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February 2014

CAPITALIST PODCAST: The Unionization of College Athletics?

Podcast time folks - Some smart kids at Northwestern are making a run at unionizing college athletics, and I had Seth Borden, Partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in NYC, join me on The CYA Report (my podcast over at Fistful of Talent), to break down all the union organizing/NLRB issues involved.  Takes me back to my roots as an HR leader helping companies remain union free.

Here's a tidbit from my brain and the podcast.  You college football kids want a union and want to be employees?  Interesting - get ready to pay taxes on the value of your scholarship at Northwestern, which is about 60K per year. Riiiiight.

See the player below - push play on your drive home or during a run to soak up the goodness.

Host: Kris Dunn

Producer: Cara Lucas & Julia Lindsey

Music:  Witchcraft – It’s Not Because Of You 

Can’t see the player below? Click here to listen now

VOTE: What's the Best Name for My New Leadership Development Series?

One of the things on my bucket list is to create a real-world take on Leadership Development, specifically for helping managers of people become the best they can be with their teams.  

That's why were developing the Kinetix Leadership Development Series.  We're delivering the first module to one of our favorite clients next week.

But now - I need your help naming the series.  We're looking for an overall name for the series that will capture the Kinetix brand, but also not scare away potential buyers of the series.  It's a balancing act.
I've come up with 5 potential names - can you help me by clicking through and voting here?  http://micropoll.com/t/KFLsAZRGNC
Please click through and vote on what you see.  I did this when I launched my 2nd blog, Fistful of Talent - and the process helped me determine that I had no clue on what the best name was.  FOT got 70% of the vote and I thought it was a placeholder so another name could win.
Additionally, a couple of ways you can help:
1.  All notes are valuable.  Please vote and if you have thoughts, reply to this email and share them or hit me in the comments to this post.
2.  If you have a great idea that's not included here, please share.  I'd love to hear a better one that we end up using.  

 Thanks for your help!

The Top 100 Movie Quotes for HR Pros: #81 is Vin Diesel "First, We're Going to Need a Chameleon" (Fast Five)

New series at the Capitalist: The Top 100 Movie Quotes of all time for HR Pros.  In no special order, I break down the 100 movie quotes that resonate most for me as a career HR pro.  Some will be funny, some will be serious... Some will tug at your heart like when the Fox voice-over guy said, "Tonight - a very special episode of 90210"... You get the vibe... I'll do it countdown-style like they're ranked, but let's face it - they're ALL special..

"First, we're going to need a chameleon... someone who can blend in anywhere...."

--Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto in Fast Five

Take a look at the clip.  More than just this quote, it says it all related to hiring a team. There's danger in hiring people just because it's the right thing to do.  You need to think deeper than that. What do you really need?  Both from a skills perspective - but just as importantly - from a behavioral perspective?

Your team needs a chameleon.  It needs a bulls**t artist.  It needs people who never lose.

Vin Diesel would be a good modern day HR pro.  See clip below...

POP THE HOOD: How to Tell A Mentor From A Suffocating Control Freak...

Capitalist Note: We're on-site next Monday at a favorite client to deliver our first module of the Kinetix Leadership Development Series.  The working title for the module is "POP THE HOOD: How To Build Better Teams Via Talent Assessments".  

This post is part of the program, a tease communication to get the people in that Leadership program thinking about what we're covering over 1.5 days before we show up.  


When you use any type of personality assessment as a manager of people, it's normally all about understanding the people who work for you and what makes them tick.

There's no question that's important. But what about you? How do you use a personality assessment to help yourself in your career?  One way you can use assessment knowledge is to understand who you are and what you need in a boss.

I recently had someone ask me how to determine in an interview whether a potential boss would truly be a mentor.  They were trying to get to a place where they worked for someone who would allow them to experiment and innovate.  They had a boss who was control oriented, and as someone with an assessment that showed great ability to innovate and drive change, they found the situation suffocating.

Here's the questions I told them to ask any potential boss to assist in determining whether they were a mentor that would allow experimentation:

1. Tell me about a time when you allowed one of your direct reports to experiment and fail. 

2. What type of innovation do you expect from your direct reports? 

3. How do you communicate what good vs great performance looks like to your direct reports? 

My experience is that a potential boss who is truly a mentor will wax poetic on each of these questions - it will be hard to bring them back once they start.  On the other hand, the controlling manager with little interest in mentoring or allowing you to grow will give short, empty answers.  You'll know a lot about which side they fall on by the way they respond.  

Can you effectively manage up if you report to either type of boss?  The answer is yes.  But who you would rather work for - and your resulting job satisfaction - has a lot to do with who you are (measured in part by your own assessment).  There's no right or wrong answer, but getting it wrong - as an individual contributor or a manager hiring for your team - can be deadly.

So don't get it wrong. 


Video Homework To Get In the Mood for the Kinetix Leadership Series (Pop The Hood Module) - Moneyball - Billy Beane gets roughed up by direct reports with no clue on how to manage up - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiB9L3dG-Aw

Music from the Kinetix Leadership Series Playlist (Pop The Hood Module) - Green Day - "Basket Case" - Green Day - Basket Case [Official Music Video]

BULLY IN THE WORKPLACE: Is HR Getting It Wrong Most of the Time?

There's an old saying from the playground playbook: "The bully will never go away until you stand up to him."

When it comes to bullying in the workplace, as HR pros, we can never sponsor that approach, right?  

Maybe we should.  Maybe we're missing it.  Consider the following text from Jonathan Martin, the Miami Dolphis player who created national news by leaving the team after reportedly being bullied and harrassed for years by Dolphin Bullyteammates.  The text was one that Martin shared with his mom while the harassment was going on:

"I figured out a major source of my anxiety. I’m a push over,  a people pleaser. I avoid confrontation whenever I can, I always want everyone to like me. I let people talk about me, say anything to my face, and I just take it, laugh it off, even when I know they are intentionally trying to disrespect me. I mostly blame the soft schools I went to, which fostered within me a feeling that I’m a huge p***y, as I never got into fights. I used to get verbally bullied every day in middle school and high school, by kids that are half my size. I would never fight back, just get sad & feel like no one wanted to be my friend, when in fact I was just being socially awkward. Most people in that situation are witty & quick with sarcastic replies, I never have been. I’m awkward around people a lot of the time because I simply don’t know how to act around them"

The hardest part about the role of HR in these situations is figuring out if the behavior crosses the line of some type of harassment - and if it doesn't, coaching the person on what to do.  Here's Martin's mom's response to that text:

"My first thought is that I am glad you wrote this down as a way to start figuring it out. There are people in the world with their own insecurities and they tend to be bullies and confront people. Dealing with them can be a challenge. I think when you feel really good about yourself they won’t bother you as much because you won’t let them define you. This fits into wanting to please and be liked. Some people out there are not worth it. W e do live in a bubble. Financial and professional success is sheltering. W hich is both good and bad. I think the NFL has a disproportionate share of people who are obscure but masking it with aggression. Your profession is really difficult with measurement and evaluation every week. So we need to build up you liking you. This is where some professional help would be good. They can help you structure your thoughts. And that whole brain chemistry thing is real. You may need some additional seratonin."

Sounds like a HR response, right? Martin responded to his mom:

"I care about my legacy as a professional athlete. But I’m miserable currently. A therapist & medication won’t help me gain the respect of my teammates. I really don’t know what to do Mom."

I'm thinking about this because any HR generalist with employee relations experience has had employees approach her with situations that didn't cross the line as actual harassment.  And when that happens, we're back in school, back on the playground.  What do you do?  Do you give the employee who's living a situation that doesn't call for an investigation the politically correct coping speech, or do you give them advice on how to back the person in question off?

Jonathan Martin's situation clearly crossed the line, and the Dolphins just started firing people to deal with it.  Unfortunately, all HR pros deal with lots of situations that aren't that clear cut.  When a person comes to you and is struggling with how to deal with aggressive behavior that doesn't quite cross the line, what do you do as an HR pro?  Are you PC, or do you try to give them tools to deal with it?

Most HR pros are PC.  I say, evolve - and let the chips fall where they may.

9 Things I Learned From Drake About the Career Arc of High Potentials...

I know. Drake?  Has it really come to that?  I'm writing about Drake on an HR blog?

The thing is, there's three things that everyone can relate to.  Sports, Pop Culture and Work. I weave sports and pop culture in this so I'm not bored.  My readers seem to like it.

What I've noticed is that whatever world you're in, you use the other worlds to connect.  Music stars want to be athletes.  Athletes want to be rappers and movie stars.  Everyone once in a while, you'll see an entertainer dip down in the world of work to connect. Not often, but it happens

And so it goes with the video to Drake's 2013 hit, "Started From the Bottom".  You could run a class about high potential employees by watching it.  In fact, here's the top 9 things I see related to HiPos out of this video.  See the list below and the video cued up to the clip in question, then commentary below each clip, Drizzy-style. (email subscribers click through to see the videos.  NOTE: This is the clean version of the video, but if you're easily offended, this post might not be for you)

9 things you can learn about High Potentials (HiPos) from this Drake video:

1. HiPos have been HiPos for a long time. See clip below. They've had success before:

(play through :07) HiPos have been successful before you got them.  Sports, life, whatever.  They've been ID'd elsehwere.

2. Once HiPos understand that they're HiPos, they're not without ego.
3. The parents of HiPos sometimes have a rocky ride with them due to the ego that comes with being a HiPo.  See the clip below for both of these.

Clip - Play through :18

Clip - Play through :34

The scene says it all.  Fake snow, ghost riding a high-end sedan.  All in the day of a life of a HiPo.  Living in their momma's house, arguing every month.  Arguing comes with HiPos, because they have been attempting to negotiate everything since they were a kid. You probably modeled that for them as a parent.  Nice work, Mom.

4. HiPos get identified and promoted whether you have a succession plan or not.
5. HiPos know how to manage up.  See the clip below for both of these.

Clip - Play through :38

Clip - Play through :30

It doesn't matter if you have a succession program. Their ability to do the work and manage up gets recognized.  Look at Drake turn and face the manager and communicate.  He's different.  The low-end supervisor knows it.  It's like watching evolution in real time.

6. The colleagues/co-workers of HiPos don't fully comprehend the gap and are apt to talk #### about them behind their back.
7. Ultimately, the co-workers accept the gap.

Clip - Play through :39

Clip - Play through :50

Love this part.  The friends can't believe that Drake got to promo. What about them? But keep watching, they quickly congratulate him and accept the gap. Fall in line, grunts.  Bonus points for the manager slapping the inventory list from the grunt.

8.  Co-workers of the HiPo get taken along for the ride.

Clip - Play through :58 

Once Drake is the night manager, it's a party for the co-workers.  Synchronized dancing and stuff.  He's the night manager, after all.

9. HiPos are reflective when they reach the top.

Clip - Play through 1:45

Promotion - Check. Raise - Check. Billboard as a monument to where he started and how far the HiPo has come - check.

Next up: An analysis of Rising Benefit costs as told through a Guns and Roses medley.

What's the "Fast/Good/Cheap" of Job Search?

If you recruit for a living (even part of the time), it can be exhausting trying to manage the match you have to make between what your company/client can provide and the needs of the candidate.

Here's a great way to communicate the choices a candidate has to make. Remember the project triangle - fast/good/cheap? Turns out there's one for candidates as well. From the astute eCommerce recruiter Harry TriangleJoiner:

Location … Role … Money … Pick TWO.

There’s an old saying in recruiting, Location … Role … Money … Pick TWO.  I can’t promise these jobs will be local to you, or that they will be at the right comp level, or that relocation assistance will be offered, etc. 

I'd pitch that with an intro like "have you ever heard the saying - fast, good or cheap - pick two?"  There's one for jobs as well - it's "location, role or money - pick two."

Want money we can't provide for this job?  It's available - In the Bay area.  Want this job in this location?  You might have to take the money they can pay.

Funny how most of the time this triangle will come back to money - mostly because someone wants max money in the location they currently live.  But I love the effectiveness of the triangle Harry describes to manage candidate expectations.

Use it in your next conversation around money or location - because let's face it, it's rarely about the role.

Go read the rest of Harry's post - there's 3 or 4 more pieces of gold in it - just waiting for you.

People Join Companies For The Brand, Quit Because of the Boss....

Earlier this week, I wrote about an Apple contractor quitting due to his boss, pointing out that based on the details, it was further proof that people quit jobs due to the boss, not the company.

You don't quit Apple because of Apple.  You quit because your boss sucks, which is totally against the brand presented.

A commenter in my social stream added the following tag: "People join companies due to the brand.(my words - actual tweet below)

She's right.  One of the things that always amazes me in the recruiting game is the fact that almost every candidate has DRAMATICALLY IMPERFECT information regarding the company and situation they are thinking about joining.

As a result, what are they buying when they join a company?  They're buying the brand. The brand isn't necessary the logo or what the consumer sees. The brand they've experienced in the interview process includes:

1. The people they've met in the interview process.

2. What people are saying in their social circles about the company.

3. What they find online.

4. The careers site.

5. LinkedIn Stalking about the department they're going into.

6. The attractiveness level of the co-workers they will be working with.


7.  100 other imperfect snippets of information they may have access to in an informal capacity.

Add it all up, and it's a brand impression in the candidate's eye.

It's imperfect, it's biased, it's never the same for any two candidates, and it's totally the reality.

People join your company based on the hodgepodge brand they create in their minds of who you are.

When that brand impression doesn't meet their expectation, they're at risk.

Having a crappy manager is one of the things that can cause a new hire to voluntarily eject from your company.  

Which leads me to ask the following two questions.  What are you doing to create an organic brand impression in the minds of your candidates (something that seems real, doens't seem phony, etc.), and what are you doing to make your managers suck less?

Buy on brand, quit on the boss.  There's a t-shirt in there somewhere. 

Even at Apple, People Quit Bosses, Not Companies...

It's true.  For the most part, people quit bosses, not companies.  That's one reason why sites like Glassdoor, for all their momentum, are a bit incomplete - because it's hard to index scores and get people on the record about individual managers.  And of course, comments about bosses or companies that are protected by anonymous status are problematic - it doesn't mean they aren't true, but they have to be taken with a grain of salt.  

That's why a recent post over at Medium from a former Apple contractor (who identifies himself) is so unique.  Apple's clearly a great place to work in many ways, but if you go read the account, it's proof Steve jobspositive that companies - even the great ones - are only as good as the front line managers who take hour by hour responsibility for the relationships with employees. 

Here's how a guy named Jordan Price describes his experience working at Apple as a contractor:

"Then my immediate boss (known at Apple as a producer), who had a habit of making personal insults shrouded as jokes to anyone below him, started making direct and indirect insults to me. He started reminding me that my contract wouldn’t be renewed if I did or didn’t do certain things. He would hover over my back (literally) like a boss out of Dilbert and press me to finish some mundane design task that he felt urgently needed to be examined. He was democratic about his patronizing and rude comments, but it didn’t make me feel any better when he directed them towards my team members. I felt more like I was a teenager working at a crappy retail job than a professional working at one of the greatest tech companies in the world.

The food in the cafe was great, and I liked my new iPad Air. But the jokes, insults, and negativity from my boss started distracting me from getting work done. My coworkers that stood their ground and set boundaries seemed to end up on a shit list of sorts and were out of the inner circle of people that kissed the producer’s ass. I started to become one of those people that desperately wanted Friday evening to arrive, and I dreaded Sunday nights."

It's easy to discount the take from Price and tell him he needs to grow up.  But let's assume the general description of the boss in question is true.  It's proof positive that a certain percentage of people will quit a boss - even if everyone in their life tells them they need to suck it up and do it for their career/resume at a premiere global brand.  

Here's how Price talks about quiting Apple:

"This morning I got up a bit later than usual, and I missed the one Apple bus that stops by my house. I ended up driving to work in slow traffic. I was thankful I didn’t have to drive every day.  I got into work and immediately had to go to another meeting. It went fine, and then I got back to my desk. Without so much as a hello, my boss hit me with another weird low-blow insult wrapped up nicely as a joke. I tried to ignore it and get back to work, and I realized I just couldn’t focus at all on my job. I was too caught up thinking about how I should deal with the situation. Should I put in my notice? Could I make it to the end of my contract? Could I switch to a different team? How could I find a new job if I was always stuck in Cupertino? Maybe I should bop my punk boss in his nose? No don’t do that, Jordan.

Then at lunch time I wiped the iPad data clean, put the files I had been working on neatly on the server, left all their belongings on my desk, and I got in my car and drove home. I left a message for my boss and told him he’s the worst boss I had ever encountered in my entire professional career and that I could no longer work under him no matter how good Apple might look on my resume."

If you're Apple, how do you respond?  3 ways I think:

1. You don't overrespond, if you think you're a great place to work.  Be you. But think about the bell curve of your managers at Apple.  You've got some bad ones.  Do you know who they are?

2.  If you know who the bad managers are, are they managing consistent with your culture in mind?  Is getting great results but treating people shitty OK? You can't forget that Steve Jobs wasn't exactly a warm and fuzzy guy. Was that type of abuse only for Jobs, or is it part of the culture?  That's a question that really drives if Apple has a problem with the manager in question.

3.  If the type of management style depicted is OK in your culture, you just need to do a better job of weeding out the people who can't take it.  Price obviously was in that group.  If it's OK to be results focused and not worry about how people feel, you have to make sure you're screening people with high sensitivity out.

People definately quit bosses, not companies, in many cases.  Knowing what your culture is and keeping bad fits out is an alternative to weeding bad managers out.

Not the way I would go, but if the culture is hard and only focused on results, maybe the best path with stories like this.

(picture credit - quotesnsmiles.com)