Saying "No" Helps Train the Recipient What "Yes" Looks Like...

If there's a big problem in corporate America, it's that we say "Yes" too much at times.

Yes to that request..

Yes, I can help you..

Yes, I'd be happy to be part of your project team...

Yes, your response to my request is fine...

There's a whole lot of yes going around.  The problem?  Only about 1/2 of the "yes" responses are followed up with action that is representative of all of us living up to the commitment we made.

That's why you need to say "no" more.

Of course, simply saying no with nothing behind the no positions you as jerk.  So the "no" has to have qualifiers behind it:

Say "no" more to peers asking you for things, but then qualify it with how the request could be modified to move you to say "yes".

Say "no" more to your boss, and qualify your response to her by asking for help de-prioritizing things on your plate - which might allow you to say "yes" to the new request.

We say "yes" in the workplace when we want to say "no". We do it because we don't like to say no, and because we are horrible at negotiation.

Say "no" and tell people how the request could be modified to get to "yes".

Or just say "no" and walk away.  Either way, you've helped the organization's overall performance by providing more clarity. 


Some Thoughts on Recognition for Blue-Collar Workers...

Recognition. We've been trained to believe that everyone needs it.

Do they?

I think so, but something that's lost in the recognition/engagement market is that for many blue collar workers, getting recognition in front of their peers actually makes them feel Blue collarlike a dork/brown-noser.

Some notes from my life follow...  My dad, Kent Dunn (RIP CKD), was a lifetime telephone/telecom lineman. One of the greatest things he gave me was a work ethic.  The memory of hearing his boots hit the floor and go out the door while I was still in bed before school are riveted in my mind.  He had a bunch of positive qualities you'd want in anyone you hired from a pride of work prospective.

But one thing he never would have been comfortable with is public recognition.  Here's some things that are widely talked about today related to recognition he wouldn't have been comfortable with, with his likely reaction in parenthesis to whoever was trying to reward him with any form of praise:

  1. Recognition in front of his peers in a team setting (Don't ever do that again)...
  2. Recognition 1/1 from his boss (So what? That's my job. That wasn't special)...
  3. Recognition in a company communication (Nobody reads that stuff)...

Kent Dunn would have been uncomfortable with many of the recognition strategies we take for granted in white-collar America.  I think many blue-collar workers we have today in America are a lot like Kent.  When I think about alternative/best ways to do recognition to those folks (mostly older males in blue-collar jobs focused on making a living, not changing the world), I came up with the following two strategies:

  1.  Rather than recognize in front of the group, tell some of Kent's friends the feedback you got on his work when he's not around. Hearing that the boss was talking about your great work in a casual way among your co-workers is a passive, low impact way for the Kent Dunn's of the world to feel good.  It saves them the public humiliation (in their eyes) of praise, but the message is still delivered.
  2. To make sure the Kent Dunn's of the world hear the praise, share what the customer told you directly with him.  The strategy here is this - you praise Kent in the normal way and it feels like you are expecting to hug him, which repels Kent.  You tell Kent that 81-year old Mrs. Adams praised Kent, he knows you don't expect to hug it out and you talk about how Mrs. Adams is a hoarder and has 30 cats, but she's a nice lady.  Trust me, he heard the work context of the praise. 

In both scenarios, the recognition is still there.  The macho blue-collar worker still hears it, but based on how it's provided he doesn't feel like you expect him to come in contact with his feelings.

Feelings are scary for blue-collar employees, especially those of the male variety.

RIP Kent Dunn.  I still hear your boots.


Why I Had To Have The "There's No Crying In the Workplace" Talk With My Son....

When you read the title of this post, you might think I have sensitive sons.  Problems with emotions, crying, etc.

That's not true. I think they're pretty emotionally balanced, in the normal range, and generally OK.

I didn't have to have a talk about "there's no crying in the workplace" with one of my sons because I'm afraid his current behavior will transcend into softness in the workplace.

No - I had to have this talk with my son because all of the business reality shows feature business owners crying.  If not all the time, waaaaaay too much.

The worst offender is CNBC's The Profit.  I like this show, as it features a business investor (Marcus Lemonis) evaluating a business that's broken to decide if he can invest, take control and make money while he helps someone out.

The show goes through the process - Lemonis asks questions, challenges the owner and ultimately invests and takes control.  Along the way, there's always a shot of the owner crying, touting some hardship.

Now crying itself is not a bad thing. But if you were an alien evaluating how business gets done on Earth solely through The Profit, you'd make the assumption that the road to business success is making yourself vulnerable by crying.

Thus, the brief conversation with one of the Dunn boys who always is around and interested when I'm watching The Profit.  Here's what I was compelled to tell him:

  1. Normal people don't break down and cry when things get tough in the business world.
  2. PRO TIP - If you've got to cry, a nuts and bolts conversation about your financial statement isn't the place to do it.
  3. Instead of wanting to help you more, many people will believe you're unstable when you cry and treat you like you have a disease they can catch from you.
  4. Probably the only time its OK to cry in business is when you're showing empathy for other people.  In that way, it's acceptable and you'll be treated as someone who JUST CARES TOO MUCH.  An acceptable fault.
  5. Crying at any other time is risky.  And contrary to what this show illustrates, crying among business leaders is not common.  It doesn't happen every day - in fact, it rarely happens.
  6. PS - Man up.  You'll thank me when you're 30 for this advice.

I love The Profit featuring Marcus Lemonis.  But the crying thing might be teaching young folks things that can get them benched in life.

Clip of The Profit below if you haven't seen it.  Highly recommended for viewing with your kids with the above caveat made clear.


The Uber Thing: Now Is Your Chance to Get Funding for Leadership Training...

By now you've heard the news coming out of Uber. We always knew that this startup darling had a rough and tumble culture, and let's face it - sometimes that's needed to spark innovation. But reasonable people know you can have a performance-based culture without creating an environment full of bad stuff - including harassment.  

If you've always wanted to get budget for manager/leadership training, now is the right time to ask. Share this recent quote from Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick in the next week with the right person: India-uber

"My job as your leader is to lead…and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud," he wrote. "That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away. This is the first time I've been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it."

 Sound like any talented manager/leader in your organization? Of course it does.  Kalanick sounds like Jimmy Swaggert admitting his sins back in the day.  Look it up Gen Z, that's even before my time.

So share the Uber news and quotes with your boss and have a recommendation for what you can do to get your managers trained up.  Be sure to make my passion project a part of those conversations - the Boss Leadership Training Series from Kinetix.  It's pretty good and you can laugh with your managers as they get to watch clips like Vince Vaughn from Dodgeball talking about goal setting. Our series is a nice alternative to other capable solutions you'll see from people like DDI - we like to have a little more fun than the traditional approach.

Need more fodder to have that conversation about funding than just the harassment stories at Uber and the above quote from the CEO? Watch this video, which is a conversation between Kalanick and an Uber employee that started out OK and went horribly wrong.  Caught on camera - ugh.  The best manager training should give your managers/leaders a simple roadmap to following without resorting to closing in a way that places blame on the employee.  

Go get that budget and get something done.  Even if the Boss series I shared with you above is too much for the man.


Trump's First Labor Nominee: Burgers, Bikinis and Mocking Low Wage Workers...

Puzder

In case you missed it, Donald Trump's original pick to become Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, dropped out last week citing he was tired of the abuse that such a nomination brings.

At the heart of some of the resistance to Puzder's nomination was a domestic abuse allegation from an ex-wife and some immigration concerns related to an undocumented housekeeper.

Puzder pulling out hurt the timing of this post - I was planning to write about him in the context of his ability to lead Labor - but from the perspective of how he viewed labor, not personal events/issues.

Let's explore that topic anyway - as a moderate Republican, I would tell you this pick didn't work for me to lead Labor.  I feel like you can be anti-Union as lead Labor in a GOP administration, but you've got to be progressive about the workforce you're supporting in America - all the workforce, not just part of the workforce.

The best illustration I've found of the challenges Puzder had in that area is a recent BusinessWeek article titled "Trump's Labor Pick Loves Burgers, Bikinis and Free Markets." Let's explore some of the content and I'll give you color commentary as we flow though it related to Puzder as a potential Secretary of Labor:

“What’s more American,” the Carl’s Jr. narrator asks in a 2015 advertisement for the Most American Thickburger, “than a girl [swimsuit model Samantha Hoopes, biting into a potato-chip-stuffed cheeseburger that’s topped with a grilled hot dog] in a bikini [camera zooms out to reveal she’s wearing a stars-and-stripes string bikini] in a hot tub [covered with stars and stripes] in a truck [a Crew Cab pickup with an American flag paint job] on an aircraft carrier [with fighter planes taking off] underneath the Statue of Liberty?” Final shot: Hoopes biting into the huge burger, then #mostAmerican.

This commercial is the marketing vision of Andrew Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, owner of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, and now President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor. Puzder’s appeal to
“young, hungry guys” and their version of what makes America great helped two struggling fast-food chains become, if not top contenders, at least contenders. “I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American,” Puzder, who’s 66, said of that ad to Entrepreneur magazine. “I used to hear, ‘brands take on the personality of the CEO.’ And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.”

Capitalist color commentary - It's OK if Puzder likes the Carl's Jr. campaign that showcases models in bikini's eating a big a## burger.  It is, as the commercial describes, America. But if you routinely produce content that potentially alienates women and openly say it takes on your personality, it's kind of hard to picture you running Labor.  Can you be a capitalist? Sure, as long as the market supports the approach. Can you lead Labor?  Probably not.  There's no question had he got to confirmation hearings the ads play in those hearings, right?

"In the late 1990s the company bought Hardee’s, a struggling chain of about 3,000 restaurants located mostly in the South and Midwest, where Carl’s Jr. hadn’t established itself. The acquisition strained the company’s finances, though, and Karcher was forced out. In 2000, Puzder was appointed CEO. “Well, I think they really just said, ‘Let’s see if the cocky lawyer can fix it,’ ” he recalled in a 2009 oral history of the company conducted by California State University at Fullerton.

The first memo Puzder wrote to Hardee’s managers was direct: “No more people behind the counter unless they have all their teeth.” He closed some restaurants and directed the franchisees, who owned about half of all Hardee’s, to remodel, but that wasn’t enough to revive the brand. “You go into a store, and there’s a guy with a dirty shirt who is rude, and then you remodel the store, but the customers still go in and find a guy with a dirty shirt who is rude,” he later recounted to a trade publication. Slowly, Hardee’s came around. Sales in established restaurants increased in 2004 for the first time in years. Still, Puzder’s estimation of the workforce remained low. Hardee’s was “hiring the best of the worst. It’s kind of the bottom of the pool,” he said in a 2011 speech CNN recently dug up."

Capitalist color commentary - "I grew up in an area of Missouri with a lot of Hardee's.  It is the dregs of fast-food for sure, with brands like Wendy's and McDonalds looking like Tavern On The Green in comparison.  I also spend a lot of time these days on the road, and when I duck into any fast food place I suddenly realize that whether I'm a 1% or not, I'm incredibly blessed and there's a whole section of America that should view me as an aristocrat. Some of those people don't have all their teeth.  You can long as a CEO of a company like Carl's to upgrade your workforce, but the focus of someone to lead Labor should be less about mocking that section of society and more about how to help them improve their circumstances through work. 

Puzder’s business experience has been largely in a low-wage, low-margin industry built on a franchise model that tends to shift profits upward and responsibility downward. He claims 75,000 people as employees in the U.S. when presenting his qualifications for a cabinet position. But, like other fast-food executives, he tends to deflect blame for their treatment by franchisees when workers complain.And many complain. About 60 percent of the U.S. Department of Labor’s investigations into CKE restaurants turned up at least one violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to data compiled by Bloomberg BNA. Most other fast-food chains were even worse.

Capitalist color commentary - "Hard one here. There's going to be a lot of claims in a business like this. If you had a Secretary of Labor from this type of business, you'd still see claims, but you'd want to see some type of progressive workforce planning that would reduce claims over time."

 
Closing - Puzder is out, and Acosta is in as the Labor nominee.  The fact that Puzder made it to the nomination stage shows how tone deaf the Trump administration is at times.  The GOP won the election, so it's rightfully going to stock the cabinet with - you guessed it - Republicans.
 
How about we find some Republicans that don't alienate women and aren't flippant about low-end labor, many of whom voted from Trump?

CEB Study Shows Eliminating Performance Reviews Causes Managers to Suck More - Not Less.

I know, I know.  You think performance reviews suck. You're probably right, they probably do.  But is the alternative - not doing them at all - really better? 

I've always thought the biggest lie with the sexy, "we're eliminating performance reviews" clique was the assumption that managers of people in your company could deliver what's required to make sure employees still received feedback on how they're doing without the formal performance review.

My experience is that all of our managers could stand to get better at delivering feedback, and most avoid real feedback sessions with employees like the plague.  After all, feedback is confrontation, I-hate-talking-to-peopleand most of us avoid confrontation if left to our own devices.

The formal performance review forced that feedback at least 1X per year. A recent CEB study found a drop in employee engagement and performance across companies that eliminated performance reviews.  More from Fast Company:

A small but growing cohort of Fortune 500 companies made headlines recently when they broke with tradition and ditched the annual review.

Executives claimed performance reviews were often inefficient. Neuroscience backed them up. One study found that the dread filling employees prior to a review can restrict creativity. Another revealed that performance reviews foster a fixed mind-set in which the employee believes they’ll never be able to improve and achieve professional growth.

So it made sense to toss the annual review process. Leadership advisory firm CEB found that the number of Fortune 1000 companies eliminating the annual review increased to 12% in 2015 from 1% back in 2011.

But CEB subsequently found that getting rid of the review didn’t always reverse its restrictive effects. In fact, it proved to drop employee engagement and performance by 10%.

CEB’s researchers polled nearly 10,000 employees in 18 countries. Workers came from a variety of industries and organizational sizes. The researchers then compared outcomes and perceptions of those employees in organizations that use performance ratings to those in organizations without ratings. They also did a series of interviews with heads of HR to get a handle on trends and challenges for performance management.

Why did that happen? CEB’s analysis also found the following contributing factors in companies that dropped the formal/annual performance review:

  • Manager conversation quality declined by 14%
  • Managers spent less time on informal reviews conversations
  • Top performers’ satisfaction with pay differentiation decreased by 8%
  • Employee engagement dropped by 6%

Which sounds a lot like this - when you eliminate the annual performance review, it decreases the pressure on managers to have their s### together related to being able to defend their stance on an employee's performance level .  

When the pressure goes down, it sounds like manager's coach less, not more.

So if you're going to eliminate the performance review, you'll need to become a LOT more formal with your expectations on things like 1-on-1's. If you don't get more formal with those things once you eliminate performance reviews, the CEB study shows managers coach less, not more.

The numbers don't lie.  If you're thinking of being sexy and eliminating the performance review, you better have an alternative structure in place to force managers to coach - or they won't.


Is Your Employment Brand (and Managers of People) Ready to Take On Trump?

As the Donald Trump as President experience reaches its second week, one of the big issues on the table is whether your employees expect you as a leader to take a stand related to your views on the recent policy, actions and tweet activity of our new commander in chief.

There's really 3 decisions you can make:

--Come out against the policy set you see, either overall or with specific policy mentions, Green-card_frontonly

--Come out in support (good luck with that), or 

--Treat it as you always have - not mentioning anything as a company leader related to political policy, because let's face it - you never have and word is you have a few things on your plate.

Still, it's important to note (as John Sumser recently identified) some things have changed in the world related to employment branding specifically related to position on policy. Greatcompany.org is a good example of a small site looking to celebrate companies opposed the recent Executive Order on Immigration, with another goal of shaming big companies that haven't taken a position.

It's a grown up world.  Some companies, especially those in specific geographical locations (what up, Bay Area) have an easy choice.  They're on record as being opposed to the policies - the policies threaten much of their talent strategy and just as importantly, their employee base expects them to take a stand vs Trump.  For everyone else, it's not so simple.

I think there's two decisions in play here:

  1. If you're a company leader, do you take a stand, either overall that Trump's a bad guy or specific policies are bad?
  2. If you're a manager of people/a team, do you take a stand and tell your employees what you think - either way (in support of Trump policies or not)

For the vast, vast majority of companies, it's pretty simple.  Taking stands equal blowback from customers (almost half Trump voters, half voted DNC) and that logic follows to most of our employee bases.  

I'm more interested in the manager of people approach. Again, the vast majority of managers of people are going to have mixed teams with a variety of viewpoints. If I'm a leader of a company, I respect my manager's view on any of these issues.  With that in mind, I'm also paying you as a manager to manage a complex team with various viewpoints - GOP, DNC and everything in between.  The more you forcefully give you views on either side, you're polarizing your team and the result will be some folks disconnecting.

In short, I think managers get paid for balance.  They can let the world (and direct reports) know how they feel, but they have to do it in a way that doesn't shut others with different views down.

Me? My view is that the executive order was short-sighted in that we treated current green card holders and other prime statuses as part of the herd.  Can't treat people from other parts of the world who are effectively wearing a USA t-shirt like that.  Big mistake.  As far as the rest of the order, I'd like to wait and see.

I'm not marching on the airport with you as you seek to run the #deleteuber hashtag.  Last time I checked, I thought even protesters deserved clean rides with no parking costs attached when they want to get to the airport.

But then again, I'm not boycotting Starbucks because Howard Shultz said he wants to hire 10,000 refugees. Hell, that sounds like some people I'd like to meet and a lot like the American dream. 

I'm the center of America.  You know, kind of like the composite of your company - and the team you manage.


Should You Look For Children of Alcoholics to Work With Your Most Difficult Leaders?

That seems like a crazy suggestion, but bear with me.

Your most difficult leaders are complete a*ses. They're terrible people and they grind and use talented direct reports like commodities.  No HR leader condones that. Not you, not me.

But - and there is a but - at times, your most difficult leaders are entrenched for very good reasons from a business perspective.  They're uber-talented in small niches that make them super valuable. They get results with their style that no one has generated for the business in question. You know the right way to manage people, but you have no leverage to impact change related to this type of leader in your organization.

Which means you're left to help the organization cope with this management style.  One of the biggest ways you can help the organization cope is to find direct reports for the difficult leader who can take the punishment and abuse he/she is dealing out. Steve jobs

Your best bet in this situation? It might just be children of alcoholics.  

Stay with me.

Was at lunch with a friend recently and they shared a conversation they had with someone at Apple during the Steve Jobs glory days.  One of the things they learned from that Apple executive was that over time, Apple came to the realization that the best people to work and thrive under an abusive Steve Jobs were children of alcoholics.  Why children of alcoholics?  Consider the following rationalization that person provided:

Children of alcoholics:

  1. Are used to explosions from people they are around and subservient to ALL THE TIME.
  2. Are used to receiving NO LOVE from the alcoholic parent in questions.
  3. Are used to cleaning up messes.
  4. Are used to covering up bad things that happen as a result of the alcoholic.
  5. See glimpses of good in the parent in question that make them want to hold on, even as the blowback is distributed on many different levels.

Add it all up and it makes sense - children of alcoholics are probably best suited to deal with your most difficult leader and thrive where others can't.

Of course, to make the connection you've got to dive deeper into the interview than you normally would.  You can probably only afford to interview in this way for the highest positions in your company with a difficult leader, not for line management positions.

Also, you don't have to ask directly about alcoholism in the family.  You can instead ask about dealing with difficult people in the workplace and then tie it back to what they learned from their family that helped them learn those workplace lessons.

Ask broad questions, probe back to the family days and be an active listener. You might find the perfect direct report for your most difficult leader.


The Heisenberg Rules: What HR Can Learn from Breaking Bad (#2 - Affiliation Matters)

Capitalist Note - I finally got around to binge-watching the former AMC hit Breaking Bad on Netflix, which follows high school chemistry teacher Walter White's journey through a lung cancer diagnosis and his subsequent turn to becoming a world-class meth producer.  This series (The Heisenberg Rules) represents what I was reminded of as a HR leader by Breaking Bad.  If you haven't seen the series, you can view a synopsis by clicking here. Spoilers abound in this series.

Rule #2 in the Heisenberg Rules is AFFILIATION MATTERS:

One of the best things about Breaking Bad is the time it takes to develop the primary characters Pinkman in the series.  In my last post in this series, we talked about the emasculation of Walter White. Would he have turned into the monster he became if those around him could/would have acknowledged his high performance?  We'll never know.

Today we move away from Walter White and take a look at my favorite character in the series - Jessie Pinkman.  Here's a description of Jessie: 

Jesse Bruce Pinkman is the deuteragonist of Breaking Bad. He is the former partner of Walter White in the methamphetamine drug trade. Jesse was a small-time methamphetamine user, manufacturer, and dealer. He was also an inattentive student in Walter White's chemistry class, leading to his dropping out. In his mid-20s, Jesse became Walt's business partner in the meth trade. Before his partnership with Walt, he, operating under the pseudonym "Cap'n Cook", added a little Chili Powder to make his methamphetamine stand out in the market.

Walt insisted on making a pure product, however, and thus eschewed the chili powder altogether, patronizingly teaching Jesse how to make "proper" meth. Walt often treated Jesse like a foolish son in constant need of stern correction. Jesse's own family kicked him out because of his drug use. Despite the friction between them, he and Walt have a deep bond of loyalty. Like Walt, Jesse is horrified by the brutality at the higher levels of the drug trade, but does what he thinks is necessary. He wrestles with feelings of guilt about the deaths, all drug-related, of people he's been associated with, especially his girlfriend Jane Margolis. He often attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings to help deal with these feelings.

Jessie's my favorite character because he actually struggles to cope with all the things he sees in the drug trade.  Still, he's a simple kid making a load of cash with few other options available to him professionally.  

Walter White and Jessie are "partners" only in finance.  As the subject-matter expert, Walter has all the power in the relationship.  The green shading above accurately outlines how Walter patronizes Jessie throughout the series, only appealing to him as an equal when there's a murder to be completed to ensure their safety. 

As a result of that treatment, Jessie is what I call, "gettable" for anyone who wants to take the time to drive a wedge between him and Walter.  

Jessie knows that Walter doesn't consider him a true partner.  That means people willing to treat him better than Walter have a chance to turn him to their side. That ultimately happens when Gus, a drug load who Jessie and Walter work for, instructs his henchmen to take Jessie out of the meth lab to run various organized crime errands with them. They even go to the trouble of setting up a fake robbery that Jessie can save others from, which results in praise, deeper connection and - you guessed it - Walter going crazy that their bosses have Jessie doing work other than being his patronized assistant.

When Walter displays his paranoia to Jessie about the new relationship he can't control, it pushes Jessie to trust his new friends more, not less.

Of course, they're all criminals, so what's the point?

The point is that in any organization, AFFILIATION MATTERS. 

Walter's the best at what he does, but Jessie is treated as manual labor, not a partner.  When the drug lords involved need to make Walter feel unstable and at-risk, all they have to do is show Jessie Pinkman the love he doesn't get from Walter:

--come work with us.

--come hang with us.

--seems like you're doing well - nice work!

It's the same blueprint whether you're developing software, running a restaurant, or yes - cooking Crystal Meth.

If you're treating someone valuable on your team like a commodity, just know this - if there's a market for their skills, all it takes is for someone who needs them (or needs to hurt you) to show them love, affiliation and respect.

Once that happens, they're probably gone.  Or as Jessie Pinkman would say, "YO, MANAGING PEOPLE 101, B***H".


The Heisenberg Rules: What HR Can Learn from Breaking Bad (#1 - Acknowledge High Performance)

Capitalist Note - I finally got around to binge-watching the former AMC hit Breaking Bad on Netflix, which follows high school chemistry teacher Walter White's journey through a lung cancer diagnosis and his subsequent turn to becoming a world-class meth producer.  This series (The Heisenberg Rules) represents what I was reminded of as a HR leader by Breaking Bad.  If you haven't seen the series, you can view a synopsis by clicking here. Spoilers abound in this series.

Rule #1 in the Heisenberg Rules is ACKNOWLEDGE HIGH PERFORMANCE:

The biggest transformation you'll find in Breaking Bad is the growing confidence of Walter White (WW). Once a high school chemistry teacher working a Walter_Whitesecond job where he's routinely berated by a car wash owner with a unibrow and 3 fewer degrees that what he holds, Walt's transformation into a capable meth producer delivers one important outcome - he's now good at something the world values and will pay for - even if it's highly illegal.

As WW explores how to best make meth, the following things occur in a pretty rapid fashion:

--He learns that his background in chemistry makes him uniquely qualified to produce the product, including a purity level unmatched by any other producers.

--The world displays that it will pay large amounts of money for his product.

--He learns that the people who know about his talent treat him with a form of respect that has rarely felt since college.  Of course, they're criminals, but that respect has been something that's been missing in WW's life for years.

Breaking Bad goes to great lengths early in the series to show Walter White as an emasculated man.  He doesn't earn a great living, his family takes him for granted and a key relationship - his DEA brother-in-law "Hank" - is cast as an alpha male to show the contrast.

As a result of WW's emergence as an expert, his confidence grows, but so does his frustration.  His new identity is hidden from his family for much of the show, which results in him having to do things like provide a cover for how he pays for his top grade cancer treatment - relying on a lie that former college friends (now rich) are paying the bills rather than disclosing that his earnings from meth production are the source of payment.

Through it all, Walter White smolders at the continuing emasculation.  He's treated as a bit player by his own family and an object of pity as he earns hundreds of thousands of dollars - in secret.

Eventually, Walter's wife becomes aware of his new life as America's top meth producer. While that's a story arc of its own, it's an important contributor to WW's frustration.

Skyler (Walter's wife) is rightfully fearful of what's going on.  But she never really turns the corner to acknowledge what's in front of her - that the emasculated man that's been the object of pity actually has skills that will result in a ultimate stockpile of 10 million dollars.

What's the tie in to the world of HR and talent?  It's pretty simple.  We routinely error in our companies by failing to do the following:

--recognize what individuals are best at and what makes them unique from a performance perspective.

--use references to what people are best at when we are coaching them on things they need to improve on.

--understanding the need for recognition - about true high performance, however small it may be in some cases - provides a deep connection that will deliver many managers through difficult circumstances with the employees who report to them.

I was reminded by Breaking Bad that failing to stop and acknowledge when someone really kicks ass (not in a public way, but 1-on-1) is a missed opportunity and is probably at the core of a lot of relationship dysfunction in the workplace.

I'll leave you with a final thought.  Let's say you have a problematic employee you're coaching in a lot of areas.  The one thing she's good at is being aggressive towards people who aren't getting things done and forcing them to act.  She's a bit of a bully, but damn - she get get results in that circumstance.

Of course, what makes her great there serves as a relationship noose everywhere else.  She's a one-trick pony, trying to bully everyone all the time.

Why not acknowledge her super skill in getting people to get things done (only using in limited circumstances) while coaching her on her crass, abrasive personality everywhere else?

Acknowledge high performance where you can, even if some view it as negative.  It's the bridge to coach the same person where it really matters.