Leadership and The Power of Doing the Work...

From my drive time this week, I got two very different takes on a public figure in the business world - a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk.  Here's a description of Gary that I pulled from Inc.com so I didn't have to think about how to describe him:

If you’re an Inc reader, you’re probably familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s the entrepreneur who grew his father’s business from a humble liquor store into a wine empire through a combination of social media and content marketing. Today he’s a media mogul, bestselling author, and aspiring New York Jets owner. Clouds and dirt

The man is a massive success, and he’s certainly no dummy.

That said, unless you’re a certain type of person in a very specific set of circumstances, following his "Jab, Jab, Crush It" model could likely sabotage your shot at success. Before you call me crazy, let me tell you why.

He relies on brute force.

Gary V. talks a lot about how hard he works. He regularly stays up until three in the morning, sending and responding to emails to cement connections. He tweets in every spare minute he has--in cabs, in-between meetings, during commercials. And when he’s not doing all that, he’s creating content and running his company.

Believe me when I say I admire the guy. But the fact remains that his approach to building a following is all about brute force. It relies on huge sacrifices of rest, free time, and deep concentration.

If you want a taste of Gary V, go here and here.

He's a polarizing figure.  One great friend of mine saw him speak recently and is all in. Another great friend of mine wouldn't slow down if Gary crossed the road in front of her SUV - she'd actually speed up.

But even if you hate Gary V, one thing you can't deny in his message is the power of doing the work.  It's something all of us forget as we move into leadership roles and start managing others.  Are you still doing the work on a daily basis?

Are you sure?  Or are you managing others doing the work?  Not the same thing.

Gary V has a new theme in his act - it's called "Clouds and Dirt".  The meaning of that theme is pretty simple -the clouds—the high-end philosophy of what you believe and also you being a dictator of strategy—and the dirt—the low-down subject matter expertise that allows you to execute against it. Gary V thinks you should forget about everything else.

He believes in Clouds and Dirt so much that he has a new Kswiss shoe - I'm not making this shit up - coming out in a few months.  That shoe is called "Clouds and Dirt."  Blue stripes for clouds, brown stripes for dirt.  Really. Kswiss shoes have 5 stripes for the uninitiated.

Behind the hype, Gary V is right about one thing:

Your strength as a leader comes from never losing your roots as a practitioner. Can you do the stuff you talk about?  The longer you and I are in leadership positions, the less we do the work.

Even if you do one thing a day that is actually "the work", do that one thing.

Be a practitioner.  Get grimy with some stuff in your shop.  It will make you a better leader and build empathy for your team and industry at the same time.

 


Is It Better to Be Feared or Loved in Corporate America?

I know, I know.  The cliche is that it's better to be feared, right?  Would you believe that an expert along the lines of Machiavelli disagrees at times?  Here's what Machiavelli has to say about protection against conspiracies in the Prince, which are plots to hurt someone on some level and reduce their power.

Being feared, Machiavelli says, is an important protection against a conspiracy.  But the ultimate protection, he says, is to be well liked.  Not simply because people who love you are less likely to take you down, but because they are less likely to tolerate anyone else trying to take you down. If a prince guards himself against that hatred, Machiavelli writes, "simple particular offenses will make trouble for him...because if they were even of spirit and had the power to do it, they are held back by the universal benevolence that they see the prince has." The prince

The problem with power on any level in an organization is that you have to make tough decisions.  Tough decisions ultimately hurt someone and cause enemies to be made.  In that circumstance, having the vast majority love you does seem to offer some protection against those who would want to harm you career-wise.

But Machiavelli is a bit of a thick read and contradicts himself from time to time, including this additional passage on the being feared vs being hated:

Here a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved. . . . Love endures by a bond which men, being scoundrels, may break whenever it serves their advantage to do so; but fear is supported by the dread of pain, which is ever present.

I'd add to this and say that if it's power you want to hold in an organization - it's better to be in the extremes - you either want to be feared or loved.  The middle isn't going to do you much good.

Which brings us to who you are behaviorally, right?  If it is power you have and it's easier for you to be hated than loved, than you should go with it.   Nice guy or gal? Let your benevolence shine through like the flashlight on your iPhone.

Do you want to be loved or hated?  Do you and don't be someone you're not.

 


POWERPOINT MBA: Font Sizes In Your Presentations

Let's face it - Some of you suck at PowerPoint.  Heck, I've come to realize that being a good presenter and being good at PowerPoint at times are related and at times are not.

Case in point - you can be a great presenter and use PowerPoint in a very minimalistic way.  Great presenters tell stories, and the best way to use PP in that regard is often slides that have nothing but pictures.  

In that arena, you can be an artist.  But 99% of the population struggles to do PowerPoint in that way - because they can't READ the slides as a presenter. Pp

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your presentations have to serve as leave-behinds or informational/educational vehicles within your company after you present on the topic of choice, pictures suck in that regard.  The leave-behind means nothing. You gave a great presentation and dazzled some people with your art, but nobody knows what the #### you are talking about if they fire up your deck without you there.

Not doing what's expected is a quick way to get beheaded in the corporate world.  So you need some words - but how many words?

A blast from the past - Guy Kawasaki - had a 10/20/30 rule. A presentation should be no longer than 10 slides, should last no more than 20 minutes, and the font size should be at least 30.  He's covering a lot of ground there, including deck size, presentation length and how big the font is.  Feels right for presentations in your company where people already have directional ideas and understanding of the business issues at hand.

Kawasaki also has another formula for the optimal font size: The age of the oldest person in the room, divided by 2. Which means you can go smaller than a 30 font - and put more on the slides - if you don't have a 55-60 year old in the room.

Is that right?  I'm not sure.  It's clever, but in this case clever doesn't mean right.

For best results, I recommend the following:

1--If you're presenting outside your company, do more slides with pictures only and tell a story.  If you can't go all pictures, make every second slide "picture only" - which means in between you'll have some word slides to lean on.

2 -Beware of your culture if you're doing an internal presentation.  We know you saw a Ted Talk.  You're not a Harvard PhD talking about a cute topic to support your book.  You're here to tell us about the new accounting software.  We don't need the picture from the Matrix (even though I would love that), just put your implementation plan on some slides (no less than 30 font!) and let's slog through this.

For every presentation, there's a reality.  Let your strategy follow that.  Let your freak flag fly when appropriate and most importantly, don't get fired.  Or have someone make a mental note to fire you down the road if they have a chance.


"I Am Not Uncertain" - Why Some Hidden Phrases Illustrate Your Culture To Perfection...

“I am not uncertain.”

The phrase is a workplace culture feature from the Showtime series Billions.

"I am not uncertain" is what employees of the hedge fund Axe Capital featured in Billions say to their boss, Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), when they’ve got potentially incriminating inside information they are about to trade on and Axelrod asks them if they are sure: the goods on a scandal about to topple a car company, or a tip that the Nigerian currency is weak.

Framing this assertion in the negative insulates whoever’s saying it from liability from prosecution, which seems unimaginable, from a legal point of view. But that’s the point that Billions has hammered from day one: The rules that govern the world of big money are strange and easily sidestepped, provided you know the script. Billions

Does your company have catchphrases that allow your employees to communicate directly, yet sidestep accountability from forces inside and/or outside your company?

Of course it does.

In the South, there's a cultural catchphrase inside companies and outside in the general community:

"Bless his heart", defined as the following by Urban Dictionary:  "This is a term used by the people of the southern United States particularly near the Gulf of Mexico to express to someone that they are an idiot without saying such harsh words."

When used in the workplace, "bless his heart" isn't generally spoken directly to the subject.  It's used when people are discussing the ramifications to the subject related to a certain course of action:

"What about Tom?" (asked because a budget request your team is making for the next year is going to be in direct competition for resources with Tom's department)

"Tom's still holding onto the opinion that he'll get funding for his department." (Both parties know what Tom doesn't - everyone feels that Tom's initiative is dead on arrival at this point)

"Bless his heart. Move forward and put our budget proposal in." (Code for this - The boss who speaks this doesn't even think she has to talk to Tom about it because he is so out of touch.  Speaking the words "bless his heart" gives permission to the direct report to move forward, to not worry about Tom and also sends the subtle message that the boss thinks Tom is out of touch at best, an idiot at worst.)

Phrases that are seemingly small mean big things in your company.

Discussing probability?  "I am not uncertain" means a lot while saying little - it might also protect you from overcommitting.   Discussing someone you consider a poor sap in the New South?  "Bless his heart" gives you permission to be brutal while saying a little prayer for the target of your action.

Words matter.  What's the catchphrase that means the most while saying the least at your company?

 


ASK THE CAPITALIST: Are "Acting" or "Interim" Titles Ever A Good Idea?

A reader asks...

Hi Kris -

Do you have an opinion on the use of “acting” in title?  A situation has come up where two ppl in an org would be made “acting”…one person – we’ll call her Abby - would be moving into here boss's role and the boss (Maggie) would be moving to a higher level position.  Maggie didn’t seek out the new role, it was offered to her when the position opened up.  It’s fair to say that Maggie has already been somewhat serving in the higher level position, but without the title or pay, which is why she is the CEO’s pick to fill the role.  As part of succession planning, Abby has been groomed for Maggie’s role for years.  The rub is that the CEO isn’t sure whether she’s the right person to take over for Maggie so he wants to make Abby “acting” and feels it would be cleaner if Maggie is “acting” too.  FWIW, the CEO asked Maggie to commit two years to the role and Maggie has agreed to one year and reevaluating at that time.  Any strong opinions on this?

--Sarah from Syracuse

----------

Hey Sarah - 

Well, you've got a lot going on, don't you?

Here’s my take on the use of acting in this situation. Lucy

1. “Acting” in any role is a crutch when you either aren't sure someone can do the job, or 100% know that it won’t work out, but you need the butt in the seat.

2.  In the scenario you’ve laid out, your CEO’s use of acting for Abby seems appropriate, but if the CEO is sure that Maggie is a fit, he should place her in the role without the interim tag.  She’s already got a commitment issue to the role you want her to move into, and the “acting” tag is going to allow her to bail mentally if times get tough.

3.  I’d put Abby into the “acting” role for a quarter and make definitive call at that time.  If you drag it out past that, odds are you’ll end up with commitment and employee relations issues from Abby as well.

4.  What happens at the end of the one year period for Maggie if she doesn't want to stay in the job? I’d avoid talking about periods of commitment for specific jobs, it just leads to the aforementioned commitment issues once that period is up.

5. Will you take care of Maggie if she’s key and it doesn’t work out?  Sure. I’m just not convinced that talking about a one or two year commitment is the right way to go.  Stalin had a 5-year plan – that didn’t work out well for him.

Bottom line – put Abby in the “acting” tag and make your call in 3 months, at the same time put Maggie in the higher role with no “acting” tag and stop acting like she has the ability to come back down the org, even if she secretly does.

It’s all Jedi-mind tricks and Doug Henning-like illusions in the show.

KD

 


Merging In Heavy Traffic On Your Commute: A Guide

Rant time people - This topic will be emotional for many of you - Merging on your way to work.

There are rules. You're antisocial and a bit of a moron if you don't follow the rules. Merge

Let's do this:

  1. If traffic is moving, you don't necessary owe anyone the ability to merge if they're at a standstill.  If you're moving at anything above 10mph, you're doing a disservice to anyone behind you by stopping and letting someone merge that was completely stopped.  That's their problem and the problem of the traffic planners.
  2. That being said, if you're moving at 10 mph or below, the right merge activity is to allow one car in front of you before you proceed.  If everyone allows one car in, we'll get this thing done and everyone will be fine.
  3. If you're behind the person I let in, DO NOT THINK THAT I'M PREPARED TO LET YOU IN TOO. I'm not.  Don't be that guy.
  4. IF you're approaching the people trying to merge, a light flash is the right way to tell them you're a human being and you're going to let them in.  They've got two seconds to get going, or you should move.  They've gotta be alert.
  5. If someone allows you to merge from a standstill, THE CLUTCH MOVE IS TO ALWAYS GIVE THEM A WAVE WHERE THEY CAN SEE IT.  You know they didn't have to do it. They did.  Much respect as indicated by the wave.  PRO TIP:  Don't put a single finger up - it can be misunderstood.

Are we good? Can everyone chill the #### out and follow the rules?  

Cool.  I'll be attacking other important work-related guides in the future. Be sure to see this one on the rules for holding the elevator for others approaching.


HBR Says Women Experience More Incivility than Men at Work — Especially from Other Women (KD at #workhuman)

Capitalist Note:  I'm spending the first couple of days of this week at WorkHuman in Austin.  Put on by Globoforce, WorkHuman is the most progressive HR Conference available, with past shows focused on emerging trends like mindfulness, meditation and more - the leading edge of people practices and how HR can build them.  It's also hard to get a free Diet Coke at WorkHuman, because that stuff is bad for you - but healthy options are available and free.  One of the best shows I attend, highly recommended.

I've been to WorkHuman one time a couple of years ago, and I'm back this year. It's a great show, but it has a very progressive lean, and you have to be ready for that.  For me, it's a great shock out of the day-to-day way Pradawe normally think as traditional HR practitioners.  Couple of funny memories from the first time I attended the show, both of which occurred during Q&A and tell you more about the average state of HR, not WorkHuman:

1--A HR manager type from Zappos asked a question from the audience - her question was interrupted by applause, because she was from ZAPPOS.  Only in HR, my friends.  Even the classiness and deep thinking of WorkHuman can't stop that reaction.  Everybody drink.

2--Another HR Manager type asked a question about - and I'm not making this up - making her workplace meditation sessions/rooms mandatory for people because participation was low.

Mandatory meditation sessions?  Welcome to the intersection of great thoughts/HR content brought to you by Workhuman (mindfulness and meditation) and average HR attempting to find their way to deliver on some of the ideas shared (make that s*** mandatory). 

But if you listen closely, you'll figure out that WorkHuman is unlike any other HR show within 2 hours into the show.

Every year, WorkHuman evolves. One of the highlights of Workhuman this year is a #metoo panel, described below:

The #MeToo movement brought to light human behaviors that have no place in a human workplace. We are bringing together the leading voices of this movement in a historic panel discussion on sexual harassment, respect, and equality in the workplace. This panel will focus on these critical issues facing HR leaders today and organizations can drive changes and build cultures where everyone feels safe and empowered.

This discussion will be moderated by top-rated Wharton professor and best-selling author Adam Grant, a long-time advocate for workplace equality. Panel participants include actress and humanitarian Ashley Judd, gender equity advocate Tarana Burke, and other soon-to-be-announced guests.

I'm fascinated that Grant and Ronan Farrow (one of the TBD panelists) - two white guys - make up half this panel (Grant's moderating, but I'm counting him).  I'm confident they'll do a great job, but the danger for them is real.  One wrong turn and it's going to be harsh for them, like the time Matt Damon did some #mansplaining of this own on a diversity panel.  Part of me feels like including guys on the panel is a lot like NASCAR (I've been to a race one time), where people just wait for the inevitable crash.  Imagine the focus in the room when these guys speak.  It's a form of inclusion, even if many in the audience will be guarded every time one of the guys speaks:

"What did he just say?"

That's going to be interesting to me.  But I will say this - WorkHuman stretches your boundaries, and that's the whole point. Growth and getting exposed to ideas and perspectives you don't encounter every day is the currency of this show.

Here's another recent item related to some of the conversation that will/should happen at WorkHuman...

A recent study by HBR showed the following - Women Experience More Incivility at Work Especially from Other Women - which is a finding I'm assuming will be addressed indirectly by the #metoo panel.  Here's some snippets from that study that play into the #metoo panel:

Most employees, at one point or another, have been the victim of incivility at work. Ranging from snarky comments or rude interruptions to being disrespected in a brusque email, organizations can be breeding grounds for this type of behavior. Compared to more egregious forms of workplace mistreatment like sexual harassment, incivility — which is classified as low-intensity deviance at work — may seem minor. Yet, the costs of incivility can add up.

One finding that has been frequently documented is that women tend to report experiencing more incivility at work than their male counterparts. However, it has been unclear to as to who is perpetrating the mistreatment towards women at work. Some have theorized that men may be the culprits, as men are the more dominant social class in society and may feel as though they have the power to mistreat women. Perhaps as more overt forms of mistreatment like sexual harassment have become legally prohibited and socially taboo, subtle forms of discrimination in the form of incivility may increasingly occur within the workplace. Others, however, have theorized and suggested that women may be mistreating other women because they are more likely to view each other as competition for advancement opportunities in companies.

Our research examined these two opposing views by conducting three complementary studies. These studies involved rather large samples, surveying between 400 and over 600 U.S. employees per study, across a variety of service operations and time periods. In each study, we consistently found that women reported experiencing more incivility from other women than from their male coworkers. Examples of this incivility included being addressed in unprofessional terms, having derogatory comments directed toward them, being put down in a condescending way, and being ignored or excluded from professional camaraderie.

The question, though, is why? Why would women be more susceptible to this treatment from other women? Our research suggests that when women acted more assertively at work — expressing opinions in meetings, assigning people to tasks, and taking charge — they were even more likely to report receiving uncivil treatment from other women at work. We suspect that it may be that women acting assertively contradicts the norms that women must be warm and nurturing rather than emphatic and dominant. This means that women who take charge at work may suffer backlash in the form of being interpersonally mistreated.

It may also be the case that these assertive behaviors are viewed as ruthless by other women; given that women are more likely to compare themselves against each other, these behaviors may signal competition, eliciting incivility as a response.

HR has been said to be 70%+ female.  I can tell you that I've seen women in HR treat their female departmental peers harshly, and I can also tell you that I never felt like I received that same treatment as a guy - which I now can code as Incivility based on the HBR article.  Thanks, HBR!

The guys in HR get passes a lot of times from women in HR.  Women in HR don't always get the same courtesy from other women in HR.

You can go read the entire article on the study here.  I'm guessing the topic of woman to woman incivility will come up in the panel.  

But if I was one of those guys on the panel, I'd wait for the females bring it up.

More notes to follow from #workhuman in Austin.  Put this one on your list of shows to attend in the future.

 


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?
 
#survive_and_advance

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!