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December 2012

NEW YEARS RESOLUTION: To Hell With the Zero Summers...

2012 is almost gone, and my resolutions for 2013 are pretty short.  So short I can sum them up in one sentence:

"To hell with the Zero Summers."

You know the Zero Summers. They are the individuals that think if you win, they lose. They believe there's a finite sum of good things that can happen in the world, and when one of them happens to you, that's one ZeroSum less that can happen to them.  They believe for every gain there is a loss. For every winner, there's a loser. 

Competing is fine. Being competitive isn't the primary issue with Zero Summers. The real issue is that zero summers withhold the following due to their world view. Zero Summers:

-Withhold praise and recognition 

-Won't collaborate to save their *** because they're too worried about who is going to get the credit

-Won't work on ideas that have clearly been created by someone else for the same reason outlined above

-Are generally snake-like when it comes to anything related to teamwork. They actually bring team chemistry down because of the negative vibe they bring to the table. Did you hear that silence in the meeting? That's the team reacting to the selfish vibe that the Zero Summer put out there. The team's probably not even fully aware of who's putting off that vibe. That's how under the radar the Zero Summers can be.

So I've got some decisions to make about the Zero Summers related to my 2013 resolution. I can either just say I'm not going to work on things with Zero Summers, or I can go off the grid and decide that I'm going to try and call out Zero Sum behavior when I see it, with all the social and professional discomfort that goes with that choice. Not sure yet how far to take it.  It impacts what I'm involved in away from work as much as it impacts my professional life. 

Zero Summers - they're killing your ability to collaborate in your personal and professional life. They should get called out on it.

Happy Holidays! I know, I'm a ray of freaking sunshine. You thought that I was going to give you a resolution on writing a haiku once per week, and all the sudden I'm throwing red paint on someone in a meeting.

Good times. PS, there's a band called the Zero Summers.  There's a cello and Green Day influences and they hail from Utah. Click here for the website, it's the only positive I've ever seen related Zero Summers in my life.

IPAD/KINDLE: And Thoughts About Veering From a Single HR Platform...

So he did it.  Santa brought one of our kids a Kindle.  

We've got 3 iPhones and an iPad.  Still, it was cool to see the Kindle under the tree. Then, I started seeing the pings to my Amazon account for App downloads and I thought, "what the hell are we doing?"

Santa gave us a new platform. All the start up costs associated with that are going to flow to support that new platform. We have the Apple Platform, and last time I checked there was a Kindle app that you can use on Apple devices. Name the feature of the new Kindle platform (books! video! music! games!), and we already had that on Apple.

It's not that one is better than the other. It's the fact that we already had one platform supporting 4 people, and through digital rights management, much of the content across that platform could be shared.

How many times did you introduce a new platform in HR in 2012 because it was the shiny new thing? 

Which is a fancy way of asking how many passwords you've pushed on your employees, right?

The higher the number of passwords, the lower the adoption rate/business results related to your HR platform.

I love the Kindle. But all it did was introduce complexity and ensure that the platforms we use don't talk to each other.  Need to remember that at work in 2013.

PEOPLE ECONOMICS: Regression to the Mean

I've got a theory I've written about here before - EVERY MANAGER and INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTOR HAS A SHELF LIFE AT A COMPANY.

What's a shelf life?  Shelf life means that you come into a new opportunity with lots of fresh ideas, and you're engaged and ready to kick some ass.  And you do that.  Just as importantly, the people around you - the receptors of all that wisdom - view you as at least somewhat fresh and innovative.

Like the Eagles once said, you're the new kid in town. Average-employee-skills (1)

Until you're not.  I think every manager has a period of about 2-3 years in the company, then they either need to get a different team in the same company, change companies or do what is hardest - reinvent themselves and the personal value proposition they bring to the company and their teams.  

I call it shelf life.  Others might call it regression to the mean, and smart people realize it impacts companies as well indviduals. Here's some notes on how a VC thinks regression to the mean is the biggest threat to Facebook:

"What's the biggest threat to Facebook?  Some things leap to mind: GoogleTwitter, the shift to mobile, government regulators.  But a top Facebook executive says those aren't the real problem.

Instead, it's reversion to the mean, according to Chamath Palihapitiya, who's now a venture capitalist at the Social + Capital Partnership. Reversion to the mean, or regression to the mean, is a concept from statistics. It basically says that exceptional performance can't last forever."

Here's how that works according to CP:

"When companies work, the biggest thing that happens is you revert to the mean. The mean is every crappy company out there. And we all work at crappy companies. We've all done it. We all look at our boss and think, "This guy's an idiot. How does he have this job? This company is so stupid. I hate my job. Is it time to leave yet?"

We've all been in that position.

And so the real question that I was asking myself at Facebook was, "What happens and how do companies end up in this situation?" And my realization was every company gets there eventually. But that last word is the most important.

And the challenge of a senior executive team is to prevent that regression to the mean. And culture is the only thing that does that."

Regression to the mean for companies and shelf life for managers.  It's going to happen eventually.  Your job is to prevent the regression from happening as long as possible.  When you think about it, preventing good talent from that regression is probably the most important thing a HR pro can do, right?

TRAINING TOOLKIT For January: What To Do When Your Team (or you) Sucks at LinkedIn...

I've got your first New Year's Resolution right here - start taking care of your career by connecting and promoting who you are before you really need a strong professional network. There's no better tool than LinkedIn to help you accomplish that goal in 2013.  LI2

Let's face it.  You - or someone you love - has a WEAK approach to LinkedIn. Maybe you don't love them. Maybe they're just a direct report. Still, the facts are there. Their LinkedIn profile is awful. They need some game. You don't know what to tell them to do, so you tell them to "spend time on it".

Great advice, coach.  Next time tell them to "try harder". With that kind of coaching, what could possibly prevent better results in 2013?

Good news. I'm here with the only training package you'll ever need to get yourself or others ramped up on LinkedIn and getting better results.  t's a whitepaper my team at Kinetix created with my help called "Are you a LinkedIn Benchwarmer? 12 Steps to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile Today".  Click on the link to hit the download page and we'll hit you with the following:

1. A breakdown of the three most common types of LinkedIn users including "The Franchise" and "The Scrub" as a baseline for you to determine where your profile falls in the LI game. LI1

2. Our 12-Step Playbook for updating and enhancing your LinkedIn profile. We'll give you all you need to improve your LinkedIn profile dramatically with 20 minutes of work.  12 Easy Steps.  What I love about the toolkit that each of the steps intros with reasons why you need to complete the step, has pictures of what success looks like, some friendly advice from our recruiters at Kinetix and then an idiot-proof call to action called NOW YOU DO IT that tells you what to click when to complete the step.  We've made this #$#@ real simple.

3. A checklist we're calling the LinkedIn Leaderboard for you to use when updating your LinkedIn profile or training your team on this, complete with coach's notes and a scorecard to track your progress. Got a team that needs work on LinkedIn? Use this whitepaper and checklist to make it simple related to what they need to do. It's a perfect companion tool for your next meeting focused on individual development.

This is the tool to use to run a professional development session on how to better use LinkedIn for any team. It's going to make you look smart.  It's going to make you look like you care. It's done in a way where the kids on your team won't laugh at you, Brontosaurus.

So download it and roll it out already - CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD.(registration required). Not a sales pitch, just interesting reading and a great way to help your team and employees out.  I helped write it, so if you like what you get here, you'll like the toolkit...

If you find registration for content personally appalling, I don't even know who you are anymore.... Just kidding, just email me or hit me in the comments if you're hiding from the authorities and are naturally suspicious, and I'll send you the PDF...

COACHING EMPATHY: Your Best Tool in Preventing a Workplace Shooting

You've heard about the CT school shootings.  You've read the news accounts, watched the 24/7 coverage that makes us all wring our hands and worry about the great unknown.  HR people have a special place in this, since you terminate people every week, if not every day.  Those people feel wronged.  Those people own guns.

I'm not going to tell you the people who walk into a school and start shooting aren't crazy. I'm not going to tell you that the gun situation in America is good or bad.

I'm going to tell you that your best chance at minimizing the probability a workplace shooting happens in your workplace is to coach the people who aren't doing well (and ultimately get terminated) from your company with empathy and a focus on moving forward.

You know the drill.  Bad employee needs to be termed.  Everyone starts locking down for the session where you and the manager deliver the news.  We're coached to get to the point quickly, which is good.  We're also coached to say as little as possible.

Which is a problem if you want to minimize the already low probability your company will be a victim of a workplace shooting or other forms of workplace violence.

The alternative? Seek to coach the person on the fact that while there wasn't a match/fit at your company, the fact that it didn't work out doesn't have to define their professional career. Is there a place where most of the people you terminate can work, be productive and be happy?  For most of the people you term, there is.  

That's what you need to focus them on.  But you can't do that unless you're willing to coach after the termination decision is communicated.  Saying as little as possible makes the person on the other side of the table feel like it's them against your company - and everyone who works there.  Hard feelings ensue, and combine that event with a nasty relationship with a manager and co-workers, and it's clear that a lot of termed employees wish the worst for your company.

And one in a million do more.  What if you did the following when terming a problematic employee?

1.  Communicate the termination decision.

2.  Handle the Transactional details.


4.  Be open and honest enough to say that while it didn't work out here, there's a place out there that's a fit for them - without question.

5.  Give them some resources on what they need to do next to find their next role.

6.  Follow up with them and ask them how they're doing.  Tell them that while it didn't work out at ACME, you know that's not the end of the line for them and they'll land on their feet.  Tell them that's why you're calling.  Help them if you can.

7.  Repeat #6 every month until they land.  Find a way to help their search in some small way.

I know.  It's BS, right?  After all, the more contact you have, the more legal exposure you have, they weren't a good person, blah, blah, blah.  I get it.

But today's not a normal day when it comes to thinking about how you handle people transitioning out of your company.

Want to manage the risk associated with workplace violence from terminated employees?  It starts with coaching empathy from HR pros on the ground.

You don't have to do it.  You'll probably be OK.

One in a million won't.

THERE ARE RULES: Don't Be Cute with the Office Christmas Gift Exchange

Some of you are getting ready for the Christmas gift exchange at your office holiday party.  You know the drill - buy something worth $20-25, then if your location is really wild, you do the white elephant or dirty santa thing where you either pick a wrapped gift or take something from someone else.  Humanity ensues, and somebody gets stuck.

I always thought the fun of that type of exchange was two-fold.  First, it's great to see people with the blank look on their face as they get a garlic chip set or a wall calendar, but it's equally great to see people really fake celebrate getting something they'll never use.  Re-gift?  Highly probably.  Sources say yes. NB

But the key to this type of thing is someone has to go for broke and lay a couple of true turd gifts in the mix.  That's why at the Kinetix Christmas party, I wanted to provide a gift that would really stick somebody, but also make the cynics in the crowd laugh out loud.

My plan?  I wanted to capitalize on a little pop culture thing.  So I did what any white guy who reads too much Deadspin and Gawker would do - I went to target and created a gift bag of Nickelback CDs.  3 of them, one current, two old.  I put them in a nice bag with a note that said:

"I went online to see what the kids were listening to these days.  Enjoy the rock riffs from Nickelback."

- Signed, Grandma

Some of you are saying, "what the hell is wrong with Nickelback?  I celebrate their entire catalog."  I feel you.  But there's been a backlash of Chad Kroeger hate as NB has become more and more mainstream.  Read more about that here and here.

At the end of the day, I blinked.  It was 45 minutes before the party and I went into a panic.  What if no one laughed?  What if the person who got stucked was truly pissed?  I broke ranks, went to the bookstore and bought something mainstream.  Weak.

You can still celebrate Nickelback, however.  You and Laurie R. over at The Cynical Girl, who's been to like 9 Nickelback concerts.  Here's a little bit of chorus from Nickelback to keep you warm over the weekend:

"'Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
And live in hilltop houses, drivin' fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat

And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny with her bleach blond hair"

OK, now I hate them as well.  But I should have stuck with the Nickelback buffet as my gift.  Be braver than me when you buy your gift.

Love stick somebody.

I WANT TO BE: A Head Ball Coach

It was that time recently at my son's elementary school - each kid had to answer the question - what do you want to be when you grow up?

My youngest son (9) had to answer that question, and he could have said "lawyer" (Mrs. Dunn) or "HR guy/evangelist" (me), but he didn't.  That would have been boring.

Instead, he went with "coach".  He'll change his mind later when he finds out the lack of money in the profession.  Here's some pics from his day along with my notes on why you're seeing what you're seeing (email subscribers, enable photos or click through for the web version):

Picture #1


My take - I like the way he's pointing in this picture - kind of the "that's not good enough" or "drop and give me ten" type of thing.  Identifying yourself as the coolest coach makes sense as well - no reason to wait for others to bestow that on you.

Picture #2


He took my podcast headset for the day, which is clearly not "Beats" by Dr Dre.  He's also sporting a trendy UnderArmour coaching shirt that's 5 sizes too big.  

Picture #3

Brady 4

He labled the headset "head ball coach" after I spent the better part of a weekend saying "head ball coach" 1000 times after I saw Steve Spurrier had "HBC" on the top of his headset during a TV game.  You guessed it - Steve Spurrier has bestowed the title "head ball coach" on himself.  Gotta love it.

Picture #4


Smart kid.  He gets to stay in the house for another year.  He's got great judgment and tremendous upside if this suck up attempt is any indication.

MATH: How Much Would Banning "Reply All" Save Your Company?

Reply all?  It sucks, right?  But does it really cost your company anything?  Do the math on some numbers that I spotted recently in BusinessWeek:

"At least 15 percent of a typical office worker’s day is spent on e-mail, and 5 percent of e-mails received are replies to all, according to data from VoloMetrix, a Seattle startup that tracks, minute by minute, how its clients’ employees use technology at work. While that might sound like a small number, spread those stats over a 10,000-employee company and “you rapidly get to a pretty big number in terms of dollar cost—in the tens of millions of dollars [per year],” says VoloMetrix founder Rya 452688_ReplyAll09 (1)n Fuller. For worker productivity, he says, “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

So let's roll with that math.  Let's say you have a 1,000 person white collar company and the average salary is 50K.  If 15% of a worker's day is spent on email, and 5% of that email glut is reply all, then you could make an arguement that about 15.6 hours a year are spent on reply all types of emails.  Do the math - $24.03 per hour on average X 15.6 hours X 1,000 FTEs, and you've got an intereresting total - $375,000.

But the math is really only part of the equation, right?  It really comes down to how productive - or unproductive - you feel the reply all button is.  

Answer that question and you're ready to answer the big question - Do you believe that reply all is so unproductive that you would remove the functionality from Outlook to prevent it's misuse?

Well?  Do you feel lucky, punk?  Would you do it?  Geek posts like this one say it can be done.

What would you do if you ruled the world?  Or at least your division?

Employee Nickname of the Week: "KGB"

If you know anything about me, you know I love to give nicknames to employees, candidates, etc.

They're a face in the crowd until we give them a nickname that's ripped from pop culture.  Which means they've arrived.KGB

Past examples:

"Boots" - the guy that wears the ankle boots to the interview.  Kenneth Cole had a sale? I didn't see that.

"Teeth" - corrective work needed. Dental plan doesn't cover orthodontics.  Great talent anyway, that's why she gets a nickname.

This week's top nickname:

"KGB" - given to an edgy sales guy. You know KGB.  He dresses in black for the most part and always looks stylish.  Most importantly, he goes with the shadow beard.  IT ALWAYS SEEMS LIKE IT IS 2-3 DAYS OUT.

Picture of KGB to the right.  You know him.  You love him.  The ladies love him.

He's KGB.  

Ways HR People Say They Didn't Get The Work Done...

I love to write about HR people finding ways to squeeze administrative work down to the lowest possible percentage of time so they can spend time on what matters.

But let's face it, sometime S*** happens.  And then, you've got to protect yourself.  That's why I'm priming the pump today with some MBA one-liners for why the work didn't get done, then we'll find some pure play HR versions.  More from VentureBeat:

"The key to getting away with not getting everything done is to talk like a businessperson. MBA degrees are optional, but helpful. Pull out those banal MBA one-liners and you can circumnavigate your way through any missed deadline or incomplete spreadsheet. Whether you’re too busy or just a little lazy, here are ten surefire lines that will cover your butt and earn you some corporate cred to boot:

  1. I didn’t have the bandwidth this week Detour
  2. We were trying to boil the ocean
  3. I had to prioritize other deliverables
  4. It wasn’t the right high-level strategy
  5. It fell below the line this week
  6. It’s really a time and distance problem
  7. There were other low-hanging fruit to attend to
  8. It’s just not quite in my wheelhouse
  9. It didn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel
  10. The problem was that we were working in silos
  11. It’s an issue of scalability"

So that's the MBA world.  Got any from the HR world?  Here's my short list, hit me with yours in the comments:

  1. Four letters and a word:  EEOC suit.
  2. You want me to put out the fires or work on succession planning?
  3. I value recruiting.  I just value not getting sued more.
  4. Remember that technology we didn't invest in?  I was conducting the orchestra via forms as a result.
  5. Interrogations on bad stuff was my entire week.  I feel like an overworked cop from "The Wire".
  6. Our comp plan is not competitive.  That's why time to fill is up.
  7. I could get my team around the mission a lot faster if they were bonus eligible.
  8. The last time I avoided these employee relations issues to do the fun stuff, the person in your role before you got canned.
  9. I can't get anyone to respond to basic requests for information.  Can we have the CEO send out an email?

Boom.  That's what I got.  What other one-liners are gold for HR Managers, Directors and VPs to say they didn't get the work done and live to tell about it?  Put it in the comments.

Let's crowdsource this sucker.