelated to a promotion. It doesn’t happen enough, and the reason is pretty simple. In this Darwinian world we call global business, cost pressure is everywhere. As a result, we’ve got to budget for salary increases, and then live by the budget to make sure razor-thin margins stay intact. That means that in order to give Sally the superstar an eight percent increase at review time, we’ve got to give nothing to Johnny and Rickey, who are good cogs in the wheel but average at best.

The Truth: We (business leaders and HR pros) need average performers to make the business formula work. In a world where ninety percent of team members think they’re in the top ten percent of all performers, we’re screwed from the jump. We’d rather find unbudgeted money for the star than tell the average performers they’re getting nothing, which is what it takes to put pure pay-for-performance in place within a merit budget system. Our managers are unwilling to do that, and we’re unwilling as HR pros (perhaps rightfully so) to be Han Solo on the issue

So the next time you're b****ing about your 2.8% raise, ask youself this question - would you trade it for the truth on whether you're in the top 10%?  Do you feel lucky, punk?

If you’re a good HR pro and don’t feel like you subscribe to this lie, I’ve got one question for you:

If you don’t actively pitch the lies outlined above, do you actively preach the truth?

If the answer is no, you’ve got work to do before you’re part of the solution.


A Taste for Nickelback - Really The Only Early Screen Necessary on Candidates You Need...

From my inbox related to the Leadership Development spot I'm trying to fill at Kinetix:

She and I worked on a number of projects together, and she knows how to get things done, correctly and on the first attempt. <name taken out> is an HR Boatrocker and will have no trouble calling it how she sees it. Her mobile is XXX-313-8108. 

BONUS POINTS - she is not a Nickleback fan. 

I gotta go... I have a meeting with the Bobs

He basically guaranteed that she's getting a call.  She could be the most unqualified candidate ever, I'm calling her based on the framing of the referral.

Let's save some money in 2014 and just do the initial screen for candidates with the following trick question:

"Do you own more than two Nickelback mp3's?" (Check Yes or No)

If you own one, it better be this one (subscribers click through for over the top Nickelback cut)...


The 5 Biggest Lies In HR... (#4 - We Want to Provide Great Benefits to All Team Members)

This is a post in a 5-part series targeting the 5 biggest lies in HR.  Lucky you.

That’s right. I’m here today not to give you the normal PR spin about how strategic the HR function can be, but instead to call B.S. on the biggest lies in HR. It’s not that HR people want to lie, it’s just that we’ve created our own prison: urban myths developed over last 20 years as the HR function has matured.

As a result, we’re trapped. We’ve spawned narratives that make the HR function appear like a cross between Mother Teresa and Stuart Smalley, while the team members we serve need more tough love, a cross between Jack Welch and Dennis Miller.

You know, that little thing called the truth, effectively washed down with a bit of leadership, personality and at times, humor.

Here's the fourth biggest lie in HR.  t's timely with the emergence of Obamacare:

Lie #4: It’s the company’s desire to provide strong benefits to all team members. How many shades of gray are there are on the color wheel? While we like to take care of team members, if it wasn’t part of the American healthcare system and a competitive necessity related to talent, we’d be out of the benefits business so fast it would make the collapse of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts seem glacial in comparison. As someone who’s been fortunate enough to run a self-insured healthcare plan in a smaller environment and witness the humanity first hand, I can tell you the biggest component to this lie is our unwillingness to hold you accountable for your own health. We’ll talk about our cost increases during open enrollment, but do most of us never really try to change behavior through incentives or penalties.

The Truth: We’re not your Mom. We only provide benefits because it’s an expectation and we have to in order to compete in the talent game. We have little to no control over insurance costs incurred, and due to our collective unwillingness to penalize smokers and team members who are gold members at Krispy Kreme, we never will. You’ll have to take the cost increases we give you as a result, and if we ever get brave enough to try to change the behavior of the outliers, we’ll find we’re too late due to a legislative environment that protects those making unhealthy choices (althought maybe less so under Obamacare). Wow, that was depressing to write.

Could we even change your behavior? Probably not. You're a mess.  So are we. Fitness memberships probably aren't going to change you.  

Our biggest lever in the benefits world is cost. We tinker with the co-pay and co-insurance to try and keep the cost increase to 20% instead of 40%.

If you’re a good HR pro and don’t feel like you subscribe to this lie, I’ve got one question for you:

If you don’t actively pitch the lies outlined above, do you actively preach the truth?

If the answer is no, you’ve got work to do before you’re part of the solution.  

Lie #3 is up in a couple of days.


If You Complain About One of My Job Postings, You Were One I Was Trying to Repel In the First Place...

Have you ever wanted to shake up the job postings you do for your open positions?

I'm going to make a suggestion that many of you won't be able to pull off, but a lot of you can.  You need to take more chances with your job postings.  You need to make them unique in ways where 25% of the usual suspects who are just spamming you a resume won't apply.

Because as Eddie Vedder once said, "This is not for you"...

The important thing to know is that some people are going to take it the wrong way, and the bar for people to act offended is lower than you might think it is.

Example - take this posting I recently did for a Leadership Development Specialist working with and for me at Kinetix (click through to see the posting).  I wrote it how it felt, and added two features to break through all the white noise:

1. I called it the "Swami".

2. I said that people who say "strategic" and "competency" in the interview process will have to drink increasing amounts of vodka each time they utter those and similar words.  Because the positoin is real, but the vision of what is to be developed doesn't include a worldview that includes those words.

And of course, we got a call into our office line.  Someone was offended that we were talking about drinking and was also offended that we would make reference to the term Swami in a job posting.

Thanks for calling Marge. You just validated my decision to write it the way I wrote it.  

I was in Vegas two times in the last month.  No drinking, no gambling. No "toptional" pool.  The term "vanilla" comes to mind.  I looked up the definition of a Swami after the complaint, but honestly, I know it much more from watching Chris Berman play the Swami on ESPN.

But - I'm an observer of the game and know that you can have fun with stuff that's usually boring as hell.

Add a feature or two to a job posting you do this week.  Take some chances.  People that you want to apply will like you more.  Marge will call in and hate. 

Value the people who like it more than they would have (and have higher interest in the job) more than you value making Marge happy.

Marge is the enemy of interesting work.  Soak on that a bit for you and those you look after in the workforce.


The 5 Biggest Lies In HR... (#5 - Work/Life Balance)

That’s right. I’m here today not to give you the normal PR spin about how strategic the HR function can be, but instead to call B.S. on the biggest lies in HR. It’s not that HR people want to lie, it’s just that we’ve created our own prison: urban myths developed over last 20 years as the HR function has matured.

As a result, we’re trapped. We’ve spawned narratives that make the HR function appear like a cross between Mother Teresa and Stuart Smalley, while the team members we serve need more tough love, a cross between Jack Welch and Dennis Miller.

You know, that little thing called the truth, effectively washed down with a bit of leadership, personality and at times, humor.

Here's the fifth biggest lie in HR:

Lie #5: We’re responsible for the work/life balance of team members. I believe it was a man named Jack Welch who pissed of a bunch of HR pros at SHRM 2009 in New Orleans by riffing that “there’s no such thing as work/life balance, there are work/life choices”. I’ve never met a star who didn’t absolutely outwork the competition for promotions, yet still our HR universe talks endlessly about the search for balance. If you’re a regular team member reading this, the reality is that the business world is chaotic, and everyone’s kind of winging it to a certain extent. Most companies try to keep staffing levels relative to the work at hand (more revenue always helps in that regard!), but it’s always going to feel like a free-for-all at times. 

The Truth: You’re responsible for your own work/life balance, and if you want more money, promotions and fame, you’re going to have to work harder than those around you. That holds true even if you’re as smart as Al Gore, who had to work really hard to create the Internet and get invited to SHRM 2010. As neutron Jack says, it’s your choice. Either you work hard and create the Internet, or you don’t.

If you’re a good HR pro and don’t feel like you subscribe to this lie, I’ve got one question for you:

If you don’t actively pitch the lies outlined above, do you actively preach the truth?

If the answer is no, you’ve got work to do before you’re part of the solution.


3 Ways to Stop Hating Your Team...

I'm getting ready to start coaching some basketball teams.  Here's a dirty little secret of basketball everywhere:  By the time February rolls around, a lot of basketball coaches don't like being around their teams anymore.  I've actually heard it referred to it as "I hate my team", quickly following by "will this season ever end?"

The cause is pretty understandable.  Sports is a pretty intense experience where wins and losses go up Coaches on a standings board.  Competitive basketball runs from October/November to February/March, and by the time you get to the fourth month, everyone is a little fatigued.  You (the coach) are tired of saying the same things.  They (the players) are tired of hearing you say the same things.  You know where you fall in the pecking order, and while everyone wants more, it's not always possible based on the talent you have.

Summary:  Everyone's a little bit sick of each other.  Practices get shorter, because well, what's the point?

The point is the coach is responsible for learning.  Just like you are as a manager.

Here's 3 ways for coaches (and you) to stop hating their teams (it works at your company as well):

1.  Get out of your rut and get some new freaking coaching techniques.  If you find yourself hating your team, you might just be hating yourself.  Get some new game - learn new things that are going to help you be a better coach/manager.  Try to implement some of those on the fly.  Shake it up.

2.  Actually give a S### about the development of individuals.  See that midling contributor who's a good person?  You've been so focused on your macro results that you've treated him like a transaction ("if I tell you to do this, then I get that").  Stop hating your team by taking a personal interest in the professional development of your mid-level talent.  Watch them grow once they understand that you're interested in making them better and more successful, regardless of what happens related to team results.

3.  Get a better definition of what success is.  Not everyone is going to make it to March Madness or the corporate equivalent of that.  Some of us have teams that can only deliver a .500 season.  Worry about that in the next recruiting cycle - for now, your job is to do a better job of defining what a stretch goal is for the team you have - and then coaching them up to get there.  Stop whining and complaining that you don't have enough talent.  Set a goal you can achieve with improvement that's realistic for the group you have.

It's normal to start hating your team if the goals you are chasing are difficult and the competition is intense.  The problem isn't them, it's you.  You're responsible for breaking out of the rut and the self-pity cycle.

You'll wake up tommorrow and it will be February.  You'll be sorry you gave up on this team in May.

Plus, go get some better talent if you can.  You know what's common among the best coaches?  They all have great players.  Wooden would have been .500 at Seton Hall.


WHITE LIKE ME: White Kids, Sports and Hip Hop...

White like me is a series where I openly mock all the crazy things white people do.  It's an index of my life as a white person and observations about OWP.  

Trust me, many of you (OWP - other white people) will nod your head aggressively when reading this Ice post.  Even non-OWP will get it.

If there's common thread to the lives of white people, it's that white kids who play sports at anything approaching a high level will go through a hip-hop phase.  There's different stages of the white kid/hip-hop phase, but the stages generally play out as follows:

1. White kid knows nothing about anything outside his bubble.  Clueless except for the suburbs.

2. White kid then finds a niche in sports and starts building skills.

3. White kid's parents figure out he has a gift (at varying levels) and start investing in the aforementioned sport for their kid.  That usually means camps and experiences outside the bubble.

4. White kid is uncomfortable with exposure to other cultures initially, then figures out that he/she is actually the minority.  #topsyturvy

5. As the minority, white kids attempts to assimilate into culture by picking up staples of new culture, which in sports is usually hip-hop music.  

6. The level of assimilation into the culture varies. Some kids pick up the music only, some pick up other cultural trends via clothes, accessories, etc.  

It's different for unique sports, but this trend is strongest in basketball.  As a youngster, I cut my teeth on Run-DMC, KRS-One and others, which was fine and I'd be supportive of that as a parent.  Then it all changed with Eazy-E, NWA and Ice-T.  It got angry, profane, etc.  So that makes it harder for parents today who see the transition, but that's life overall as well as in hip-hop.

I'm not complaining about this common thread of sports and hip-hop - I think it's healthy. 

It's just when it goes too far that it becomes uncomfortable.  Two examples - Vanilla Ice (has there ever been a more crystal example of #6?) and the Offspring's Pretty Fly for a White Guy.

Watching these two videos is funny and extremely hard for anyone who's been through the white kids/sports/hip-hop transition.  Did I look like that to others?

Kind of. Videos below (email subscribers click through for videos)...