When Companies Hire Above You To Make a Statement (or Force You Out)...

There's a lot of plays in the ole' Human Capital Management playbook.  There are plays for recruits, high performers, difficult team members, managers, struggling performers and more....

This play is one that's run occasionally for low/struggling performers.  It's called:

"We're Hiring Someone in a Position of Authority Above You. In your functional area"

Bigger title than you.  You report to them.  You probably didn't even know we were in the market, but we just told you, so hey - meet the new boss.   You WERE probably the boss before if this play was ran, so the Who song doesn't apply ("meet the new boss, same as the old boss..).  If you were the boss and we just hired a superior above you to run your department, well, it's pretty clear the new boss is different than the old boss.

Got that?  Good.  Let's give you an example - Sean Spicer is out as the spokesperson for the Trump administration, but his resignation didn't come until Trump just hired someone above him.  More from The New York SpicerTimes:

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, resigned Friday after telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with his appointment of Anthony Scaramucci, a New York financier, as his new communications director.

After offering Mr. Scaramucci the job on Friday morning, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Spicer to stay on as press secretary, reporting to Mr. Scaramucci. But Mr. Spicer rejected the offer, expressing his belief that Mr. Scaramucci’s hiring would add to the confusion and uncertainty already engulfing the White House, according to two people with direct knowledge of the exchange.

If the moves amounted to a kind of organizational reset, it was not part of a pivot or grand redesign. The president, according to a dozen people familiar with the situation, meant to upgrade, not overhaul, his existing staff with the addition of a smooth-talking, Long Island-bred former hedge fund manager who is currently the senior vice president and chief strategy officer at the Export-Import Bank, which he joined just last month. His rapport with the president establishes a new power center in a building already bristling with rivalry.

The hiring of Scaramucci above Spicer is a classic example of the play outlined above -"We're Hiring Someone in a Position of Authority Above You."

Are we firing you?  Nope.  Do you have the same level of authority you did?  Nope.  Here's a couple of things anyone who uses this play is trying to say:

--You aren't performing at a high level.  That's obvious if we hired a new position above you without letting you know/apply.

--Your performance hasn't been great.  Also obvious if we did what we did.

--We don't think you can do everything we need you to do.

--BUT - and this is significant - we aren't ready to fire you.  You have some sort of value, and we'd like you to continue.

Whether you continue or not in the role is up to you.  You'll likely have to reframe how you view yourself and what the possibilities are in our organization.  Can you do that?

If you can't, then you'll probably resign.  If you can't but can't afford to resign (yet), there's probably going to be some bumps in the road with the new boss.  

Meet the new boss.  You didn't even have a boss in your area of expertise yesterday.  #deep


UBER-ing: 5 Thoughts About Naming Your Primary Conference Room The WAR ROOM...

In case you missed it, one of the outcomes of the Uber fiasco - in addition to an indefinite leave for the CEO, departure of a board member for an inappropriate comment during an all-hands meeting among other things - was that the company will be renaming it's primary conference/board room from "The War Room" to "The Peace Room".  More from Bloomberg:

Uber is trying to turn a new chapter in its history, and is renaming its "War Room" the "Peace Room," according to Bloomberg. Uber

On Tuesday, Uber released a 13-page report it had commissioned from Eric Holder, the former US attorney general, and his firm, which sought to evaluate and make recommendations for changes to Uber's corporate culture.

"Several of Uber’s planned changes are symbolic," Bloomberg's Eric Newcomer wrote. "For example, a conference room known as the War Room will be renamed the Peace Room."

Uber will also jettison many of its "cultural values." Here are a few that are getting the ax: “Let Builders Build; Always Be Hustlin’; Meritocracy and Toe-Stepping; and Principled Confrontation.”

Where at we meeting at Kinetix today?  THE WAR ROOM.  Should we change thatname?  Here's some thoughts from the a company where the halls are orange and the majority owner is a woman:

--If I'm apologetic to anyone from our primary conference room being named the War Room, it's not the folks who expect political correctness, it's veterans who have participated in armed conflict.  Business isn't war.  If a hat tip is necessary to anyone, it's vets.

--Our culture is pretty far from Uber.  I'm not sure renaming the room is necessary for us.

--We've named all of our offices, and most of them are pop culture movie and music references.  So the rest of the names are pretty soft.

--We don't have the values that Uber had, but our values are pretty action-oriented.  War room fits the action orientation.

--My CEO would fire me if I changed the name of The War Room to The Peace Room.  Too much.  I'd fire me too.

I get why Uber is doing all of these visible things.  They need to overcorrect.  The rest of us don't.  "Always Be Hustlin'" as a value?  Tells you all you need to know.

Alternatives if you need to change the name of "The War Room" to something else:

--The Conflict Room (lame)

--Politically Incorrect (descriptive, but presents liability)

--Mosh Pit (rock is dead, won't work..)

--Hunger Games (probably true and pop culture reference fits)

--Let's Get It On 

Scratch that last one, that was from Uber's list right before they named it The War Room....

Hit me with your best option in the comments to rename "The War Room".... If you say "Conference Room 1", I'll slap you.


MESSED UP PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Wall Selfie in Workplace (Confidential)...

Yeah, so I travel a bit for work - and I always try and grab some photos.  Ended up at a employer not to be named and took this one a few months back.  To be fair, this wasn't in the entrance of the building but a next level hallway.  Take a look and I've got a comment or two after the jump (email subscribers click through for image):

Selfie

Comments:

--Yes, that's a selfie being taken by a camera, not a smartphone.

--Yes, it's unclear if there's a viewfinder which would indicate it's digital over film.  We're not sure.

--Employer business is focused on sales to youth.  No, I'm not ####ing you.

Bonus points for getting the good looking people right.  Note to marketing director - just take the original art/image and cut that #### down and make it this:

Selfie2

I'm here for you, companies of the Brontosaurus age.  You're vintage, I'll give you that.

 

 


Targeting Companies Doing Layoffs in Recruiting Strategy - Smart or Lame?

If there's ever been something that's generated a "yeah, duh" in the halls of corporate America, it is the following:

"Company Z just announced a big layoff.  We should go after them from a recruiting perspective."

Well, yeah.  No Sh##.  The devil of course, is in the details.  That's what makes this recent tweet by Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, so interesting.  He's going direct and talking to up to 5,000 people recently impacted by a Microsoft layoff, encouraging them to consider a career at Salesforce.  See the tweet below (email subscribers enable pictures or click through for image):

 Microsoft announced July 6 that it would cut 10% of its global sales team — around 5,000 people. Around the same time, Microsoft CIO Jim DuBois resigned, although it's unclear whether his departure was related to the company's reorganization.

But back to the concept of recruiting people from companies doing layoffs.  Thoughts/questions for your reading pleasure and comments:

  1. Do we really want the laid off people?  They were the weak ones, right?  (damn - that's harsh. Bear with me)
  2. At the end of the day, most of us would love to create FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in the minds of everyone at the targeted company.  Benioff has a big enough microphone to do that on a macro basis, but the rest of us can't really do that.  Neither can our CEOs, because most of them are babies when it comes to their use of social, their following, etc.
  3. That means in order to target survivors, your recruiters have to do the equivalent of the Mosul ground initiative (read up on your news!) and plant FUD the old fashioned way - by reaching out to candidates one at a time.
  4. But let's face it, if there was ever a time where you were going to reach to a passive candidate or two at a competitor with a "just checking in, heard about the BS" note, it's when a layoff occurs. Sadly, most TA shops have so much going on this won't happen unless it's demanded.
  5. Follow up notes on the value of laid off candidates - I believe they have value.  The bigger the layoff (5,000 is pretty big) and the better the economy when it happens (means the company missed on strategy, not a reflection of the talent), the more there will be high quality employees in the layoff.

Should we recruit from competitors who just announced a layoff?

Um - yeah.

But it's harder than it looks.  And you're CEO tweeting is likely to give you jack in the process.  So get ready to roll up your sleeves and spend a day targeting and pinging candidates with a personalized message.

PS - Benioff is talking to the survivors at Microsoft as much as he's talking to the impacted.  That's the value of having a rock star CEO who can "imply" a whole bunch of things with the social megaphone they have.

 


The Perils of Your Company Culture Becoming Sales-Focused (Above All Else)...

Nothing happens without sales.  Treat your salespeople right, because unless they kill something, nobody eats.

For the reasons stated above, it's not wrong for the leaders of your company to want to transform your culture into a sales machine.  The problem happens when people who weren't hired to sell suddenly find themselves with quotas but no idea of what to do next.

I was reminded of the perils of leaders trying to transform a decent culture into one that is purely revenue-focused by two things over the holiday weekend.  First, this from Fast Company on the Tesla acquisition of one-time solar energy darling SolarCity:

If there was one sign that the company was flying too close to the sun, it was, many felt, an extravagant sales-team huddle in Las Vegas around March 2015. In a scene straight out of HBO’s Silicon SolarCity.IPO_1Valley, Barnard, then SolarCity’s chief revenue officer, burst onto the stage in front of Lyndon, Peter, and 1,300 employees (Musk would arrive later) at Hakkasan nightclub, rapping over Nicki Minaj and Drake’s hit “Truffle Butter” while surrounded by provocatively dressed dancers. At another point, he appeared dressed as Helios, the Greek sun god, wearing a green suit of armor designed by the same people who created the Iron Man costume for that movie. “The party was cool,” recalls hip-hop artist Chingy, who also performed. “Lots of energy, a beautiful crowd. We shined like the sun.” There was, after all, much for them to celebrate. SolarCity was by then the clear industry leader, owning a third of the residential market and handling more installations than its next 50 competitors combined. (Barnard explains that he was only trying to rally his troops, and strongly denies that the culture became bro-y. “I don’t tolerate that bullshit,” he says.)

OK - that's fun, but what follows shows how the grind to create revenue and keep growth rolling quarter/quarter and year/year can result in less than stellar sales practices:

The company’s growth rate—it was hiring 100 sales reps a week to help hit aggressive targets—led to some dubious tactics when it came to marketing SolarCity’s zero-money-down concept. Many sources felt that the drive to hook customers often eclipsed any concerns about whether they would follow through with the lease purchase. “You had all these poorly trained reps basically going, ‘Just sign here! Don’t worry, you can cancel any time!’ ” says a former sales director. “People were treating it like signing off on iTunes’ terms and conditions.

The company’s average cancellation rate increased to 45% or higher; its door-to-door sales team saw rates of 70%, multiple sources say. (The SEC is reportedly probing the lack of public disclosures around cancellation rates in the solar industry. A spokesperson for SolarCity says that rates have improved, and that the company reports on “installed assets,” rather than “preinstallation cancellation rates.”) With competition in the solar space increasing, SolarCity engaged in a pricing war with many of its rivals, a race to the bottom that hurt deal profitability.

If there's one thing that seemingly happens a lot when companies/employees are under incredible pressure to sell, it's the emergence of low quality/borderline fraudulent sales that might not ever generate revenue as outlined above at SolarCity.

I wrapped up the holiday week by listening to some former Wells Fargo employees talk about the account fraud that happened at the company, with over 2.1 million fake accounts created by associates at the giant retail bank.  To hear my dinner companions tell it, everyone in the company knew it was going on. Find a good rundown of what happened at Wells Fargo here - and here's a great snapshot of what can go wrong when you say EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE IN SALES at your company:

“Cross-selling,” it’s called, and virtually all banks want to do more of it. Once a customer opens a checking or savings account, maybe he or she would also like an auto loan or overdraft protection or a credit card. The more products a customer has with a bank, the more money the bank makes and the less likely the customer is to leave. That’s why all banks cross-sell. But arguably no bank has ever done it with the fevered intensity of Wells Fargo.

Training in “questionable sales practices was required or you were to be fired,” a former employee tells Fortune. “We were constantly told we would end up working for McDonald’s” for not meeting quotas, a former branch manager told the Los Angeles Times in 2013; another former branch manager said employees “talked a homeless woman into opening six checking and savings accounts with fees totaling $39 a month.” 

The message was clear to everyone in the retail bank: “The route to success was selling more than your peers,” the board’s investigation found—not profitability or customer satisfaction, but simply selling more products to each customer. Everyone knew the goals were sheer fantasy for many branches and employees. At some branches not enough customers walked in the door, or area residents were too poor to need more than a few banking products. Bank leaders called overall quotas “50/50 plans” because they figured only half the regions could meet them. Yet no excuses were tolerated. You met the quotas or paid a price.  The predictable result: fake accounts.

Ugh. Companies can't succeed without sales.  But leaders who are trying to transform from product/service cultures to become sales machines at all costs generally fail.  More often than not with jail time being possible/likely for someone involved.


PEOPLE STAT OF THE DAY: Jobs in The Steel Industry & Automation...

I'll just leave this here...

14 people make 500,000 tons of steel annually at a location in Austria.

Not a typo.

From BusinessWeek on automation in the steel industry:

The Austrian village of Donawitz has been an iron-smelting center since the 1400s, when ore was dug from mines carved out of the snow-capped peaks nearby. Over the centuries, Donawitz developed into the Hapsburg Empire’s steel-production hub, and by the early 1900s it was home to Europe’s largest mill. With the opening of Voestalpine AG’s new rolling mill this year, the industry appears secure. What’s less certain are the jobs.

The plant, a two-hour drive southwest of Vienna, will need just 14 employees to make 500,000 tons of robust steel wire a year—vs. as many as 1,000 in a mill with similar capacity built in the 1960s. Inside the facility, red-hot metal snakes its way along a 700-meter (2,297-foot) production line. Yet the floors are spotless, the only noise is a gentle hum that wouldn’t overwhelm a quiet conversation, and most of the time the place is deserted except for three technicians who sit high above the line, monitoring output on a bank of flatscreens. “We have to forget steel as a core employer,” says Wolfgang Eder, Voestalpine’s chief executive officer for the past 13 years. “In the long run we will lose most of the classic blue-collar workers, people doing the hot and dirty jobs in coking plants or around the blast furnaces. This will all be automated.”

From 1,000 jobs in the 1960s, to 14 FTEs today. Sounds like a post for Labor Day weekend rather than the 4th of July.  Too good to wait until 2 months for, however.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys labor that can be automated...

 


Sleepy HR Pros Won't Spend More than 30 Seconds On This Post... (The Mary Meeker Slides)

Only the true players will spend 5 minutes or more with this post and it's referred content...It's deep, but pure gold...

Kleiner Perkins general partner Mary Meeker launched the 22nd edition of the Internet Trends Report at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on May 31, 2017. Dating back to 1995, when Mary was still an equity analyst at Morgan Stanley, the annual report compiles and analyzes data from a wide range of sources, providing insights on the state of the Internet Economy. The deck covers a broad array of topics, including global internet user trends, advertising and e-commerce, gaming, online media, digital health, and much, much more. This guide is intended to highlight some of the key topics of discussion in this year’s edition – and to help media navigate the report.

It's deep.  I can guarantee if you spend 10 minutes with it, you'll find 4-5 things to share with you team and you'll look smart as hell.  A trend-spotter, if you will...

Highlights of the 300 slide deck from ReCode (full deck below from Slideshare, click through if you don't see the slides):

  • Global smartphone growth is slowing: Smartphone shipments grew 3 percent year over year last year, versus 10 percent the year before. This is in addition to continued slowing internet growth, which Meeker discussed last year. (editors note - what's next?  Apple needs a new product)
  • Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries. Twenty percent of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016, while accuracy is now about 95 percent. (editor's note - holy ****)
  • In 10 years, Netflix went from 0 to more than 30 percent of home entertainment revenue in the U.S. This is happening while TV viewership continues to decline. (editor's note - holy ****, even with all those shared passwords?)
  • Entrepreneurs are often fans of gaming, Meeker said, quoting Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman and Mark Zuckerberg. Global interactive gaming is becoming mainstream, with 2.6 billion gamers in 2017 versus 100 million in 1995. Global gaming revenue is estimated to be around $100 billion in 2016, and China is now the top market for interactive gaming.
  • China remains a fascinating market, with huge growth in mobile services and payments and services like on-demand bike sharing. (More here: The highlights of Meeker's China slides.)
  • While internet growth is slowing globally, that’s not the case in India, the fastest growing large economy. The number of internet users in India grew more than 28 percent in 2016. That’s only 27 percent online penetration, which means there’s lots of room for internet user-ship to grow. Mobile internet usage is growing as the cost of bandwidth declines. (More here: The highlights of Meeker's India slides.)
  • In the U.S. in 2016, 60 percent of the most highly valued tech companies were founded by first- or second-generation Americans and are responsible for 1.5 million employees. Those companies include tech titans Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook.
  • Healthcare: Wearables are gaining adoption with about 25 percent of Americans owning one, up 12 percent from 2016. Leading tech brands are well-positioned in the digital health market, with 60 percent of consumers willing to share their health data with the likes of Google in 2016.

Daaaaamn.  There's a lot here.  This one's for the true players. Enjoy...


The Boomerang Effect of Firing All The UBER Leaders...

By this time, you're all caught up on all the events happening at Uber.  Uber-Harassment (couldn't resist), aggressive behavior, a big employee relations-style investigation by outside counsel and a bumbled all-hands meeting that included an HR leader calling for everyone to hug it out and a board member saying that women talked to much and then resigning.

Whew. That's a lot.  

You don't need more Uber status updates, so in the aftermath of Uber taking out most of it's leadership team including it's founder/CEO, I'm here to offer one observation.

Uber is ripe for a cultural crisis - but not the one you expect.

The biggest risk for Uber is that as they try to improve their culture, they loose the edge that made them special.  That edge was being the hardest charging, most aggressive company in the face of the planet.

Uber's doing the right thing reacting to recent events and attempting to ensure the culture for employees improves. But a likely side effect to that necessity is that the company is going to provide built in excuses for a lack of execution.

Uber never would have grown into who it is today if the leaders weren't absolute a##holes when it came to confronting challenges - the local governments, the needed ability to scale, dealing with global leaders and governments.

In all of these areas, Uber was about action first and permission later.

You know, exactly the behavior that caused the car wreck when it came to harassment and a hundred other negative behaviors.

Action first, boldness and permission later.  Unacceptable when it comes to dealing with employees - much more care is needed. But action first/boldness/permission later is a big part of what allowed Uber to dominate the market and grow at the pace it did.

Expect to see a downturn in execution at Uber in the years to come.  The DNA that made them cringeworthy with employees is directly related to what made them special in the marketplace/business world.

UPDATE - note from a reader - "Hi Kris.  Interesting post.  I struggle with your conclusions (a little).  Maybe because I continually fight the “this is retail” mentality when it comes to how people are treated.   Are hard charging and respectful mutually exclusive concepts?   Can you have an edge, and not do incredibly stupid stuff?   Can you be decisive and not be a dick?   I think so."

I agree with the reader. The biggest point I was trying to make is that when you've operating this way for so long, it's hard to put the genie back in the bottle from a hard-charging results perspective.  I think UBER is going to have to tolerate lower execution because how they've treated certain classification of employees is how they've treated the market to a large degree.


Sometimes Great Teammates Decide To Let Co-Workers Live With the Consequences of Stupid Decisions...

Sometime after your first year with your company, you start to settle in.  All the onboarding is complete, the honeymoon is over and you've accurately assessed your job as a mix of positives and negatives.  If you're still there and not on the market after a year, that generally means you're content.  Hopefully you're learning and things are starting to click related to your role and how you can have success.

Another thing happens after the one year mark - you've settled into a clear understanding of who your teammates are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and if applicable, the circumstances/topics/conditions that will make them absolutely self-destruct.

You're a good teammate - so you've likely tried to make the self-imploding teammate aware of his self-destructive, hot button issues. 

But.They.Just.Won't.Listen.

So you do what a reasonable human would do after getting nowhere.  They next time the mushroom cloud is getting ready to go up, you grab some popcorn, a Fresca and get ready to watch the show.

That's what happened to Buster Posey (catcher of professional baseball's San Francisco Giants) last week.  A hothead teammate picked a fight with an opponent, and Buster decided to take this scrum off.  If you don't see the picture below, enable pictures or click through to the site to see the setup.  Buster's the one that's standing behind home plate while the #### is getting ready to go down:

Posey

Pretty good analysis from the Mercury News in the Bay area:

Oh, crap. Why do I have to deal with this knucklehead? Whatever.

Buster Posey can say whatever he wishes with his own words about what happened Monday afternoon. He can speak out loud and put his own spin on the way Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland’s purpose-pitch hit Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper in the butt and sparked a bench-clearing meltdown. But anyone who watched Posey’s body language during the play could read and see exactly what was happening inside his brain.

Really, dude? And you expect me to defend you after . . . that?

The unwritten rules of Major League Baseball decree that when an angry batter leaves the box and charges at the pitcher, the catcher is supposed to sprint out and make an effort to hold back the batter before he reaches the mound.

Posey did just the opposite when Strickland plunked Harper, who reacted with a stare and then a sprint toward the pitching rubber. Watch the video. Watch Posey. As Harper storms toward Strickland, the Giants’ catcher actually takes a half step backward, not forward. Then he watches.

You’re on your own, pal. I can’t believe this. But you deserve whatever happens next. 

As everyone knows, Posey is the center of gravity inside the Giants’ room. He has been almost since 2010 when he joined the team full time. He calls the pitches on the field. He calls out teammates when needed. He has a dry and wicked sense of humor but is a very serious man. We don’t see everything that happens when the locker room door shuts. But you get the impression that before any other Giants’ player speaks up, he at least glances over to Posey to see how he’s reacting.

Odds are you've got a couple of people like that pitcher in your organization.  They've got talent.  But they've got a hot button that limits them career-wise.  You've probably already gotten splatter on you from the fallout when you tried to help them.  Either they lashed out at you or someone else in the organization accused you of being in their camp.

At some point, you have to back away, let them implode and let nature take its course.  It's Darwinian in nature.  They've got a flaw and try as you might, you can't help - and you certainly can't fix it.  They couldn't adapt.

You're a vet now.  Sometimes you have to do what Posey did.  Just let it happen and stay above the fray.

The honeymoon is over, right?  


The Trap of Non-Specific Feedback As a Replacement For Coaching...

If you look around long enough in your life - especially if you have kids - you'll see a pattern emerge.

People are trying to coach others as much as they can, but they default to non-specific feedback that is unhelpful at best and counter-productive at worst.

Want some examples?  Sweet!  Here you go:

"Try Harder"

"You Just Need To Work More"

"Focus"

"Be Patient"

"Give Them What They Want"

Read that list.  Odds are that you've used most, if not all, of these in the course of your day to day life coaching someone - a friend, a kid, a parent, a team member at work, and yes - someone you manage.

Those non-specific words feel like coaching, but they're not. They're proxies for you actually taking the time to figure out why someone is failing (big and small), as well as analyzing how they could help themselves.

Most coaching tools engage the person who needs coaching to ask them what they can do differently.  That's a start for getting to specifics that might make a difference.

But in the corporate world as well as non-work life, it's easy to be prescriptive and tell the person what to do in order to get better results.

That's failure #1 if you're responsible for coaching someone.  You didn't engage them, you told them what to do based on what you see.

Failure #2? Using any of the phrases above or anything similar.

You gotta really try harder.  Focus on it.  Be the ball, Danny.

Non-descriptive feedback sucks.  Stop telling people to focus and try hard. 

Lead them in a conversation about what they can do (specifics!) to get better results in any circumstance/scenario you're coaching them in.