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May 2009

When Too Much Seth Godin is Too Much Seth Godin...

I love Seth Godin as much as the next person.  I think I have all his books (you'll see many of them listed on the sidebar of this blog as suggested reading), although I still have yet to read "Tribes".  When it comes to keeping you on your feet related to marketing, brand and the new age of social media, there's no one better.  He's the gold standard in that area, OK?  Now on to the meat of the post.

Sometimes too much Seth Godin is too much Seth Godin.  Especially when he bounces into the area of talent, specifically selecting talent, and the pundits covering him brand super smart marketing and PR techniques (which Seth is very, very good at) as innovative selection processes for talent. 

Am I grumpy, cynical, jealous and/or "on the money" with this one?  You decide.  More on the cult that is Seth Godin from Forbes:

"Seth Godin sits at a table surrounded by nine aspiring entrepreneurs. Emily Kate Boyd, a songwriterForbes_0427_p066 from Atlanta, shares her idea for a new venture: a nonprofit that will expose wealthy donors to fledgling artists who need their support. "How do you use 'groupthink' and wisdom of the crowds to do this?" Godin asks her in his signature marketer's jargon. Boyd, 28, says that when prospective patrons are together in one room they will inspire one another to participate.

Boyd and the other folks, most of them under 40, are participating in an "alternative M.B.A. program" organized by Godin and held in his office in the sleepy town of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. The Godin followers are spending five days a week for six months, until mid-July, soaking up marketing insights from the speaker and author of marketing advice books. The program is free--sort of. Four of the participants gave up their jobs; two quit; two are taking leaves of absence to spend time with Godin, who pads around in mismatched socks and quirky glasses and fixes his followers' lunch almost every day. Allan Young, one participant, quit two part-time gigs, which paid him a total of $170,000 a year, to hang out with Godin. Boyd is racking up $1,000 a month in debt to participate.

Godin, who typically works alone and admits that he gets lonely, came up with the alternative business degree program in November. He initially hoped to find people he could teach who could also help him work on his Web site (Squidoo.com) and other projects. He sat down at his computer and dashed off a posting on Squidoo. The heading: "Don't go to business school. Instead of getting an M.B.A., consider spending six months in my office." He was looking for "brilliant, charismatic" people "on a mission, moving fast, filled with passion and empathy."

Even he was surprised at the number of responses he received. ("The danger of the Web is that you can go from idea to public announcement in under ten minutes," he says.) Godin says 48,000 people looked at the post and 340 applied. In December he invited 27 applicants to his office for a group interview. They spent two hours interviewing one another. Then they, and Godin, wrote down the names of their favorite candidates. Three weeks later the 9 chosen showed up at Godin's office."

Here's what drives me crazy.  I've seen a couple of posts related to the selection process and got the article forwarded to me a couple of times.  The gist of the posts/emails from my talent peers?  "Seth is freaking brilliant, look at how he arrived at the nine". 

Seth is brilliant at many things, including marketing and PR.  When it comes to selecting multiple candidates for your company, are you really willing to let finalists vote for their favorites and live by that for your business?

You're not, because you know better than that.  I'm sure Seth could have made all the selections himself and done very well based on his hiring instincts.  But don't look at a "Survivor" type of process and tell me Seth's brilliant because of a PR/Marketing gimmick.

Seth's brilliant in a lot of ways.  This selection process isn't one of them.  If you believe the selection process above, just start allowing anyone who submits a resume to vote for their "top 10 candidates to phone screen" and see how that works out for you.

Crowd sourcing - good for many things, selection isn't one of them.


Costco - Locking Employees Up Without Pay... What Could Go Wrong?

If you keep your eyes on the media reports of best places to work, you couldn't help but notice the contrast that has been reported between Costco and WalMart.  Here's some comparisons that clearly suggest that Costco is an employer of choice from Slate:

"It's not hard to make a case that Costco pays employees more. The most relevant Costco comparison is between Costco and Sam's Club, Wal-Mart's membership warehouse, since both business models rely on membership fees for a large percentage of revenues. A Sam's Club employee starts at $10 and makes $12.50 after four and a half years. A new Costco employee, at $11 an hour, doesn't start out much better, but after four and a half years she makes $19.50 an hour. In addition to this, she receives something called an "extra check"—a bonus of more than $2,000 every six months. A cashier at Costco, after five years, makes about $40,000 a year. Health benefits are among the best in the industry, with workers paying only about 12 percent of their premiums out-of-pocket while Wal-Mart workers pay more than 40 percent."

Of course, just because you treat employees well doesn't mean they'll appreciate it - or give you a break if you're in the margins.  Consider this recent lawsuit related to mandatory post-shift work at Costco with (reportedly) no pay.  More from Bloomberg News:

"Costco Wholesale Corp., the largest U.S. warehouse club, was sued for false imprisonment by a California worker who claims employees are locked in stores against their will for 15 minutes after they're off the clock.

Mary Pytelewski, a cash register clerk at a San Marcos, Calif., Costco warehouse, alleges the company violates wage laws by refusing to allow workers to clock back in and be paid for the extra time they're locked in while managers close stores, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in state court in San Diego.

"They've been locking people in at the end of the day, clocking people out and making them wait for a manager to let them out," David Sanford, Pytelewski's lawyer, said. "They claim it's because of loss prevention or security concerns. That doesn't make any sense. Even if you have loss prevention or security concerns, you still have to pay people."

The complaint, which seeks to represent several hundred Costco workers in California, asks for $50 million in back pay plus damages from 2005 until the present.

Pytelewski also claims she was retaliated against when she first complained about the alleged practice."

If it's true that this mandatory downtime is a company-wide thing backed by commonly held procedures (regardless if they're documented or not, I'm just talking operational norms), it's hard to believe that Costco wins this case, especially in the Peoples Republic of California. 

I'm betting this one settles.  And that you'll see employees paid for the 15 minutes, or walking out with customers at 10:01pm...


The No A$**** Rule, Rules of Engagement, and Living By The Code

Browsing through some magazines this last weekend and came across the following SCATHING Letter to the Editor at Workforce (print edition, May 18, 2009) regarding SuccessFactors, an performance management software company of note and a subscriber to the "No A$***** Rule" culturally.  Take a read and don't have any drink in your mouth while reading:

"In his Global Work Watch Blog, Workforce staff writer Ed Fraunheim wrote recently about SuccessFactors CEO Lars Dalgaard, a larger than life guy who likes to brag that his company practices what it preaches when it comes to work environment and fairly evaluating employee performance.  Fraunheim said, in part, that Dalagard's comments about the cuts at his own company "have been at turns callous toward those losing jobs and refreshingly contrite."  A reader who identified himself as Rich White has a visceral reaction to the discussion:

"Hundreds of people who have worked for SuccessFactors will join me in saying this is about the worst place you could possibly work.  Any intimation that SF is a model environment or employs best practices is woefully incorrect.  Lars Dalgaard is a vile, self absorbed egomaniac who seems to thrive on being a predator.  It is incredibly ironic that this company that purports to be a great place to work - no a-holes, etc.- is in complete contradiction with this facade... Frankly, anytime I see mention of Lars or SF I throw up in my mouth."

Wow.  Email me if you've seen a public lashing stronger than that in a reputable publication. 


Is America Ready to Call Back Outsourced Jobs From India for "Rural Sourcing"?

I'm from a small town of 2,000 people in the middle of nowhere in Northeast Missouri.  It's one hour to the nearest McDonalds and there's not a stoplight in the town, and while both of my parents earned a good living when I was growing up there, there's not much there professionally for me.

It's a town driven by agriculture, with corn and soybean fields lining up for hours starting one mile from mySmall town house.  In going for runs in my old hometown, you can see the remains of a once thriving small town economy everywhere - the town square that's now half full, the vacant garment factory, etc.  NAFTA, WalMart and the Internet have all conspired to make economic conditions in Memphis tougher than they have ever been - at least when it comes to running a business and being a small employer.

During my runs, I've often wondered if the possibility exists to leverage the existing labor in rural counties for things like call centers, etc.  The play is cut rate labor compared to the cities, although still not competitive from a price standpoint with India.  Still it would seem like the technology exists to make a run at leveraging a rural workforce as a nice alternative to the politically dicey prospect of outsourcing to India. 

As it turns out, there are already companies popping up to claim the moral/patriotic high ground and the cost middle ground.  Here's the about page for a company called Rural Sourcing, which was recently featured at Workforce and is attempting to ride the backlash wave against offshoring IT/Development projects to locales like India:

About Us

Working in close partnership with Arkansas State University, RSI launched its first Development Center in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 2003. Our business model leverages ease of communications within the U.S. across Web 2.0 tools with the strength of large pools of skilled IT resources in non-metro areas.

In 2008 Clarkston Consulting bought RSI. Having the financial backing and administrative shared services of Clarkston allows Rural Sourcing to scale to meet our clients needs but keep our pricing competitive.

Rural Sourcing, Inc. is considered the innovative leader in IT domestic sourcing. Within our industry we are known for quality, professional work and our commitment to Brilliant Client Service.

• Domestic IT outsourcing for:
   • Application development
   • Business application management
   • Staff augmentation
• Low cost of living US-based locations
• Competitively priced with offshore firms
• Easily expandable and collapsible staffing
• Lean agile development methodology
• Proven experience and tailored services
• Experienced, dedicated IT professionals
• Experience with Industry Standards and American business practices
• On-site and off-site resources

Our Vision

RSI has a vision for the future of America — we call it Domestic Sourcing. RSI has established a reputation for providing high quality IT services and skills to international companies. By hiring and training skilled IT professionals, RSI has created Domestic Sourcing as an alternative to offshore outsourcing.

By creating 3,000 new jobs in the United States, we will execute on our vision of becoming the best alternative for IT outsourcing and the employer of choice for our stewards.

OUTSOURCING 2.0

We see the American outsourcing market maturing to the next stage – Outsourcing 2.0. With this maturation there is a more holistic view of outsourcing and it is no longer simply based on the lowest possible hourly price. Instead companies are beginning to factor in the cost of quality, the risks of sending technology and data abroad to unstable environments and finally, the total costs of adding distance and a lack of ownership to the development and maintenance process for your mission critical business applications."

It's an interesting model, and if Rural Sourcing can pull off the business side, they have a chance to help change the game regarding offshoring.  Let's hope they and others like them get some traction.

Maybe there's hope for my hometown?


Here's What a CEO Bashing Blog Looks Like - "Dear Chuck Jett"...

For a metro with a million people in the MSA, Birmingham seems to have a good bit of activity on the CEO front.  First, you had the HealthSouth situation with Richard Scrushy being exposed as the king who did whatever he wanted on the company dime (including ordering plastic surgery for his friends outside of HealthSouth and acting like being a Hollywood agent was a hobby), then saying "Me?  I didn't know 5 straight CFOs I hired were committing one of the biggest corporate frauds in history".

Now we have Chuck Jett.  Not the same type of deal as Shrushy by any stretch of the imagination, but Haironfire topical from a CEO standpoint.

Who's Chuck Jett you ask?  Jett is the former CEO of Birmingham-based technology firm Emageon, a hot software startup that went public a few years back and ultimately struggled from a results/shareholder value perspective.  The company was red hot in the Birmingham area for many years, then fell on hard times once it went public.  Chuck Jett was the CEO of Emageon during the roughest portion of the downside, and resigned in 2008.  Jett is widely panned locally for approving decisions like forcing the relocation of his entire engineering team from Birmingham to Wisconsin as part of a post acquisition plan where Emageon was actually the acquirer.

As a result of the downslide, some former employees decided to create a site called "Dear Chuck Jett" where they could wax poetic about their feelings towards their former CEO.

Now you know where this is going.  Here's a sampling from Dear Chuck Jett:

"Dear Chuck "Yoda" Jett,

"I once heard you defend that all employees are replaceable by quoting Charles De Gaulle, stating "The graveyards are full of irreplaceable men." Besides the fact that the quote is "The graveyards are full of indispensable men." and the fact that you had the audacity to quote a figure like De Gaulle, I firmly believe that you (like De Gaulle) did not believe that the quote applied to you or ever understood that it was a double-entendre. Maybe you just liked it because it came from another Chuck.

The questions that I have for you:

Are you now dispensible as you approach the graveyard of "your" company? How could that be so, given that you are the self-proclaimed "founder" of this great enterprise? Could it be, perhaps, that the only employee truly dispensible was, after all, you?

Are the graveyards of Emageon full of people that you thought were dispensible, but were not? Have you been able to replace those that you felt were dispensible, treated as such, and no longer have to support you? Perhaps, upon reflection, you were simply wrong?

- A dispensable voice from the grave"

How about another one?

"I look back on your heartfelt goodbye to your personal secretary when she left the company. You pointed out in an all hands meeting that she was such an asset to the entire company and that each and every one of us would miss her and owed her our gratitude.

Meanwhile the company was bleeding engineering talent at an alarming rate, often just disappearing without a word. This level of prioritization skill certainly got us to the position we are in today.

You are an inspiration to us all."

We've got time for one more:

"Dear Chuck Jett,

I can’t decide which memory or encounter is best remembered. Was it the time...

  • ...we rode together in the elevator to an All Hands meeting and you awkwardly acknowledged me, but didn’t speak?
  • ...we were washing our hands in the company restroom, but you weren’t sure I was an employee (probably didn’t matter either way)?
  • ...some fellow employees and I saw you at lunch and we stopped by to say hi, but you seemed uncomfortable – like we were about to mug you?
  • ...you came to Hartland office for Company Thanksgiving luncheon in ’07? The company wasn’t doing well. Instead of walking the halls and talking to the troops to offer encouragement, you stayed in your office until “time for the show,” came out, did your shtick (you know, offering encouraging, heartfelt words), then returned to your office. Ahh, that could be the winner.

Yikes.  Welcome to the new world of transparency, whether you want to provide it or not.  If that doesn't make you walk around the offices a little bit more as a leader, I'm not sure what will...


Does Anyone (other than the Narcissists) Really Care About LinkedIn Groups?

Case in point... LinkedIn Groups... Like most of you, I belong to many of these, and I'm still trying to figure out how they're going to change my life.  For the moguls-in-training among us, the dream has always been to start a LinkedIn group, then ride that puppy until it had a 50K membership, then milk it like an ATM with no limit....

At least, that's what I've heard.  There's just this little problem...Narcissist_200_204

There's no utility or functionality to LinkedIn groups of note.  Don't believe me?  Let's examine a few of the tasty "alerts" or "questions" that LinkedIn HR generated to me awhile back, before I shut off notification from groups.   There were 47 Q&A's included in the last massive group I saw, including the following hard hitting and valuable entries:

-"Executive search service support in Brazil"...

-"I am very interested in being on corporate boards.  Any advice on how to be invited?"

-"Open Networker looking to connect"

-"Your workplace wellness consultant and provider"

-"Sr Developer needed in Austin"

And these aren't the worst.  Remind me why I'm a part of LinkedIn Groups again?  I thought it fair to share when social media fails to deliver on the promise, since I've never been afraid to jump on the bandwagon when it's good.

Jason Seiden's wondering the same thing - here's what he wrote recently:

"I’m a member of a number of LinkedIn Groups... I didn’t open <the email updates> any of them, because clearly, they were not written for me.

The posters wrote for themselves. Isn’t it obvious?

Want to get my attention? Try something like this:

“Build your network in New York City”
“Improve your tech infrastructure by putting a 15 yr IT pro on the job”
“I can help you sell your business services.”

These are starting points. Not great, but at least focused on me and not you. Even better, try:

“Jason, I’m interested in hiring you, are you in LA?” That’ll get my attention.

“Has anyone Shazamed the theme from Die Hard?” This is a triple win: I’m a pop culture junkie, I’m a tech junkie, and I know the answer. (It’s Beethoven’s 9th—and don’t you dare get all upper crusty if you knew it and thought it was obvious.)

“How do you make layered slides in Keynote for a sales prezo… anyone?” I may not answer you, but I’ll probably lurk, b/c I want the answer myself… plus, I’m curious about the deck you’re building.

Need more specific help? Email or call to set up an appointment. In the meantime, just do me—and everyone else on LinkedIn—a favor, and shut up about yourself."

LinkedIn Groups.  Functionality that seems like a good idea still looking for a drop of utility. 


When CEOs Order Plastic Surgery for Non-Employees (on the Company Dime)...

These days, it's stylish to pile on to CEOs gone bad.  Still, not all executive perks are created equal.  Let's reel off some executive perks and see how you react:

A. Parking spot

B. Company Car

C. Jet Time

D. Expense Account

E. Personal Trainer

F. Ability to order plastic surgery for non-employees of choice, at the company's expense...

I know, I know... You're probably thinking, "I don't really like any of these in these days of post-AGI excess, but KD's just throwing in item F to have fun...

If it were only that easy.  There's a company CEO of a publicly traded company who recently thought he was king, to the extent that he actually ordered his company to pay for plastic surgery for a non-employee whose career he was sponsoring.  The name is Richard Scrushy, former CEO of HealthSouth, a former Fortune 500 company before the FBI raided the corporate headquarters in 2002 due to evidence of accounting fraud.

Oh yeah - they're based in Birmingham, world headquarters of the Capitalist and Fistful of Talent.  Not Victoria-beckham-400a070207 exactly beaming with pride when I saw this list of stuff the "CEO as King" ordered up as part of his reign:

"Plaitiff’s lawyer John Haley argued in opening statements that Scrushy led a $2.64 billion accounting fraud at HealthSouth, a scheme that cost the company another $1.23 billion in fees and legal settlements once the fraud was discovered. Haley likened the case to an automobile accident, where someone has been hurt and the only witnesses are passengers in the car.

“He was the driver of the vehicle that caused the damage,” Haley said. The passengers in the car, Haley said, were the five former CFOs who have pleaded guilty to participating in the fraud.

Haley covered a lot of familiar ground. He described an accounting fraud that began relatively small in 1996 with a $7 million fudge on the books. By 2003, however, that fraud had ballooned to about $2.7 billion.

Haley blasted Scrushy for using the company for personal reasons. He told Circuit Judge Allwin Horn that Scrushy caused the company to do business with peripheral, related companies he’d set up. Often these ventures resulted in big payments to Scrushy and big losses for HealthSouth. The company wasted money on Scrushy’s music interests, Haley said, including more than $40,000 spent on breast augmentation for Scrushy’s girl band 3rd Faze.

In a flashback that seems surreal even in today’s business climate, the plaintiffs played for the court a clip from Scrushy’s music video, “Honk if You Love to Honky Tonk.” Scrushy paid the band out of HealthSouth funds and flew the band to events as far away as Australia on HealthSouth jets, Haley said."

Honk if you love honky tonk - and if you were the recipient of plastic surgery provided by King Scrushy without the express written consent of HealthSouth shareholders.


Lies, Damn Lies and the EFCA - The Stink of Compulsory Arbitration...

Most of the time I've spent talking about the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has been dedicated to the concept of card check.  Today, let's talk about another poisonous, yet less obvious, portion of the EFCA - compulsory arbitration.

Compulsory arbitration as outlined in the EFCA would mean that if the company and union couldn't agreeSopranos_outside_7a_h2 to contract after card check certified the union, a federal arbitrator would come in and make the determinations regarding the specifics of the union contract.  Under current law, companies have the right to stay at the bargaining table as long as they need to as long as they are bargaining in good faith. 

The spin from the pro-EFCA crowd is that companies simply stall at the bargaining table as a method to delay good faith bargaining and to negotiate favorable terms from the union.  The reality is that there's always a balance, and the union often stalls as well to get the best terms possible.

More on the balance that exists at the table and why compulsory arbitration is a bad idea from George McGovern at the WSJ (Democrat, former senator from South Dakota and the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate):

"In a contract negotiation, each party typically perceives the other as too demanding. But no one loses their right to contract willingly or suffers being forced to agree to anything. Employees can strike if they feel that they have been dealt with unfairly, but it is a costly option. Employers are free to reject labor demands they find to be too difficult to accept, but running a business without experienced employees is itself difficult. Both sides have an incentive to press their demands, but they also have compelling reasons not to press their demands too far. EFCA would disrupt that balance by enabling government-appointed lawyers to decide what they believe is fair or reasonable.

A federally appointed arbitrator cannot be expected to understand the nuances specific to each business dispute, the competitive market position of the business, or the plethora of other factors unique to each case. Yet fundamental decisions on wages and benefit costs, rules for promotions, or even rules for exiting an unprofitable line of business could fall to federal arbitrators under EFCA.

Many labor contracts can run over 100 pages with their requirements of each party. Compulsory arbitration is, in one sense, government dictating to employees what they will win or lose in the deal, with no opportunity to approve the "agreement." Why should employees pay union dues to get such a contract?

My perspective on the so-called Employee Free Choice Act is informed by life experience. After leaving the Senate in 1981, I spent some time running a hotel. It was an eye-opening introduction to something most business operators are all-too familiar with -- the difficulty of controlling costs and setting prices in a weak economy. Despite my trust in government, I would have been alarmed by an outsider taking control of basic management decisions that determine success or failure in a business where I had invested my life savings.

"Despite my trust in government, I would have been alarmed by an outsider taking control of basic management decisions that determine success or failure in a business where I had invested my life savings".

Enough said...


How David Beats Goliath and Why Young HR Types Should Seek to Be "Socially Horrifying"...

You don't take on the giant in business, HR or life by playing by the giant's rules, right?  Apple doesn't take on Microsoft by competing with a PC platform.  Instead, they changed the game and create their own platform steeped in usability and product design.  That effectively moves the playing field from an area the giant is comfortable with.

What lessons does that have for HR pros?  If you're recruiting against a big company widely held to beRenegades an employer of choice in your city, can you compete with their overall reputation?  Probably not - instead, you need to change the game, finding some items you can effectively market to make yourself an employer of choice - in areas the giant doesn't have or isn't nimble enough to provide.

What about your HR career?  How do you compete as a Gen Y up and comer in the HR game when all the dinosaurs like me have the spots you want to grow into?

You change the game.  Get good at things the dinosaurs don't want to do but companies place value on.  Then stick with the plan.  More on knocking giants/entrenched incumbents off their lofty perch from Malcolm Gladwell via the New Yorker:

"When Vivek Ranadivé decided to coach his daughter Anjali’s basketball team, he settled on two principles. The first was that he would never raise his voice. The second principle was more important. Ranadivé was puzzled by the way Americans played basketball. He is from Mumbai. He grew up with cricket and soccer. He would never forget the first time he saw a basketball game. He thought it was mindless. Team A would score and then immediately retreat to its own end of the court. Team B would inbound the ball and dribble it into Team A’s end, where Team A was patiently waiting. Then the process would reverse itself.

A basketball court was ninety-four feet long. But most of the time a team defended only about twenty-four feet of that, conceding the other seventy feet. Occasionally, teams would play a full-court press—that is, they would contest their opponent’s attempt to advance the ball up the court. But they would do it for only a few minutes at a time. It was as if there were a kind of conspiracy in the basketball world about the way the game ought to be played, and Ranadivé thought that that conspiracy had the effect of widening the gap between good teams and weak teams. Good teams, after all, had players who were tall and could dribble and shoot well; they could crisply execute their carefully prepared plays in their opponent’s end. Why, then, did weak teams play in a way that made it easy for good teams to do the very things that made them so good?

His second principle, then, was that his team would play a real full-court press, every game, all the time. The team ended up at the national championships. “It was really random,” Anjali Ranadivé said. “I mean, my father had never played basketball before.”

This is the second half of the insurgent’s creed. Insurgents work harder than Goliath. But their other advantage is that they will do what is “socially horrifying”—they will challenge the conventions about how battles are supposed to be fought. All the things that distinguish the ideal basketball player are acts of skill and coördination. When the game becomes about effort over ability, it becomes unrecognizable—a shocking mixture of broken plays and flailing limbs and usually competent players panicking and throwing the ball out of bounds. You have to be outside the establishment—a foreigner new to the game or a skinny kid from New York at the end of the bench—to have the audacity to play it that way.

George Washington couldn’t do it. His dream, before the war, was to be a British Army officer, finely turned out in a red coat and brass buttons. He found the guerrillas who had served the American Revolution so well to be “an exceeding dirty and nasty people.” He couldn’t fight the establishment, because he was the establishment.

The price that the outsider pays for being so heedless of custom is, of course, the disapproval of the insider. Why did the Ivy League schools of the nineteen-twenties limit the admission of Jewish immigrants? Because they were the establishment and the Jews were the insurgents, scrambling and pressing and playing by immigrant rules that must have seemed to the Wasp élite of the time to be socially horrifying. “Their accomplishment is well over a hundred per cent of their ability on account of their tremendous energy and ambition,” the dean of Columbia College said of the insurgents from Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the Lower East Side. He wasn’t being complimentary. Goliath does not simply dwarf David. He brings the full force of social convention against him; he has contempt for David."

Tired of that HR VP/Director standing in the way of your career progress?  How are you different than them?  What differences do you have that are marketable?

Most importantly, are you willing to find ways that you can contribute that are far from the norms you see but add tremendous value? Are you willing to use and market those contributions in a way that the establishment would mark as "socially horrifying"?

Socially horrifying.  I like the phrase, kind of gets you in the right frame of mind to think differently.


Should Incentives Be Used If You Aren't Ready to Fire Someone?

Paul Hebert, my go-to-guy for all things incentive in this world, has a great post at Incentive Intelligence about the types of things for which you should provide incentives

From PH's post:

"Incentives have two poles - rewards and punishment.  I can move your behavior based onBaldwin_glengarry_glen_ross providing an incentive or I can punish you for non-performance.   If you don't do what I want - there will be negative consequences.

I was wondering if this idea of opposing sides to incentives could be used to test the validity of an incentive and reward structure?  What if we re-frame the rules using the negative - and see if it still makes sense? 

If you wouldn't punish someone for missing a goal then maybe you shouldn't reward the same goal."

Think through that for a moment, and you'll find the exercise is more difficult than you think.  For example, Paul uses the concept of making a sale in his post as a basis for incentives.  We provide incentives for sales all the time.  Paul uses the test logic "Make a sale today (use this week/month depending on the cycle times for your product) or you're fired".

Would you make that blanket statement?  Probably not.  To Paul's point, there are too many things involved to let someone go, based on non-performance over a short period of time.

But that brings me pretty quickly to the related topic of performance management.  If you read this site, you know I am pretty strong-headed about doing performance management off a 3-point scale (Exceeds, Meets or Does Not Meet) rather than a 5 or 7-point scale.

The reason?  Simplicity, my friends.  I can bring an expert like Paul into the organization to assist me with structuring incentives.  But, the best way I can think of to make sure I get "bang for my buck" is to tie the incentive, even if it is short-term, to the "Exceeds" level of performance.  In that fashion, I'm using a short term incentive to reinforce how high the bar is to an "Exceeds" performer.

That feeds the culture of performance, which is the goal of upstream incentive programs.  The danger is that you set the bar low enough that "Meets" performers get the carrot.  It's cool to be a "Meets", but incentives should be there for those who exceed and deliver extra.

The more people who get that, the better the performance of your organization.