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March 2009

When Do You Give Up On Your Little League Roster? A Talent Problem...

Riddle me this Batman...

You're a youth baseball coach and have tracked with a team of kids in a decent Little League system forBadNewsBears the last four years.  When you're coaching a team of 5 or 6 year olds, the system is pretty simple.  Lots of encouragement, and you do the best you can.  You might have 1 or 2 players who stand out, but the rest of the kids are pretty bunched together.    As a result, the batting order and positions played are best left to socialism.  Everyone's equal and everyone hits from a different part of the lineup every game, and everyone gets to play both infield AND outfield.  Everyone's happy.

Then, around age 7, things start to change a bit.  Score is kept, and standings are tracked.  Other teams start to minimize the amount of rotation through the positions, with the best kids left in the infield (where all the action is...).  Once you get to the 8's, almost everyone is locking in.

So, what would you do as a coach?  If you have 5 kids who are clearly superior at this point, do you lock them into the top part of the lineup and the infield slots, or do you rotate?  Confounding the issue is the fact that at least a couple of the kids want nothing to do with the rockets that come off the bat as they stand in the premium infield slots.

When do you start messaging that some kids are better than others?   Help a Capitalist out and hit me in the comments with your coaching expertise...

Signed - Trying to Delay the Real World

Meet the New Boss - Help Me Craft an "Assimilation" Session...

As you probably know, I switched gigs, moving from SourceMedical to DAXKO.  I need to riff a post on my first few weeks at DAXKO, but for now, I need your help.  DAXKO does a very solid job of initial onboarding, so I've been in a lot of informational sessions that have helped me figure out what's going on.

As those thin out, it's on to figuring out how I fit in with the team I have, and a big part of that is givingB00jd9hx_640_360 them some notes into what makes me tick so they can be more comfortable with who I am. 

At the start, that means some type of formal activity to lay a lot of stuff out on the table.  Take a look at the note below and tell me what I'm missing.  What can I add to this that will be valuable in breaking the ice and fast forwarding the team regarding their comfort level with who I am and what makes me tick?

Hit me in the comments with your brilliance --

Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 5:48 AM
To: KD's Team Members
Subject: KD Bears His Soul

Hey Team –

It’s Manager Assimilation Time!  Next Friday (assuming everyone’s here), I’m going to do a manager assimilation session with the following elements:

1. I’m doing the 25 Things About Me deal from Facebook – That’s me offering up random bits of information about me so you can get to know me a bit better… be afraid… be very afraid…

2. I’ll be going over my Strengths from the StrengthsFinder deal from Marcus Buckingham

3. We’ll be putting my DNA under a microscope by going through my DISC profile

4. You should prepare any questions you have for me as a team on a flip chart.  I will answer ANY question you have truthfully and honestly.  I’m appointing <name removed> as the collector of questions, and she’ll write the questions on a flip chart in one set of handwriting, after which I’ll answer them all.  You all have to ask a minimum of 10 questions per, but you can ask more.   No restrictions – it can be professional, personal, etc.  You should dig to your heart’s content, and one set of handwriting means I can’t judge who’s asking.

<Name removed> will sign a waiver committing not to disclose the question asker to me, and also bears the burden of me wondering if she asked the question since it’s in her handwriting, which should free you up considerably.

Any questions?

Thanks - KD

How Your National Origin Can Impact Your Performance....

I've talked in the past about how I was raised.  I was lucky enough to be raised by some great parents who gave me everything I needed to be successful, and were patient when I acted like a punk.  So thanks to Kent and Deanna for doing it all. 

With that said, looking back, I think there was one element to my upbringing that was positive andOutliers negative at the same time.  The Dunn family valued privacy to the extreme, which was positive for me in the sense that I'm built to give people a lot of space and not judge too quickly.  Where is that negative?  As I grew up, I had career and life situations that demanded assertiveness that was, at times considered by me to be, a possible invasion of privacy on the target.  Following up on an interview (as a candidate), for example, was very hard for me early in my career.  The privacy angle was so deep in my DNA that I would delay that type of aggressive behavior that was, at times, expected by the target audience.

Over time, I've learned to manage that part of my background, and the positives to valuing privacy still outweigh the negatives.

Why is this on my mind? I'm slowly making it through Outliers from Malcolm Gladwell, and he's got an unbelievable chapter on "Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes".  Here's a summary from Gladwell from an interview in Fortune on what he focuses on in this chapter:

"Korean Air had more plane crashes than almost any other airline in the world for a period at the end of the 1990s. When we think of airline crashes, we think, Oh, they must have had old planes. They must have had badly trained pilots. No. What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical. You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.

But Boeing (BA, Fortune 500) and Airbus design modern, complex airplanes to be flown by two equals. That works beautifully in low-power-distance cultures [like the U.S., where hierarchies aren't as relevant]. But in cultures that have high power distance, it’s very difficult.

I use the case study of a very famous plane crash in Guam of Korean Air. They’re flying along, and they run into a little bit of trouble, the weather’s bad. The pilot makes an error, and the co-pilot doesn’t correct him. But once Korean Air figured out that their problem was cultural, they fixed it."

Gladwell talks a lot in this chapter about the "Power Distance Index" (PDI), which can be defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. This represents inequality (more versus less), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society’s level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders. 

Now for the translation  If a person is from a country with a high PDI score, they're more likely to defer to authority, even when they know something is going horribly wrong.  Why?  Because it is essentially culturally imbedded in that person to never challenge another person in an authority position.  In the case of the pilots in Gladwell's example, the co-pilots deferred to the authority figure in the cockpit to the extent that it cost them their lives and the lives of hundreds of passengers.  Korean Airlines fixed the safety issues related to the PDI by creating a new culture separate from the high PDI Korean culture.  Read the book to find out how.

Interested in which countries have the highest and lowest PDIs?  Here you go:

High PDI (means the cultures defer to authority and are much less likely to challenge bad decisions if authority figures are involved): Malaysia (104), China (80), Indonesia (78) and the Phillipines (94). And so the norm in such countries is for leaders to be highly respected, for people not to ask embarrassing questions, and for students and subordinates to listen.

Low PDI countries are those which prefer, or are used to having a small power distance between the boss and the workers. These countries are Australia (36), New Zealand (22), Ireland (28) and the Austria (11). The norm here is for leaders to be accessible, to be at the same level as their subordinates, and to be open to challenge and suggestions.

The USA?  Comes in pretty low on the PDI at a 40. 

The message with all this is not that talent from a country with a high PDI can't be high performers, because there are many high performers from these countries.  Instead, the message is that based on your cultural heritage, you may run into situations where you need to be painfully aware of the culture you were raised in, and force yourself to challenge authority and engage more aggressively than you were raised to.

Virtual hat tip to two people.  Jessica Lee, who pointed out to me some PDI issues to me in the whole pay transparency debate, and Jason Seiden, who named the PDI index and gave a description before I could tell him what it was.  Smart folks.

Kind of like me coming from the private world of the Dunns.  For years, I had to force myself to aggressively ask for a drink refill at a restaurant - my own personal PDI of sorts.  I've overcome that and, as a result, I'm always hydrated.

Tell Me What It's Going to Take to Hire You, or You're Out...

There's an interesting discussion going on at Ask the Headhunter:, where Nick C is telling anyone who will listen that candidates shouldn't provide their current and past salary history to HR or hiring managers as a part of the process.  Information is power, and Nick recommends that candidates simply say no.

I get the argument, but if candidates follow Nick's advice, only the superstars are going to survive notUncleSamSalary-250x providing salary data when asked. Click through and take a look at the past posts by Nick to get a vibe for what he's saying, but here's his most recent advice for HR pros who think they have to have the past pay data on a candidate, STAT:

"But I don’t think HR managers are dopes or even disingenuous. I think they’re brainwashed and can’t see past their own bureaucracy. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to turn the tables and help HR solve the problem without waiting for candidates to cough up their salary info. That way these employers won’t have to pass up good candidates.

So here’s what HR should do. Following the same logic and rationale, at the point where HR would ask for the candidate’s salary history, HR should instead share:

  • The salary range for the position in question.
  • The salary history of the person who is now doing the same job, or who used to do the job.
  • The salary history of others in the department who do similar jobs.

The company’s salary history is a crucial element that helps a candidate assess and judge a company. It enables a candidate to determine whether there is a realistic opportunity to make a match, and whether further discussions are reasonable. It’s legitimate to share the company’s salary information in the context of the interview and application process."

Some of this argument circles around the concept of pay transparency, so it's obvious that you can't give up data on what others make in the same position in the company.  Anyone who disagrees with that statement doesn't have to live with the employee relations ramifications of complete pay transparency. Period. 

With that said, here's the reality.  You don't have to tell me what you make, but you have to tell me what it's going to cost me to hire you.  Without access to that information, unless you're a superstar I can't live without, I'm wasting my time - especially if I'm working a lot of open positions.

So, here's my alternative, which strangely enough meets a lot of what Nick outlines above.  I use this approach when I'm feeling soft and don't want the direct confrontation of asking someone what they make now, or as is more likely the case, when they've already told me (or at least taken a position, truthful or not) what they currently make.  Here's the talking track:

"Jen, I use the first phone call to get to know you, tell you a little bit about the position and let you ask questions.  I don't want to waste your time with the next step if we can't afford you, so I want to let you know that if we got to the offer stage, you could expect an offer to come in somewhere between 55K-62K.  If we get to that point, is that range one in which you could see yourself accepting the offer if everything else you needed was in place?"

That's my talking track.  Without disclosing what others make, I've given a range that provides a strong vibe for how the organization values the job, and what we're willing to pay based on Jen's background.

Jen can say yes or no to that.  If she says yes, I've found that framing it in that way dramatically increases the probability of an accepted offer.

But you've got to at least answer that question after I've valued the job in that manner.  If you don't, you're out.

This Just In - Managers Don't Trust HR... They Trust (or don't) YOU...

I hit you with some notes a couple of weeks ago regarding the "Don't Trust HR" article that made the rounds at CFO.com.  My advice?  Stop whining and start doing.  The folks around you know whether you are any good or not as an HR pro.  I guarantee that.  For those of you who are strong, your business peers know the value.  That's not the HR folks, it's the managers you serve.

Put your energy into cramming the stereotype down the world's throat by being a different type of HR proApple_think_different.  Be better than you were last month.  Initiate a value-added project that someone in your organization didn't expect.  Rinse, repeat.  Think different.

It's not HR's reputation that matters.  It's yours. 

Here's a take from a manager in the field who read the article.  More from Phil G. at the always engaging Slacker Manager:

"Here’s another situation: Someone on your team goes to HR to talk about the way they are being treated by you, their manager.Do you trust HR to listen without taking sides, and to work with you and the associate to fix the problem?

One more situation:

You have a job opening for a highly specialized role on your team that needs to be hired ASAP. Standard protocol is to start with a phone screen with an HR assistant, then meet with a recruiter in HR, then if they are deemed worthy, they get to meet with you.

Do you trust HR to move with the speed you need to get the job done in the time you need it to be done?

According to CFO Magazine, don’t trust HR. According to some in the blogosphere, you should trust HR, or at least think critically about what the article in CFO Magazine has to say.

I trust people, not departments. I make my decision based on the person in the role."

Nobody outside of HR cares about the reputation of HR.  If you're good, you get the rewards.  If you suck, you're part of the stereotype.  Film at 11. 

So, get good and try to get better over time.  Managers like Phil know the score.  They're evaluating you, not the profession. 

Think Differrent. Be the ball, Danny.

Two Words - "The Champion" (the FOT Talent Management Blog Power Rankings)

The Champion is....

Talented Apps!! - Surviving 5 head-to-head match ups in the FOT Talent Management Blog Power Rankings, the gang from Oracle, lead by Meg and Mark, has emerged as the champion of the little contest we put together called March Madness.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's a primer...

Congrads Talented Apps!!  It's no small feat to win this thing, because we had 32 kickin' blogs thatFot_poster_top25  started the tournament, and it wasn't enough to simply be good and liked - you had to motivate your tribe to vote for you.  Almost 3,000 votes after starting the tourney, TA is the winner, after defeating Your HR Guy 56% to 44%.. nice....Congrads also to Lance at Your HR Guy, although I'm still on the DL after taking a beating in the semi-finals...

Here's my thoughts about the tourney we called March Madness:

1.  I like the format, althought 5 rounds got a little long. 

2.  The folks who were the most successful, even suprising, were the teams who could mobilize their "tribe" to vote for them.  That includes Talented Apps (big company), but also some folks with big Twitter and Facebook presences. 

3.  Cinderella Stories - the runs by Lisa at HR Thoughts and Mike at HR Observations.  I knew the quality was there (I'm a reader of both), but had no idea how strongly your tribes thought of you.  Now I know... Well played!!

4.  How did I lose?  Aren't I the CEO of FOT?  Who said this should be fair? Should I make a management change on the editorial side (just joking, JLee)

Congrads to everyone who played!!!

Take a Sip of the Zappos Kool-Aid With "Dr. Vik" (and Zappos Insights)

If you've been kicking around the blogoshere for at least a month, sampling different HR and Talent blogs, chances are you've come across the stylings of Zappos.  You know the company - widely espoused to be one of the most progressive workplace cultures in America, with the following features:

1.  All employees are on Twitter.Zappos-culture-video
2.  They'll pay you $2,000 to leave the company after your training is complete.
3.  They've got a personal coach named "Dr. Vik" as part of their talent team.
4.  No offices, only cubes at Zappos, even for the CEO.
5.  The Zappos HR Team includes titles like "Assistant Cruise Ship Manager".

Ever want to dig in deeper to the Zappos vibe?  Now you can with a subscription service from Zappos called Zappos Insights.  I missed the launch of this, so here's how the service was described in late 2008 AdWeek:

"For those seeking brand religion, an unlikely shrine has emerged in the desert the past few years. It sits near the Las Vegas airport: the headquarters of online retailer Zappos.

Over the past few years, executives from dozens of companies, including Southwest Airlines and Best Buy, as well as ordinary customers, have made the trek to see its operations up close. The tour has undeniable Zappos touches: each department has its own greeting, and in-house motivational guru Dr. Vik has visitors sit in a throne for a Polaroid snapshot.

Now the company hopes to turn the intense interest in its culture and approach to business into a moneymaker. This week, it plans to roll out Zappos Insights, a subscription video service that lets companies ask questions about the Zappos way and get answers from actual Zappos employees. It will charge $39.95 per month for subscriptions.

The service, said CEO Tony Hsieh, is targeted at the "Fortune 1 million" looking to build their businesses. "There are management consulting firms that charge really high rates," he said. "We wanted to come up with something that's accessible to almost any business."

Zappos' legendary commitment to customer service has made it a darling of the marketing intelligentsia. In nine years, it's grown to be on track to sell $1 billion of goods this year, expanding from shoes into apparel and even electronics.

Despite the feel-good vibe, Zappos is not immune to the current economic turbulence. Last month, Zappos cut 8 percent of its workforce."

Interesting service and might be worth your time to check it out, if only for a few months.  Warning - I would pay the $40 only if you've got a chance to implement some of what you've learned.  If you can't, you'll more than likely be frustrated by all the cool stuff you see.

Additionally, be forewarned the site looks to be tailored as much to customer satisfcation as it does pure culture tools.  But, the more you dig in, the more you see they're strongly linked.  Zappos pursues the culture goal as a means to achieve higher customer satisfaction.

Even if you don't subscribe, lots of free tools out there for you to review.  My favorite?  An interview with "Dr. Vik", the personal coach.  Interesting as you listen to Vik speak.  If you're a traditional HR person, you're automatically thinking Vik is a gimmick.  Then you listen to what he's saying, and you change your mind.  At least I did. 

Check out the offerring at Zappos Insights, and if you do nothing else as a HR/Talent pro, check out the Dr. Vik interview here.

"Talent is Overrated Primer" - Where Passion Comes From and the Multiplier Effect...

I finally finished the book "Talent is Overrated" by Fortune Editor-at-Large, Geoff Colvin, which explores the question of whether pure talent or hard, focused work is the key to becoming a world class performer in any discipline.  As you might expect, the book concludes that you can't become world class at anything without putting in tons of hours on your craft and making sure those hours are focused in a certain way.  I read it.  I'm a believer.

The following is one of four quick primers I'll do on the book focused on the following concepts: 1) whatTalent is overrated Deliberate Practice is, 2) applying the concepts of Deliberate Practice to the workplace and your organization, 3) why creativity/innovation is a myth, and 4) where passion comes from and the "multiplier effect".

Primer #4 - Where Passion Comes From and the Multiplier Effect...

One of the more valuable chapters in Colvin's book is the chapter "Where does the Passion Come From?".  At the core of this chapter is the age old question, "is motivation to achieve great performance intrinsic or extrinsic"?  Does it come from inside us, a natural gift, or does the motivation come from environmental forces?

To answer this question, Colvin walks through a great deal of research, much of which points to the fact that high performers are generally a self-motivated bunch, especially given the fact that the thousands of hours of deliberate practice required to reach the top of a field is a grind - not the most pleasurable way to spend your childhood or early adult life. 

To explain this, Colvin points to something emerging in research called the "multiplier effect", which says that a very small advantage in some field can spark a series of events that produce far larger advantages.  Here's a good rundown from Colvin:

"Note that this multiplier effect accounts not just for improvement of skills over time but also for the motivation that drives the improvement, as the young baseball player's satisfaction leads him to practice more. The sequence proposed by these researchers is strikingly similar to the actual experiences of future achievers reported in Bloom's research.  He observed, "In all the fields most of these young students were regarded as fast learners by their first teachers... Whether or note they were really faster learners than others is not known... However, the attribution of "fast learner" to them by the initial teacher was one major source of motivation.  The teach soon regarded and treated them as 'special' learners, and the students came to prize this very much."

Colvin goes out to outline the same research as recognizing that the multiplier effect was clearly developing the drive of the students - "As they began to receive recognition for the talent in the early years of instruction, the children's investment in the talent became greater.  No longer was the prime motivation to please parents and teachers. It now became the individual's special field of interest."

Small edges, small advantages, perhaps occuring in the external environment, serving to provide positive feedback and results to the child.  As a result, the child likes how that field or interest makes him feel, then becomes self-motivated to invest more and more time in the field voluntarily.

So goes the multiplier effect.  How does that change how you steer your kids?

Encouraging Your Employees To Shack Up Together...

Not a love shack, an innovation shack.  You thought something else? Sorry about that...

The fun thing about doing HRD for a company, that's not afraid to think outside the box, has to be the possibilities.  Look around you and combine what you know with what's going on in the world, or more specifically, pop culture.  Case in point - contests like the biggest loser, opportunities to market mentorship programs along the lines of the Apprentice and forcing groups of employees to live together as part of a bigger brainstorming/innovation project.

What's the last one all about you ask?  More on the art of corporate cohabitation from Business Week:

"It sounds more like reality TV than a reasoned strategy. Last year, Best Buy (BBY) picked fourRealWorldKeyWest groups of salespeople in their 20s and early 30s and asked the strangers to room together for 10 weeks in a Los Angeles apartment complex. On the agenda, besides hanging out at the beach: coming up with businesses the electronics retailer could roll out quickly and cheaply.

Believe it or not, the arrangement worked. Today, in a dozen stores in greater Los Angeles, Best Buy offers a service called Best Buy Studio, which provides Web-design consulting for small businesses. Jeremy Sevush, a former sales-floor department supervisor in West Hollywood, came up with the idea and then worked with executives to launch the venture only a couple of weeks after he moved out of the company apartment last May.

"My friends joked and said I was joining 'Real World: Best Buy Edition,'" says Sevush, 29, referring to the MTV (VIAB) television series that features a youthful cast sharing a home. "Living together and knowing we only had 10 weeks sped up our team-building process. We voluntarily worked longer hours, talking about business models while making spaghetti."

Extreme brainstorming sessions like Best Buy's may be common in the tech sector, where programmers and engineers are sequestered so they can better focus on the next breakthrough. Now other companies are turning employees into temporary housemates, too. Whirlpool (WHR), for example, packs eight sales reps off to a house in Benton Harbor, Mich., to cook and clean together for seven weeks under a program called Real Whirled. By thoroughly familiarizing themselves with Whirlpool appliances, the company hopes, salespeople will become sharper marketers of the goods.

Best Buy retained former IBM (IBM) manager John Wolpert to create and oversee its innovation project. Wolpert, who runs Team upStart, a consultancy in Sunnyvale, Calif., had used a similar real-life approach at IBM's Extreme Blue incubator in Austin, but never before at a retailer. He charges up to $75,000 for each 10-week immersive session, including room and board for employees, who are assured they'll get their old jobs back. "There's something magical about taking smart people out of their safety zones and making them spend night and day together," he says. "You have to prioritize on steroids and be absolutely ruthless to prove what you want to do can be done."

Interesting stuff.  Off course, there's a host of stuff that would seem to present liability by shacking the kids up, but isn't that the command and control administrator coming out in me? 

Six words - "Get the waiver and handbook signed".  Before they pick bedrooms.

"Talent is Overrated Primer" - Using Deliberate Practice at Work and Within Organizations...

I finally finished the book "Talent is Overrated" by Fortune Editor-at-Large Geoff Colvin, which explores the question of whether pure talent or hard, focused work is the key to becoming a world class performer in any discipline.  As you might expect, the book concludes that you can't become world class at anything without putting in tons of hours on your craft and making sure those hours are focused in a certain way.  I read it.  I'm a believer.

The following is one of five quick primers I'll do on the book focused on the following concepts: 1) whatTalent is overrated Deliberate Practice is, 2) applying the concepts of Deliberate Practice to the workplace and your organization, 3) why creativity/innovation is a myth, and 4) where passion comes from and the "multiplier effect".

Primer #2 - Using Deliberate Practice at Work and Within Organizations:

I'm a big fan of this book, and I'll be posting primers #3-#5 in the weeks to come.  But for now, we're reviewing how Colvin approached the concept of using deliberate practice at work and within your organization.

Here's the short version - Colvin didn't have any new ideas.

That's OK - allowing employees to chase what they are good at via deliberate practice doesn't sound like something companies would be good at, does it?  After all, companies exist to chase their lines of business and make a profit.  Sure, we develop people, but not to the end called for via deliberate practice.  Read the post regarding what deliberate practice is again - no wonder companies don't do it - it takes too much time, and companies generally need employees to be competent at many things, rather than great at one thing.

That's why world class talent tends to migrate to "independent contractor" status.

For the record, here's what Colvin listed as ways organizations can apply the principles of great performance:

1. Understand that each person is not just doing a job, but is also being stretched and grown.

2. Find ways to develop leaders within their jobs.

3. Encourage leaders to become active in their communities.

4. Understand the critical roles of teachers and feedback.

5. Identify promising performers early.

6. Invest significant time, money and resources in developing people.

All good ideas are necessary, but not groundbreaking at a macro level, especially when looking for application of how the concept of deliberate practice can be applied to work and organizations.

Remember - the concept of deliberate practice is the concept of 10,000 hours of practice to become world class at one thing.  The ideas shared by Colvin are too generalized to have real application related to deliberate practice and organizations.

That's why the great ones generally do it on their own.  The organization (wo)man wasn't built to be great at one or two things.  He/she was built to be merely good at many things...