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December 2011

The NLRB: Now Extracting Ransom (for Unions) From An Employer Near You...

You have to love this one.  The National Labor Relations Board, traditionally in place to ensure union elections go according to the law and to sort through claims of unfair labor practices from both unions, employees and employers alike, is now in the ransom business.

Read this article related to the NLRB dropping from the New York Times.  Cliff notes appear below:

"In the Boeing case, Mr. Solomon asserted that Boeing’s decision to build its $750 million Dreamliner factory in South Carolina constituted illegal retaliation against the machinists’ members in Washington for having exercised their federally protected right to strike. He cited public statements by Boeing officials about the machinists’ militancy in Washington State as one piece of evidence in the case, although Boeing officials said that lower costs were their major reason for choosing South Carolina.

After months of sharp rhetoric, Boeing and the machinists announced a surprise agreement on a new contract last week. Last week, Local 751 of the machinists’ union announced that 74 percent of its Boeing workers in Washington State had voted to ratify a four-year contract extension that included substantial raises, unusual job security provisions and Boeing’s commitment to expand aircraft production in the Puget Sound area.

The union then asked the labor board to withdraw the case."

Daaaaaamn.  Here are all the facts you need to know:

1.  The NLRB took action to tie up Boeing from opening a new plant in a non-union state.

2.  The claim existed until the union got a new contract.

3.  Once the union got a new contract, the NLRB withdrew its complaint.

Translation: The NLRB helped the union extract a ransom from Boeing.  The NLRB gave the union a bargaining chip to take to the negotiation table, then did what the union asked them to do once the new contract was released.

Winner:  The union.  Loser: Anyone who likes governmental agencies that are charged with enforcing the law not to overreach, pick sides or generally serve as a hindrance to the creation of jobs in a down economy.

You're not included in that description of who the loser is?  You're probably reading the wrong blog.

LEADERSHIP & DAMAGE CONTROL: How to Communicate When Something Goes Terribly Wrong...

If the Penn State and Syracuse scandals have taught us anything about leading in a crisis, it's that you need to get out of the denial business and show you're accountable in any damage control situation.

In case you missed it, there was a big old jailbreak of a brawl in college basketball on Saturday night (Cincinnati at Xavier) including sucker punches, stomping of downed players after said sucker punches and a host of other crazy stuff.  Remember the Ron Artest malay?  College basketball is pretty lucky this one didn't spill over into the stands.

How do you communicate when it all goes to hell at your company as a leader?  Do this for me - watch the video of the fight below, then we'll talk after the jump about how the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University communicated after the game.  Lots of lessons in leadership and communicating after a negative event in this one.

First the fight (email subscribers click through for all videos):

Now, for the reaction.  First up?  Xavier University, who put their players in front of the media after this brawl and got the results they deserved - the players claiming to be gangster and telling everyone if you challenge them, this is what you are going to get.

Next up, the University of Cincinnati put head coach Mick Cronin up in front of the media, and got the results they deserved.  A leader of a program saying that he and the program he represents is accountable, and that he told all the members of a team that he would decide who's still a part of the program after the full review:

Wow.  See any contrast?   Who's the rocket scientist at Xavier who let the kids who were in the middle of craziness express their thoughts?  

Leadership - fail.  Wow, that was weak.

Cronin, on the other hand, did well.  "I took everyone's jersey".  "We'll decide who's still part of the program".  "I took some of the jerseys off some of the kids myself". 

When it doubt related to communicating in a crisis, go for accountability.  Oh, and don't let the employees who helped create an epic situation be the ones who communicate for your company.

It's called leadership.  Get someone in front of the cameras or print reporters who can handle it.  The last thing you need is an inflammatory quote that damages the brand even further.

Albert Pujols and the Art of the Counter-Offer: It All Comes Down to Replacement Cost for the Same Performance...

I'm from Missouri and a St. Louis pro sports fan.  In case you missed it, Cardinal great (pro baseball) Albert Pujols has left the Cardinals at the age of 32, signing a 10 year deal worth $254 Million with the Los Angeles Angels.

The reaction out of St. Louis is disappointment, but with a hat tip toward the realization that matching that offer would have been a suckers play. Card exec

It's a much different reaction than what happened in Cleveland when Lebron James opted to "take his talents to South Beach".  The reaction should be different, because the situations are dramatically different.

It all comes down to replacement cost, your brand and the profitability line.

Lebron James was a mega-star in a superstar-driven league.  The Cleveland Cavaliers couldn't replace him if he left.  Cleveland as a sports town is a wasteland, a place where no free agent wants to dwell.  Lose Lebron in Cleveland, you're not getting back to the top.  Ever.

The Cardinal franchise is something entirely different.  Lots of world championships before Pujols arrived.  A great baseballl town and region where veterans want to play to bask in fan support all summer long.

Baseball is a sport where you need 20 contributors, and no one player can domineer the action - unlike basketball.

What would you do if Ed in Accounting told you he wouldn't be back in 2012 unless you gave him a 3 year deal giving him a annual 60% bump in comp?

Hit the bricks, Ed.  You're replaceable.

What about Stan, your top sales pro?  He's not coming back in 2012 unless you double his total comp and guarantee it for 4 years.  He's a great revenue producer, careful....

You've got 4 other reps that are near quota.  Stan's great, but you lose money on that comp structure.  Don't let the door hit you on the butt on the way out, Stan.

Countering the star comes down to 3 things:

1.  What's the total comp point where the revenue/performance the star provides goes into the red?

2.  How strong is your organization?  Can you recruit good talent in to replace the star?  Is your brand good enough where others want to work for you?

3.  Is there anyone else that can come close to doing what the star does?

Cleveland had no other options, thus the total freak out when Lebron left.  St. Louis is pretty quiet in comparson the day after Albert took his talents to SoCal.

Is your organization like the Cavs or Cardinal nation?

If Your HR Client Group Includes Locker Rooms (employees or customers), You've Got Trouble...

I come to you today with a mission of mercy.  I'm here to help, remember that when you find this post less than acceptable.

Here's what I want to say.  You know the Penn State thing, right?  If your business/HR client group includes male/guy/dude locker rooms of any type, you've got some work to do.

Why?  Consider this conversation that happened two years before the Penn State scandal (at the YMCA for a youth hoops game): Locker room

Mrs. Dunn: Your son has to go the bathroom.

KD: You didn't send him there himself, did you?

Mrs. Dunn:  Noooooooooo. (said indicating she understood my point perfectly)

KD:  Can you take him to the women's locker room?

Mrs. Dunn:  He's a little old for that.

KD: Damn.

Why the drama?  At the Y we go to, there aren't any stand-alone bathrooms.  You have to go to the locker room to use the bathroom.  And a locker room at a YMCA is a male nudity extravaganza, often of questionable judgment.

I'll spare you a lot of details.  No, I'm going to give you some of the details.  Old guys blow drying their hair without any clothes on, at the bathroom sinks next to the toilets my son would use.  Same type of guy buttoning up his dress shirt without any underwear on after a shower.

It would seem that toweling/underwearing up would be something simple to do.  Yet it doesn't happen.  So even before the Penn State thing broke, I'm hesitant to send my 8 year old son into that locker room alone.  Weird deal.

It was the same way when I played college basketball.  We had our own digs/locker room, but some of the professors would use the facilities.  Turn the corner and sure enough, there's a history professor that's friendly to the program brushing his teeth.  Buck naked.

You're a HR pro with a client group that includes locker rooms?  Think long and hard if kids are anywhere in the vicinity.  You're looking at an increased compliant/nasty claim rate since the Penn State/Syracuse stuff broke.  

Can't speak for the ladies.  But that's the deal on the dude side.

Good luck with this one.  It ain't pretty.  And I mean that figuratively and literally.

Quit Your HR Job: What Would You Spend 10,000 Hours Mastering If You Had the Chance?

By now, you've read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell or Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin - or read the summaries and understand the concept developed by the research of Anders Ericsson that says it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master any skill. 

You've probably daydreamed about it:  "What would I choose to become world class in if money and time were no object?" Outlier

Check that.  Most of us haven't daydreamed that because putting 10,000 hours in on any one thing is a crazy, hard grind.

But there are people out there who quit everyting to chase the dream of world-class mastery presented in Outliers.  Meet Dan McLaughlin, who is currently midstream in his quest to quit it all and play so much golf in a "deliberate practice" way that he'll be able to go pro.  More from BusinessWeek:

"After turning 30 last year, he (McLaughlin) quit his job as a photographer for a marketing company, built a website, hired a coach, and decided to live off the $100,000 he had saved. He’s now on the “Dan Plan,” which involves golfing for 10,000 hours—which will take six and a half years of full-time commitment—with the goal of becoming one of the roughly 250 men on the PGA Tour out of the more than 60 million golfers in the world.

In July, McLaughlin passed his 1,700th hour. His instructor, Christopher Smith (ironically, the speed golf champion of the world), decided McLaughlin would start at the hole and work his way out. Slowly. So McLaughlin spent the first three weeks doing nothing but putting from three feet away. Smith wouldn’t let him progress to bigger clubs until he’d mastered the small ones. He had only four clubs in his bag—he was stuck on mastering the eight-iron. When he told people at parties that he was a full-time nonprofessional golfer, and they didn’t walk away, they often asked his handicap: “I say, ‘Oh, I don’t have one. I’ve been practicing for 15 months, but I’ve never played a game.’ People assume a slight bit of insanity.”

Ericsson believes that only deliberate practice—intensely focused time spent trying to improve—causes progress. “Most people on a job spend 10,000 hours and they are at the level they started out,” he says. “You can count the hours people drive and you’re not going to see a high correlation to skill. You have to try to stretch yourself and attain higher levels of control.”   

To become world class, you just don't start playing a round of golf.  You do deliberate practice as described above.  He's never played a round of golf in 1,700 hours of practice.

Think about that for a second.  Mental discipline and patience, anyone?

So, what would you chase if you had 10,000 full-funded hours of practice and didn't have to worry about feeding the family?

For most of us, the answer would be nothing.  Too much of a grind.

LEADERSHIP FRIDAY: The Many Sides of Ronald Reagan...

Let's talk about leadership.  Let's talk about Ronald Reagan.

I totally got sucked in to the HBO documentary on Reagan.  It reminded of some reasons I love the image of Reagan as a leader, and then reminded me of some things that show just how hard leadership is at the macro level.

Among the complexities:

1.  Reagan was a formal liberal turned hawk conservative.  

2.  Reagan was a big reason the whole cold war thing turned out the way it did.  The examples are too numerous to mention here, but you can't say that Reagan didn't lead in the cold war vs. the USSR.  One of my favorite things about Reagan as a leader.  He chose a big theme and delivered.

3.  Reagan had an ethical lapse in the whole Iran/Contra thing.  A big one.

4.  Reagan understood the power of being on message and branding yourself as a leader.  No one did it like him in the media age until Clinton, and then Obama.  But he's at their level, just in a different way.

5.  There's still a lot of talk about the effect of his trickle down economic policies in America.  Did they do more harm than good?  Did the transfer of wealth to the richest 2% really happen that  way?  Was that a bad thing?  

6.  Reagan didn't mention the word AIDS for 7 years of his presidency until his family promoted the importance of what was going on to him and friend Rock Hudson was diagnosed.  A missed opportunity.

What's it all mean?  To me, the moderate republican, the use of media, image and brand and the unbelievable stance he took against communism make him one of the best leaders we've had.  But - the Iran-Contra situation along with the economic policy questions show me one thing - leadership is very, very hard.

And at the top, it's lonely as hell.

RIP, Ronald Regan.  Highly recommend you watch the HBO piece regardless of your politics.  It's a balanced account of a leader with a lot of complexity you can learn from.  (Video tease below, email subscribers click through)