The Process For Creating Potential Factors (Rather Than Company Values) At Your Company

One of the things I've always been a fan of is having potential factors as an alternative to company values.
Background: At Kinetix, we have potential factors instead of values.  They're designed to identify what we value most in talent and as such, should be our guides in how we hire, promote and reward, and at times, fire.

You can find all of our potential factors in an online document/handbook we call The Kinetix Code.


If you want to rethink your company values and think about subbing them out for potential factors, here's your process:
1. You meet with your leadership team.  There’s a lot of fancy ways to frame this, but it really comes down to answering the following question:
“Let’s think about the stars at our company. What is it about them, regardless of position, that makes them successful at our company?  Give me single words that serve as adjectives to describe what our stars have behaviorally cognitively (no skills!) that other people don’t, and any word you give me has to be descriptive of the group of stars in your opinion – no words that apply to one or some and not the others.”
2. Do that, and you’ll end up with a brainstorming session about words they think are descriptive of the highest performers in your company.  You’ll get as many as 70 words out of this process.
3. You take the raw list of words and start combining things that mean the same thing, or close to the same thing.  For example, initiative and drive are closely related.  When you find words that mean the same thing, your job is to put them on the same line and then decide what word best describes the behavior in your culture.
4. Once you do that offline and knock down the number, you’ll have a list of 20-25 words to choose your initial potential factors from.  There are a lot of ways to pick the ones you want. Your CEO can look at it and tell you what he/she wants, you can pick and tell the team, or preferably, you can have a working session to discuss, maybe cull it down to a list of 10 factors the team generally believes are the best – then figure out how you’re going to cut it to ones you want to launch.  I’m big on a shielded vote for those, which still allows you and your CEO/ops leader veto power without doing that in a public setting.
What's the right number of potential factors to have?  Same number as values.  5-6 seems to be the sweet spot, do more that and you'll lose the capability to position themselves as important.
Good luck if you undertake this process - it's worth the time to take a look at.


VIDEO: Giving Interns Real Experience Is Really The Most Important Thing...

If you came because of that title looking for a serious post on intern programs, think again.

I was in Auburn Saturday night for LSU/Auburn and Auburn has a kicker that kicks it out of the end zone... every.single.time.

After an Auburn FG in the first half, Auburn did what it always does - it kicked it out of the end zone.  But an enterprising young girl who works in the Auburn video/photo department and was a former ESPN intern thought she could shuffle from her position on the ground in the end zone and make the catch of the dead ball - from her knees.

The result was priceless.  Email subscribers, click through for the video.  Of special note is that she actually calls "I got it" before she takes it to the face.  Good news is that she was fine.  Obviously caught it on the cheek rather than in the nose.

I'd show this to your intern classes.  If you're doing it right, the normal work equivalent of this is at least part of the experience they should get with your company. 

When Employees Bite Back: Prepping for the 1-on-1s That Are Going to Suck...

It's September. Getting near halfway through the year. Might be time for you to actually give some feedback to the people who work for you. Or, if you're an HR pro, to encourage managers of people to give that feedback to the masses. But we wait.  Because the people who most need the feedback don't always take it well. All the training in the world isn't going to help the reality of performance feedback---it would be easy if it weren’t for those pesky employees asking questions, throwing up objections and generally being disagreeable. And that’s one of the biggest rubs in doing performance management/mid-year feedback, isn’t it?

“This session is going to suck because they’re going to ___________ . ”

What do employees who most need your feedback do during performance sessions? If they’re quiet, the session is easy—if somewhat strange. If an employee is quiet, you probably haven’t encouraged them to participate enough or be honest with you. Once you’ve made them comfortable, they’re going to tell you why they can’t give more performance to you, and the reasons will be unique to their personality and performance profile. But some of the objections can be trended, all the way to the point where we can create personas that you should expect to see during your session. The key is to know the people you're talking to, then have a general feel for what your approach is going to be as you walk into the session when you tell them how they are doing for the year. Available starting approaches for you as a manager of people as you walk into a feedback session that's going to be hostile/going to suck:

1. The Flame Thrower - In this approach, you go on the offensive quick since you're dealing with someone who's going to be pretty hostile back to you.  This approach is also used because you're dealing with someone who's going to try to bully you, because the only thing they'll understand is brute force.  So, you hit them hard early and put the pieces together late.  Best used with highly assertive, low-sensitivity employees.

2. The Fraiser Crane - You remember the spin off from Cheers, right?  The tagline he used on his radio show based on personal therapy was, "I'm listening," so it stands to reason that's your approach early with the people who need some therapy before you can get to how they're going to improve.  Best used with low-assertive, high sensitivity types.

3. The Jester - Some people are wired to love the stage banter, so give these people what they want: lots of small talk about company topics interesting to them. You're basically warming them up to be comfortable, then you're going to transition and have better conversation post-warm up. What do you talk about? Any thing that they have opinions on and build momentum for you to agree, because it's going to be hard for them to come after you after that momentum is built. Best used with employees who are extroverted and high on the people scale.  Let them talk, and then try to keep them talking/reacting once you go into feedback mode.

The best stage banter to model yourself after? Paul Stanley from KISS of course (email subscribers click through for video):

4. The Stat Geek - Numbers never lie, and if you're fortunate to have numbers to back up the performance issues you see, you lead with the digits to a certain subsection of your feedback sessions. Be sure to have numbers that clearly define INDIVIDUAL performance with this group and you'll be set.  Best used with employees that have high cognitive scores and are low on the team scale (which means you can best ask for more performance by presenting them with a individual scoreboard).

Bottom line: Your one-on-ones or check-ins matter.  It's about who they are, not who you are.  Play offense early in your session with each employee and you'll have the best shot at success with minimal blowback why you get to what's real.

Self Assessments and 360 Feedback Systems Are A Crutch for Managers...

We love features like self assessments and 360s in our performance solutions.  But they're a crutch.  Here's why:

  1. Self Assessments - your best people are harder on themselves than you are.  Your worst people and even those in between give themselves more credit than they deserve - setting your managers up for something they're not good at - conflict.  Meh.
  2. 360 Reviews - the more I talk to people using these as part of the review process, the more often I hear that the feedback coming in isn't great.  It's either cheerleader type stuff, "Jenn is the best!" or people are very, very cautious in giving negative feedback if they perceive that it will be used directly and more importantly, if the review is tied to pay.  

Managers - Do your job and have a take on whether someone is good or great.  And stop saying everyone is great - they're not.  

HR Pros - I'm not saying you shouldn't use self-assessments or 360s - but you can't let them be a replacement from a manager truly owning whether someone is crushing it or just getting by.

You're better than that.  I know you are. 

Apple Eliminating Headphone Jack = Companies Eliminating Performance Reviews

Think about it...

In case you missed it yesterday, Apple announced the iPhone 7 and the feature getting the most buzz is - no wired headphones.  Why did they do it?  Observe the high and mighty talk from Apple courtesy of The Ringer:

"Perhaps because the company’s stealthy public relations team sensed the impending anger of their customer base (which, lol, includes Alan Cumming), Schiller offered an explanation to as to why the company chose to take the dive into Apple über-minimalism.

“Now, some people have asked why we would remove the analog headphone jack from the iPhone,” Schiller began. “It really comes down to one word: courage. The courage to move on, do something new, that betters all of us. And our team has tremendous courage.”

Mmmm-Hmmm.  Which made me think that the people who eliminate performance reviews are a lot like Apple at it's worst - when they make decisions for consumers.  Let's count the ways:

1. Apple - we had the courage to do this.  Anti-Performance Review People - You know reviews suck, we're just brave enough to end it.

2. Apple - if you still want to use the wires, here's a 4 inch dongle that will make you look 70 years old.  Anti-Performance Review People - you can totally still do reviews, but we'll be over here being interviewed by Fast Company.  We're confident that will work out well for you, do what you're comfortable with (imagine patronizing tone).

3. Apple - we're trusting the consumer to go with us- to the future.  Anti-Performance Review People - we're trusting managers to coach on a more frequent basis.  You're right - they can't even advise their direct reports on strategic moves by our company without blaming the leadership team, but we're sure their going to battle through the confrontation and coach weekly.

4. Apple - our move to eliminate the headphone jack isn't about money/selling accessories.  Anti-Performance Review People - our new process isn't tied to money in any way. We haven't figured out how to do merit increases in the new world order yet, but we're confident we'll have a plan soon.

5. Apple Consumers - we love the new phone!  Wait, what am I supposed to do with my wired accessories again?  Employees in companies eliminating reviews - Yes!  No reviews, I hated those things. Wait, how am I supposed to know how I'm doing vs my peers?  My managers going to organically give me that data over time?  Huh?

Apple = Anti-Performance Review People

If only there was a big phone dongle the Anti-Performance Review People could hand you when they find out you're still doing reviews.



Evil Michael Phelps: For All Our Talk About Being Global, We Still Like to Stick it To Other Countries...

By now, you've seen the pictures of Michael Phelps brooding while some South African dude who beat him four years ago was gyrating in front of him like an exotic dancer in Rio.

One of the biggest sporting moments of his life, and Phelps knew what to do. He nourished the rage, the hate and let the anger do the work for him. Phelps

We loved him for it. For all the talk about anyone considering voting for Trump being a xenophobe (way too simple as an explanation, but that's another post), let's be honest about being American:

We love to beat other countries and be the best. And if it includes someone being nasty on the world's biggest stage, we're OK with that.

Lilly King's finger wagging to the reported drugged-up Russian?  We signed off on that as well. More please.

It's the equivalent of swimming becoming pro wrestling, but I'm not criticizing the athletes.  Instead, I have this question:

Who the #### let the cameras in the staging area for us to be voyuers like gleeful, clique-loving teenagers?

Let's be honest - it's the workplace version of cameras in the break room or the bathroom.  Imagine if we had those and had the opportunity to break down that film:

"Did you see the look Beth gave Dawn when she was being so animated by the toaster?  WOW - I can't wait to see them compete at the status meeting at 11am."

The stories related to what we saw in the backroom for both Phelps and King were great. I'm interested in America's reaction to us acting like what we are - THE MOST COMPETITIVE COUNTRY AND PEOPLE IN THE WORLD - and the fact we have no concerns.  I support it, because I like people who complete and don't really care what they do to get up as long as it's legal.  Plus, act like an ass long enough in the workplace and you have to deal with the consequences.

Unless you win.  Then the consequences are limited.

America loves people who compete. We also love winners.  The next Olympics will find the swimmers more guarded in the "ready" or "staging" room, or whatever it's called. At that point, we won't get the goods - seeing competition at its rawest - so we'll have to move the cameras back to the bus or the lobby in the Olympic Village.

God bless America and its natural disposition to want to win.

Sometimes You Get Sued and Your Best Employees Come To Your Defense...

It's every manager's worst nightmare. You did the right thing with some problematic employees, but then you got investigated/sued.

Getting sued is a scarlet letter.  Without question, it's much better not to get sued, but if you do the right thing and get sued as a result, sometimes you LOOK LIKE A BETTER LEADER THAN OTHERS AROUND YOU.

Such is the case with Missouri Softball Coach Ehren Earleywine, who's had a lot of success at Mizzou but was recently under investigation.  Here's a basic rundown of what transpired with the help Earlywine of reporting from the Kansas City Star:

1. Earleywine had been under investigation by the athletic department, and later the main campus through MU’s Office for Civil Rights & Title IX, for more than four months.

2. Former athletic director Mack Rhoades, who resigned July 13 to accept a similar position at Baylor, launched the investigation after receiving a complaint from several players alleging verbal abuse by Earleywine.

3. Missouri’s compliance department quietly interviewed team members during the season before the team’s Unity Council publicized the investigation May 7 by announcing the Tigers were playing under protest in a show of support to Earleywine.

4. After a first-round exit in the SEC softball tournament, Earleywine asked the players to end the protest, which Mizzou’s players agreed to do before hosting an NCAA regional. The Tigers dominated regional play, but lost to Michigan in the NCAA super regional round.

5. Missouri has concluded its Title IX investigation into Earleywine with no finding that he violated federal non-discrimination statutes.

Earleywine, a Jefferson City, Mo., native, is 453-154 in 10 seasons as Missouri’s coach. The Tigers have appeared in a NCAA regional every season of Earleywine’s tenure, advancing to a super regional eight times and appearing in three consecutive Women’s College World Series from 2009-11.

Here's what Earleywine said when the complaints first became public:

“There’s a couple of kids on the team that probably have things, exchanges between myself and them or different scenarios, that they would have liked to see handled differently,” Earleywine said. “I’m tough on kids. I make them accountable and there’s discipline in our program. I’m a throwback. If that’s demeaning, maybe, but it’s not about them, the person, it’s about their performance as a player.”

“I’m trying to build resiliency and toughness in people, and hoping that they’ll be better people when they graduate from here because they’ve been through some tough stuff,” Earleywine said. “Have I used some inappropriate language? Yes. Is that grounds for firing a coach? I think if you set that precedent, there won’t be a coach left in America. Outside of that, I’m not ashamed of anything that I’ve done.”
Here's what managers of people should learn from this:
1. There's an art to dealing with employees who won't get with the program. While you should treat everyone with respect, low performers and disrupters have to be addressed.
2. Tough decisions are yours and yours alone.  Don't expect anyone to help you.  This includes addressing low performance and attitude as the whole team sees it.  You've got to figure out the best way to deal with it.  Your goals should be to get performance out of the team as a whole, develop individual talent and treat everyone with respect.  But you have to be tough when circumstances and specific individuals call for it.
3. If you do what's outlined above - get performance out of the team as a whole, develop individual talent and treat everyone with respect - people will rally behind you if something bad happens - like a lawsuit, investigation, etc.
Of course, your employees can't attend a meeting under protest and make it public in a way that matters, right?
But your ability to deal with employees who won't get with the program is one of the most important things you can do.  And the reality is this - if you manage teams for more than a decade (especially if you manage a department with more than 10 people and multiple managers) and you haven't been the subject of a lawsuit or investigation of what I'll call nuisance value - you probably haven't been managing for results hard enough.
You play to win the game. Treat all with respect, but don't accept disruption or refusal to be part of a team.  Good HR pros will have your back - as well as some advice about ways you can avoid the investigation/lawsuit next time.

BUDGET SEASON: How Your Finance Team Treats Turnover REALLY Matters...

Welcome to the early days of budget season, American HR Leaders!!

Snuggled up to the friendly Finance and Accounting pros in your organization lately?  Great... Here's a little snigglet to make sure you have enough cash to fund all the hyped pay-for-performance initiatives you are cooking up in the test tube you call a laptop...

The type of budget model you have?  It matters. 

Duhhhhh, you say.  You get the budget.  Hold on there, Donald Trump, because I'm not talking about theTurnover_factor fact you have all the salaries loaded into the budget.  I'm talking about the FORMULAS the Finance quants are using underneath the names and the numbers. 

The big one you need to be aware of is this - Does your comp budget model have a Turnover Factor, or do the funds vacated by positions that are vacant remain in the comp budget, available for proper use?

It matters a lot.  A turnover factor projects the amount of turnover a company/division/department is going to have during the budget year, then automatically reduces payroll by the appropriate amount.  The logic used when putting a turnover factor in the budget model is that those funds should be unavailable in the budget since there won't actually be PEOPLE in those jobs (for that time period).

Details, details....

The effect of the Turnover Factor?  Your compensation budget gets a lot tighter, and you'll have a lot more variances to explain month to month.  And that kind of stinks... But it's actually the right way to do it from a business perspective...

Additionally, the Turnover Factor puts a LOT of pressure on the pay-for-performance system.  Have a lot of managers who have a hard time telling low-performing employees they're not doing that great with no raise or a limited increase?  A turnover factor means you are dealing with a truly zero-sum game.  For every dollar your manager gives to a low performer, he won't be able to give that dollar to the star. 

Especially if you have a Turnover Factor - because there's no built in slush fund.  Budget 4% for increases?  With a Turnover Factor in play, that's exactly what you have - with your active employees.  Without the TF in play, you've got some wiggle room from a budget perspective.

So give your Finance pro a pound today and learn more.  As your company grows, the Turnover Factor is a way of life, but maybe you can delay it a little bit longer.  Remember - you're doing it for the PEOPLE - and who could blame you for that?

Here’s To the Crazy Ones: And Why You Don’t Deserve Them

Been doing a lot of performance work for some client companies lately.  As you might expect, I’m trying to push the companies to get out of the mindset that the performance review transaction is the reason for the process.

Repeat after me:  The reason you do any type of coaching or performance management is to migrate employees.   If you’re going to do it, you want a system that allows you to support migrating new employees to good performers, and good performers to great employees.

You don’t get there by focusing on the rating scale.  That doesn’t migrate anyone.  You get there by using performance management as a means to have a different type of conversation - Think_different_postersone that gets an employee thinking and perhaps excited about taking care of the busy work that’s a part of any job, then having time to come up with some different ideas.

Which is code to say this – Innovation doesn’t mean you created the next Twitter or Instagram.  Sometimes it just means you weren’t scared to say the way that we’ve always done it is Bull####, and offer up a new path – no matter how small.   Whether it gets implemented or not is details.  Offer up enough ideas, and you’re bound to have some make it through the machine.

What does great performance look like?  I think it means that you encourage employees to challenge the status quo.  Of course, if you’re going to encourage that, you better be comfortable telling people that their idea sucks and they need to go back to the drawing board.

It’s hard to create a culture where people actually want to give you ideas.  Do you have that type of culture?

Here’s a test: Would your managers be comfortable putting the text from the original sixty-second “Think Different” ads from Apple (narrated by Richard Dreyfress back in the day) in their cube?  Read this and think about it:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

I know.  It’s far reaching BS.  Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working well…

Or, you can start having conversations with your best people about what’s possible.  It’s funny how those types of conversations and the exploration that results are actually the best retention tool for your top talent.  It’s also funny how your average performers stop bitching about getting a bigger raise when you tell them that ideas are the top currency to getting the $$.

But your managers have to have the conversation to make that happen.

They’ve got to encourage people to think differently, and to accept all the work/draining conversations that come with it.

And that’s why the crazy ones don’t work at your company.

Flat Results + Doing the Same Thing = More Flat Results.

If there's one thing I've learned in a career of being a manager/coach (both in corporate America and in sports), it's that when I'm not satisfied with the results I'm getting, I almost always should have changed what I was doing earlier.

Flat results + Doing the same thing = more flat results.

Why do we keep doing the same things even though we see diminishing results?  That's easy to answer - because the way we are doing it has a history of being successful.  You got great results doing it the way you've been doing it.  You go through a rough patch and you're sure that it will turn around.  Except it doesn't.  

What changed?  You've got a changing environment around you - the situation is different, the competition is different, people with influence showed up and are changing the way people listen to you, etc.

But you keep doing it the way you've done it before.  Damn them all to hell - it worked before, it can work again.

Except sometimes it can't.  And if you're like me and do an ex-post facto review of "what happened", you'll look at yourself be critical that you didn't react to the circumstances better.

You should have changed what you were doing earlier.  As soon as you felt the flat results, you should have started tweaking.

Do yourself a favor today.  Don't try and power through bad results doing things the same way.

Change it up and see what happens.  You'll be glad you did.