« November 2014 | Main | January 2015 »

December 2014

3 Things to Do While Fake Working Between Christmas and New Years' Day....

Let's face it, the week between Christmas and New Year's Day creates two types of people:

1. Those that try to totally disconnect from work because they know that it's going to be dead anyway, and

2. Those that decide to work - because they know it's going to be dead and they can cruise, saving valuable vacation days for busy times.

It's OK, I'm not judging.  But for anyone who is in the office the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, you've got a golden opportunity to do work that you don't ordinarily get to do.  There are 3 things I'd recommend:

1. Think.

2. Create.

3. Plan.

Before you revolt and go back to TMZ.com, work with me a second.  The traffic is light in the office, and even if you work from home, your version of traffic is light.  There's never been a better time to sit and think about what you want to accomplish in your career, what big wins are possible in 2015, etc.

I know, you're a cynic.  But imagine what could happen if you're working this week and you thought about 3 big wins you could accomplish in the coming year.  Then, you could actually create an outline of what those big wins could look like, then you could plan how you're really going to go after it in the first two months of the coming year.

Wait until January 5th (first real working day of 2015) to do any of that, and you'll flash forward to next Christmas without getting anything game changing done. At which point I'll run this post again.

Too tough?  Here's some less ambitous time-fillers that inspired this post.


What "The Interview" Saga Tells You About Your Career...

By now, you've heard the news.  Seth Rogen and his band of merry-men filmed a motion picture set to be released over Christmas called "The Interview", which basically stars Rogan and others as would be assassins of the North Korean premiere.  

The North Koreans didn't take it well.  They hacked Sony Pictures, embarrassed that company through leaked emails, then saved the biggest swing for last - they threatened terrosist attacks at movie theatres that showed the picture.

Sony yanked the picture.  Some say the terrorists won.  I say it's a nice lesson for your career.

Here's the lesson - never mess with people - employees, leaders, clients, customers, direct reports, etc - who are a combination of the following two things:

1. Crazy

2. Have nothing to lose.

Being crazy and having nothing to lose means you can do whatever you want and not be worried about the consequences.  That fits North Korean and it's leadership, but it also fits many people in your company as well.

When you mess with someone who's crazy and really can't lose, you're going to get a reaction, and it's probably going to sting.  Examples from your life in corporate America.

1. You went high integrity on a leader with absolute power, noting some ethical issues in his behavior.  He's crazy and has absolute power.  You got crushed.

2. You made a quick call on an direct report that no one is comfortable with.  They were crazy and this just in - had nothing left to lose.  The EEOC charge came as a result.  Now you're going to be drug through the mud.  

3. You muscled up on a colleague in a territorial power struggle.  Turns out they were crazy - who knew?  They also were unstable, and being reactionary is a part of that.  So they blew the issue up, and now you're getting bunched together with that colleague - as crazy and reactionary.  

The list goes on.  Can you do any of the things listed above?  Sure you can, this is America.  But in America, the market decides.  And you picked a slice of the market - crazy people with nothing to lose - that introduced a bunch of variability into your career.

Rogen and Sony had every right to make the movie.  Unfortunately, stone cold CRAZY with nothing to lose trumps free speech, etc.  Safety becomes the priority for everyone on the edges.

It's the same thing with your career.  Pick on crazy people with nothing to lose, and ultimately, you start looking more like the crazy person than you would like.

You probably don't like to make eye contact with panhandlers, right?  It's because you know at best it's going to go OK/neutral, and at worst it's going to go horribly wrong when you say no.

Learn from Rogan and Sony.  Don't mess with the crazy people with nothing to lose in your career.

The Case for Not Deconstructing Your Failures...

There's a lot of business propaganda out there related to failure.  Ready for some successories quotes?  LET'S DO THIS:

1. “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” - Winston Churchill
2. “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” - Henry Ford Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 1.50.48 PM
3. “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” - Confucious
4. “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” - Bill Cosby
5. “I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustrations were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.” - Tony Robbins

Wow.  So much optimism about failure.  Fail Fast.  Don't be afraid to fail.  The only thing we have to fear?

Fear itself, Kemosabe.  Look in the mirror.

What if I told you there's a whole list of incredibly talented people out there not only are unafraid to fail, but more importantly, NEVER DWELL ON IT.

Should we learn from our failures?  Some people would say no.  Think about this quote from NFL Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter.  He's got a big ego, but he's also one of the best of all time:

Cris Carter:  "I wouldn't watch film of my dropped passes.  I didn't want my mind seeing that and remembering what that's like/how to do it"....

Now that's interesting.  We've been trained by INC Magazine, Fast Company and more that we need to fail.  A lot of the management wonks would also tell you that you need to learn from your failures.  

I think I agree with Cris Carter.  Iterate quickly and fail - but when you fail?  Your probably already know why you failed, and you probably already know what you're going to change.

Cris Carter didn't deconstruct failure because he didn't want to dwell on failure or tell his body what it felt like any more than he had to.

You should do the same thing with your mind.

Feeling Flat on Performance Reviews? You Need Stacked Ranking...

It's December and it's time to do performance reviews.  You're tired.  You just want to go on vacation, and you really don't know where to start to distinguish between Johnny and Jenny from a performance perspective.  

Sucks to be you.

You need Stacked Ranking.  

A lot of you just flinched because you've been trained that stacked ranking is dirty and ultimately gets your company sued.  You're right, but only if it's done a certain way - the Jack Org chart Welch way - which says that someone on the bottom has to get fired.

But throwing Stacked Ranking out because Jack Welch got off firing 10% of his workforce annually and caused the system to collapse is shortsighted.  There's a better way.

Here's how you need to use Stacked Ranking in your performance process, and you don't need an HR pro's approval to do it:

1.  Stack Rank your team from 1 to 5, 1 to 8, 1 to 10, whatever.

2.  List the things that make the top 20% of your team special.  Add a list of things that you'd like to see them do to get to the next level.

3.  List the things that drive you crazy about the bottom 20%.  Be specific.  List what has to happen for them to stop driving you crazy.

4.  List things about the middle 40% that they could do to be more like the top 20%.  Build a second list of things they do that make them solid citizens, but not stars.

5.  Start writing your reviews.  By stack ranking your team and then building the lists I mentioned above for each group, you've got fodder for the review that fits where you see each of the team members falling in the performance spectrum on your team.  Incorporate the list you built into whatever format your company is using when you write your comments.

Stacked Ranking is one of the smartest things you can do when considering performance feedback for your team.  Making that list of where your people fall at the start of process gives you clarity to ask "why" they land where they land.  The rest is details.

Stack Rank your team this month as part of your performance process.  Then burn that ###### ####### list and never mention it again.  

Why You Hope Employees Use Email to Attempt Union Organizing...

Did you hear?  Employees now have the right to attempt union organizing via company email systems.  Here's a tast of the ruling by the NLRB.  Enjoy:

"The National Labor Relations Board ruled Friday that workers have a right to use their employer's email system for the purposes of union organizing. The ruling reverses a 2007 opinion by the board that employees did not have the right since the system was company property.

3-2 majority of board members said that employers who try to ban all non-work use of company email servers must prove that "special circumstances make the ban necessary to maintain production or discipline." Otherwise, employers may not raise objections or otherwise prevent workers from using the system to disseminate union-related materials.

The NLRB said the "importance of electronic means of communication to employees’ exercise of their rights" made the rule change necessary. To do otherwise would be "to smother employees’ rights under a blanket rule that vindicates only the rights of employers," the majority said. The ruling came in response to a case called Purple Communications and Communications Workers of America."

At the end of the day, this ruling is more smoke than fire - not a big deal.

Work with me on the logic for why that is... First, most union organizing has to be conducted in the shadows.  In order to get the momentum going and ensure your company doesn't use it's legal right to engage and tell the workforce why unions are a bad idea, secrecy is the norm.  Meetings are held at employee's houses, and mum's the word until the time is right - when enough support exists to get the right number of union cards signed to move the process to an election.

What do HR and business leaders want?  They want to see smoke before there is a fire.

That's why the use of email to organize isn't as big of a deal as many think it is.  Any use of email before signed cards are presented is a form of early warning - and a call to action to get your union-education program rolling before you have a much bigger problem on your hands.

Employees using email to organize?  You should be so lucky.

Do Your Most Valuable Employees Feel Like "A-Listers" or "Silver Club Medallion"?

I have to travel a lot for work, and I've made the life decision to live in Birmingham.  As a result of that location, I generally fly one of two ways:

1.  I fly Southwest out of Birmingham, and get some direct flights but still have to connect about half the the time. A list

2.  I fly Delta and always connect via Atlanta to wherever I'm going.

Now, you might think this is a rant about the Atlanta airport - but it's not.  I've fine with the ATL to connect.

This is a rant about simplicity, with an angle about frequent flyer programs.  I'm probably biased towards Southwest, because that's how I grew up travelling professionally.

I'm what's known as an A-lister with a Companion Pass on Southwest.  Fly enough segments and it's yours.  You get to board first and pick your seat, and your spouse can fly anywhere you're going to fly for free.  There's never any question about what you get. Of course, the downside is that there's no first class at Southwest, so that benefit has limitations.

More and more, I'm flying Delta for work.  As I listen to all the classes of status that they call out during boarding (1st class, Diamond Medallion, Platinum Medallion, Gold Medallion, Silver Medallion), I had no clue what's going on - until I looked it up.  

On Southwest, flights and credit card purchases can combine to get you to an elevated status - "A-list".  On Delta, they call out the 5 different classes during the boarding process before they get to general boarding.  Inclusion at each level is related to MQMs, MQDs and MQSs.  

Two thoughts come to mind:

--If everyone has a form of status, does anyone really have status?

--I need a nap to figure it out.

Workplace connection - You've got a group of employees who are the most important people at your company.  Do they feel that?  Is it easy to identify?  Or have you created multiple identifiers designed to make as many people "kind of" happy as you can?

I'm good with being A-List.  Silver Medallion?  Like Groucho Marx once said, "I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member."

YEAR-END PERFORMANCE REVIEW: The Outcast, the German, and the Guy With a Heart Condition....

Some of you are aware - some painfully aware - that fellow HR bloggers of note - Steve Boese, Lance Haun and Matt Stollak and I take an annual pilgrimage to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas every year. Our destination has a nerd quality to it, where professional basketball hopefuls convene to prove they have what it takes to be one of 450 players that play in the best hoops league in the world.

I always do a review via Instagram and give my opinion in July about what's going to happen, so I thought it would make sense to do a year-end performance review on 3 players, executives and organizations in the NBA that I featured earlier this year.  View my original writing in July as a mid-year check in, and my additional comments as the formal performance review.  You'll see I was wrong more than I was right, which is alarming, but also sounds about right.

Ready? Let's do this. (email subscribers click through for Instagram Photos)

Earlier Performance Check-In from Vegas in July - G-Rondo Was Last Year's Dante Exum, and It Doesn't Feel As Great This Year

What I Said Then- Pictured above is Dennis Schroder, a 20 year old drafted in 2013 by the Atlanta Hawks. Dennis is from Germany and was drafted in the first round by the Hawks based largely on a single positive performance in a US tourney/camp. He never played college basketball in the USA.  We saw him last year and nicknamed him "G-Rondo" because he's a minuture version of Rajon Rondo of the Celtics.  

G-Rondo is what Dante Exum looks like in year two when you're not sure the pick (or hire in your case) is going to work out.  He was in the Hawks playing rotation last season until he famously punched a Kings player named Boogie Cousins in the nuts coming off a screen.  The new Hawks management, which is basically a bunch of hires from the Spurs and professional in nature, froze him on the bench for the rest of the season.

I love the way he plays, but the Hawks have figured out he can't shoot, which is a problem in the NBA. He's got 2 years to figure it out (length of rookie contract).

Today's Performance Review - MEETS EXPECTATIONS - Dennis, you have recovered nicely.  You've worked your way into the Hawks rotation, learned to move the ball, acted like your normal cat-like self and have controlled yourself - you haven't punched a single guy in the nuts all year long.  Well done.  You're so hot that you even got featured by Grantland, a rare accomplishment for someone coming off the bench.


Earlier Performance Check-In from Vegas in July - It's 8pm on a Friday Night in Vegas - Where Are You? (Danny Ferry)

What I Said Then - It's 8pm in Vegas on a Friday night, last loser's bracket game of NBA summer league. Guess who the guy at the top of the gym is? Danny Ferry, Hawks GM, Duke legend, former 1st overall pick. Grinding. Looking for a nugget...

I like Ferry.  I work in Atlanta a lot, and he's basically trying to create a version of the Spurs organization in the ATL.  The NBA Summer League is a huge social scene for the executives and people who work for the teams, and you can tell some things about the way people carry themselves.  The Hawks didn't even play on Friday, yet here he is, trying to be alone and watch some meaningless game to see if there's a nugget/undervalued asset he can steal from someone.

Ferry drafted Dennis Schroder, by the way.   So it's good to see him looking for value.

Performance Review - DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS - Danny, Danny, Danny.  You built this team that's sitting in 2nd or 3rd place in their conference without a superstar. Well done.  But it matters how you got the results.  You famously got caught on tape making comments that could easily be viewed as racist, and as a result, you're on paid leave.  Where are you?  I haven't seen you around the office for a bit.  We love what you did, but there's no way you an meet expectations given the circumstances.  Sad.  Are you on a beach or watching high school games to feed your basketball jones?  I hope the latter.


Earlier Performance Check-In from Vegas in July - Four Years in College? That Guy Has to Suck (Adrian Payne)

What I Said Then - This picture above is Adrian Payne, recently drafted rookie of the Atlanta Hawks we watched a couple of times at the NBA Summer League.

He stayed at Michigan State for 4 years and saw his draft stock stall or fall because that's what the talent system in the NBA does. If he stays healthy, he'll have a better career than at least half of those drafted before him, most of whom played 1 year in college.

He can shoot the 3, has size (6'10") and seems to get it in all aspects.  He was drafted in basically the same position as G-Rondo.  Hmmm.  Maybe that's Ferry creating a learning organization.

Performance Review - DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS - Dude, our team is built for you - we love to space the floor and jack up 3's.  Yet you haven't seen the court yet this season.  I'm still high on you, but you've got work to do.

That's it.  Be sure to include "jack up 3's" in at least one performance review you do this month.


Coaching for Managers 101 - Use An Observation As An Anchor

I know, it's simple. But I got in thrown in my face yesterday, and it was a good refresher.

You're a manager.  Sometimes you have to course correct with people who work for you.  In your honest but Camera ineffective moments, you'll prepare some notes to get you started.

Your notes will almost always be full of glittering generalities and be too long.  You're trying to be too nice.

Lead with a true observation/example that's yanked from your life together.  Then frame the remainder of the conversation around that.  You'll be glad you did.

Tell them what you saw, and them tell them that's the trend you see.  Then talk about how to turn it around from there.

The Unintended Consequences of Cameras on Every Authority Figure...

In the backdrop of all the humanity that has occurred in Ferguson case, we get the idea to prevent it from happening again:  

We should have body cameras for all police officers.

On the surface, that's not a bad idea.  But good ideas related to deploying technology always come with unintended consequences.

For the body camera, the biggest issue is probably privacy issues that are caused by those camera catching images that are generally have to become part of the public domain.

You were where?  Why were you in the background of that cop's camera shoot?  Who's that man with you?

Imagine if you could put a camera on every manager in your company and tape their daily interactions with the team.

Pros: Manager on high alert, tries to do and say the right thing.  Great record to refer to for any he said/she said argument. You get to laugh as you watch the awkwardness of it all.

Cons: Employees know the manager is taping the interaction, back him/her into corners repeatedly as a result.  Fewer authentic interactions as a result of the cameras. Great record to refer to for any he said/she said argument.

Like reform advocates, you'd love to have a tape of the interactions with the manager in question at the center of an EEOC claim.

It's all the other stuff you'll have to see and be responsible for that makes that prospect less than appealing. 

Stuff the Capitalist (aka KD) Likes: "The Profit" with Marcus Lemonis

Who am I?  Who cares?  Good questions.  It's my site, so I'm going dig in once in a awhile by telling you more about who I am - via a "Stuff I Like" series.  Nothing too serious, just exploring the micro-niche that resides at the base of all of our lives.  Potshots encouraged in the comments.

One of the things we hear repeatedly as HR pros is that we need to learn the business to really be effective.  If you've struggled with that, I've got a show you should watch - "The Profit" with Marcus Lemonis on CNBC on Tuesday nights, right after Shark Tank with Mark Cuban, et al.

What is "The Profit"?  I'll use this description from Inc. Magazine to describe it to you:

"The Profit is a bit like business turnaround shows Bar Rescue and Restaurant: Impossible, except that Lemonis isn't a consultant, he's an investor. In that way, The Profit is more like Shark Tank, except that Lemonis isn't fielding pitches from wannabes; he's seizing control of family-owned "sick businesses," as he calls them--a car dealership, a flower shop, a candy store--and fixing them.

Invariably, things get messy. "In most cases, the people who apply to get on the show are really in need of more than just financial help," Lemonis says gently, and when he offers more, as he often does--by calling out a bully boss or defending an overworked and underappreciated employee--that's when viewers might see parallels with Dr. Phil or even the Dog Whisperer. A lot can happen in those 40 unscripted minutes."

The thing that makes The Profit must see TV is two-fold.  First, Lemonis is actually writing a check for a minority interest in the busienss, but as part of that investment, expects full control for a period of time, after which he gets to the second part of the equation, evaluating the business from his model of "People, Process and Product."  

Then he starts making changes that the owners were too myopic to see or capitalize on.

Another positive feature of the show - he almost always breaks down the numbers and explores a profit opportunity based on a slight strategic shift, then explains it in a way almost all can understand.

That type of education is what most HR pros need - where's the revenue/profit opportunity?  The good news is that Lemonis almost always tries to promote or lock in the talent inside the small companies that is doing most of the work.  

You'll love the fact he tells the owners they're full of ****.  You'll stay for the promotion of long overlooked talent, but you'll learn something about business along the way.

Check out The Profit on Tuesday nights on CNBC.  Watch the first 2 minutes of one episode from last season below and taste the dysfunction (email subscribers click through for video):