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May 2016


It's the oldest game in the sales world.  A rep's tired of their current environment from a sales perspective, and is wondering what the possibilities are for them to find not only another job - but to think about changing industries and their actual sales identity.

That's dangerous, right?  After all, when you've built a sales career in a specific industry, you know how to sell - but - you're always going to get your highest valuation and comp by staying Wonka sales true to the vertical that you have a proven track record in.

Still, some sales pros want to consider the big change.  When I hear that and I'm asked for counsel, I always focus on the fact that any big change in a sales career still has to match up with who the sales pro is.  In my view, it's a 3-D target, with the following considerations:

--Commodity vs Solution Selling?  What's the rep sell now? Are they a solution seller or are they selling a commoditized product?  The most frequent error is trying to change industries and accepting sales positions that don't match your experience as a solution seller or a commodity sales pro.  There's a reason you've been successful in either, and it's dangerous to change that.

--What's your sweet spot from a expertise perspective? How far can you stretch that expertise definition?  You can sell medical devices and transfer that knowledge a hundred ways in the broader medical sense, but to change industries outside of medical - that's risky.  Better to stay in your "BIG" vertical and switch the niche that you serve within that ocean.  Trust me, the ramp up is still significant, but you'll still be viewed as more credible than you would be if you went outside of the broader medical industry.

--Are you better suited for a big or small company related to bureaucracy?  Probably the biggest reason people run is because they were bootstrappers and then the company grew, then came the controls and process.  And the low rules rep can't stand it, so they start thinking about a change.  Don't simply chase money in a new job, make sure you match the sales culture with who you are as well.  It works the other way as well - Cisco reps aren't a great fit for the startup - they're used to to much process, too many resources, too much base salary, etc.

It's OK for a sales pro to think about a big change outside their current vertical.  Matching these 3 considerations with the individual profile is key to determining if a change will do you good - or if you'll be looking for your next job in 6 months.

The Marcus Buckingham of Commentary on Surviving Bad Company Culture...

On the road this week in Grand Cayman doing a couple of talks.  Here's a slide from a DisruptHR talk I'm doing tonight called "Who to Hire When Your Culture Sucks" (email subscribers click through if you don't see the image):


Because sometimes the problem isn't going to be solved quickly - but you still have to hire.  Makes sense that you find the right type of person who's not only going to survive that freak show of a company you have - but will thrive as well.

KD out.

ASK THE CAPITALIST: How to Be "One of the Gang" at the Office When You Don't Drink...

In response to my post last week about Business Travel Having a Drinking Problem, I got this question...



I have watched too many loved ones struggle with alcohol so I do not drink.  (I too engaged in the past in enough to cover me for a while)  Plus, I like bringing Odoulsmy "a game" and I cant do that when I am hung over! What advice would you give to someone who feels their career advancement has been negatively impacted for not "going drinking with the boys" - or "having a few with the team" - I used to excuse myself and pull aside the bar tender or server and ask them to bring me glasses of apple juice (since lt looks like beer) but that can be tough to pull off
K -
Good question.  There's always the threat of not being on the inside of team dynamics if you don't drink.  I think your instincts are right, you have to engage and be there if that scene is important at your company/within your team.  Here's my list of thoughts related to how to deal with it:
1. Have a drink in your hand but nurse that ****** ****** all night long.  Get a beer in a dark ass bottle (going with the technical term there) where no one can see the consumption level and make it last two hours.  By rounds for others, it will take the focus off the fact that you're running at a clip of one drink per 4 hours.
2. Drink O'Douls.  Get a glass to go with it and pour it out of the bottle in a sneaky fashion.  Drink the fine pilsner that was never meant to be consumed in volume all night long.  Go order it at the bar, pour it in your glass and come back to the group.  Act like a fool after three to sell it. Mmmm. #odoulsgoodness
3. Organize drinking outings for the team.  You get more grace if you're the equivalent of Julie on the Love Boat.  If you don't know who Julie was, let's just say she was the social director on a cruise ship.  You should buy the first round as well. You can get inside the team without drinking if you're willing to organize and spend a little bit.
Why is the Love Boat not a Will Ferrel movie?
Option #1 is always best.
That's what I got.  Can you make a beer last 3 hours?  I can!!

Business Travel Has a Drinking Problem...

It's true. I've been on the road a lot recently, and it's safe to say that business travel has a drinking problem.

Not everyone has a problem. But it's safe to say the percentage of adults who are enjoying a nightcap (or four) on the road is higher than it is when the same group is at home.

Does that matter?  It depends on who you ask.  Ask anyone participating in the nightcaps, and the answer is sure to be no.

But there's always a bit of pressure to participate in the first round of drinks when you're on the road.  That's not bad - that's people wanting to share, be friends and get through the slog of business travel together.

For me, there's not a lot of morality in my decision not to drink on the road.  As I like to tell people, I engaged in enough drinking activities earlier in life to cover me for awhile.  But I've had some friends outside my nuclear family who have been recently impacted by alcohol in a negative fashion.

If alcohol's not a part of your life and you have a friend struggling, the drinking you see on the road gets amplified.  You see people at meetings in the morning struggling, talking about how awful they feel. You see people drinking on planes at 11am.  

I was on flights this week with drink tickets that were part of a frequent flier program. Since I rarely drink, my normal move would have been to gift them to someone - either a person sitting in my row or giving them to a flight attendant to cover a drink that someone ordered.

Screw that. I held them and threw that s**t in the trash. 

DDI Study: Leaders Get Better At Execution and Worse At Engagement As They Climb The Ladder...

Cool study out by DDI entitled "Execution and Engagement: Can Leaders Be Ambidextrous? Doing Both Well Is Critical."

The findings were pretty interesting.  As young mid-level managers start climbing the career ladder, they gradually become better at driving execution and worse at ensuring engagement.  Check out the chart from the study below:

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.10.14 AM

You can go get the case study by clicking this link, although the summary doesn't give you much more than I'm giving you here.

When you think about it, it stands to reason.  You learn the craft of management and gradually come to realize how to drive results, and also have a greater appreciation for the fact that's what you're there to do.  You also become a bit detached from the masses of humanity doing the work - so your ability, desire and interest to have an eye on engagement goes down.

Also of note is the middle percentage in the chart above - the percentage of managers in each career level who have relative balance between their ability to engage and execute - the sweet spot of leadership, if you will...

The DDI paper does a good job of restating the fact that both execution and engagement are necessary for peak company performance.  I agree with that.

However, it would be great to see macro company performance tied to this in some way.  

After all, execution/results are just that - outcomes.  I'm thinking you can only drive execution and results without engagement for a time period without starting to lose ground.  I'd love to see what the lag period is before the lack of engagement comes back to bite those hard charing C-Suite executives in the butt.

5 Ways To Avoid Losing Great Candidates Between Offer Acceptance and Start Date...

"It's not show friends, it's show business."

--Bob Sugar in Jerry Maguire

You've been there before, but then you forget.

You recruited and signed a great candidate and generally crushed it in your role as a world-class recruiter.  Your hiring manager's happy, the candidate's happy and you're happy.  You close the open position and in a bad reference to an old hip-hop song, move on to the next one.

10 days later you get the call.  The candidate's decided to stay where they are at.  

Rat bastard.

The nerve.

The humanity.

You forgot because it hasn't happened to you in the last year.  Candidates have options and the more talent a candidate has, the more people at their current place of employment are going to come after them in an attempt to turn around the resignation.

That's why you should always have a plan in place to keep them warm and keep your own form of pressure on great candidates who have accepted offers with you.

Here's 5 things you can do between offer acceptance and start date to keep the candidate warm and make it harder for them to bounce, in order of severity, impact and you looking like a general a**:

1. Have a schedule in place to check in with the candidate on onboarding items. Yes, you can send them that all at once.  Go ahead and do that for the Call Center Rep.  The .Net developer?  You want reasons to talk to them - both by email and by phone.  The transactional items give you a reason to touch base, check their emotional stability and you can keep the pressure on.

2. Set up a schedule for them to start talking to people on their team at your company.  Harder to bounce away from the offer once the emotional connection has been made.  A quick touch base every 3-4 business days should do the trick.

3. Work the spouse or significant other. If you've got the budget, it's a great idea to send something to the spouse to thank them for their support and welcome them to the team.  It's harder to screw you and your company if the spouse feels the love and can remind the candidate they're bailing from a commitment to good people.

4. Give them a template for a resignation letter.  One of the biggest reasons people stay after accepting your offer is some folks are conflict avoidant. Give them a handy template to write their resignation from.  It's one less thing they have to do to get to the big moment of resignation.  Offer to role play the verbal conversation that proceeds the letter most of the time if they need the help.

5. Announce the signing.  One of the greatest lies the devil every told the world is that once an employee resigns, they're coming you to your company. You can jack up the pressure by getting the candidate to agree to let you announce his/her decision to the world - LinkedIn updates are a good place to start.  This comes with some danger - you look weak if they still pull out of the decision to join your company - but a public announcement puts pressure on the great candidate to live up to their commitment.

At the end of day, all you're trying to do is make a connection, remind the candidate of their commitment and be harder to walk away from.  Use some or all of these ideas to protect yourself from the nasty surprise that is a candidate pulling out of an accepted offer to stay at their current company.

"I Need Someone Like": 3 Ways We All Look to Buy Franchise Brands When Recruiting...

It's human nature. We had good luck with something and failed with other solutions.  

Naturally, we're going to go with what we know the next time, right?  Experiencing the excitement of something new is nice, but once we've failed in selecting anything - cars, food, etc - we tend to go with what we know.

It's the same with recruiting.  We've all missed in hiring, right?  Once you've missed, you tend to look for the equivalent of a brand you can trust in the following ways:

1. I know that company does <insert the job> a certain way, I had luck with someone from there and that's what I need. We know how they do accounting or software development and had luck with someone from there. Let's go get another one.  (this is probably the most effective way to shop for talent brands when filling an open position - you know how a company does work in the area of need)

2. I learned what I needed from a behavioral perspective from the last good/bad hire I made   You got into the assessment game and learned what DNA you needed for a person to be successful in that circus you call a company - or you learned that a couple of key behavioral anchors are like kryptonite for you.  Either way, you're trying to find a brand that matches your need - in this case through a minor invasion of privacy called a behavioral assessment.

3. I really like people from Michigan State. Seems like they're more humble than people from Michigan (or whatever your pick is out of the 10,000 versions of this in play in America).  This is one of the weakest plays you can make, rivaled only by hiring friends of an employee that has traditionally done good work for you.

Go ahead and hire that brand as you try to fill that critical position on your team.  Just make sure that the brand in question is real, not imagined.

#WorkHuman, Meditating At Work (With Good Posture) and Thinking About Holacracy...

I was at the WorkHuman conference put on by Globoforce this week.  If you don't know Globoforce, they are a engagement, recognition and rewards company that likes to go big.  They spend a lot of money on marketing and thought leadership in our space, and the WorkHuman conference is exhibit #1 in that regard.

The WorkHuman conference is all out - with the premise that work is more than work.  It should be more human, and if we connect with our people and help them get to their full potential (as people, not just employees), we'll reap the rewards of that as employers.  It featured keynotes on mindfulness and meditation, the impact of body posture on confidence and more.

Most of you know me as a cynic.  Globoforce converted me out of that a bit at the conference.  I found myself wanting to give all the positive vibes and content a chance, which I did - even drinking some of the flat, healthy flavored water while yearning for a Diet Mt Dew.  Then a comment came from the audience that I'll paraphrase as this:

"You know, one of the problems I've having at my company is that I don't want to make my meditation sessions mandatory."

Whoa... My reaction was to want to jump in and ask the keynoter from Harvard, "One of the problems I'm having is that people are just going into the meditation rooms to sleep.  How do I keep the people with sleeping disorders out of the mediation rooms?"  

What I will say is this. Globoforce was ALL IN on their approach to this conference.  In my world, I'd say you have to respect the hustle of what they are doing. Not that it's a hustle - if you believe in engagement, looking for ways to maximize the wellness of your employee while they get to the widget quota for you, etc - than this is a conference that will interest you.  There's running groups at dawn. Want to talk about the solutions available? They wanted their solutions consultants to walk with you while you discussed.

ALL IN.  I have to respect that. Worth going to 100%.  Anyone who goes all in on a novel conference approach gets my vote.  The conference had 800 attendees - up from 300 in year one.  Check it out.

Another highlight - the second or third question from the audience came from a lady from Zappos.  She got applause from the crowd just for being from Zappos.

HR people love them some Zappos references.

It made me think about Holacracy, which is a conference someone could do to take it 5 levels up from WorkHuman.

Some of you know about Holacracy. For the uninitiated, here's a description:

"Holacracy is a new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles. The work can then be executed autonomously, without micromanagement.

The work is more structured with Holacracy than conventional management. There is a clear set of rules, and processes for how a team breaks up its work and defines roles with clear responsibilities."

Zappos is toying around with Holocracy. Read this article to find out how it's going.

In addition, the Showtime series House of Lies, which is about a management consulting firm lead by Marty Kahn (Don Cheadle), recently had an episode where they were brought in by a connection to kill Holacracy at a company that looks a lot like Zappos - same business model, led by a founder who looks a lot like Tony (Zappos CEO)

Here's the initial meeting with that fictional CEO from House of Lies (click through for video if you can't see the player): 

The WorkHuman conference exists somewhere on a continuum between your street smart/jaded perspectives on work and Holacracy.  

After spending a couple of days at the conference, I think that's a healthy challenge for any cynic like me.  The truth always lies somewhere in the middle, which is what WorkHuman introduced me to. 

CAPITALIST WEBINAR: What Game of Thrones Can Teach HR About Coaching Styles and Building Teams!!!

Oh yeah - you've been thinking it was coming, right?  Well, it's here.  

A FOT webinar mashing HR stuff with Game of Thrones.  Curious what we can learn from Jon Snow about coaching malcontents in Halogen Webinar Badge, GTW your organization? Wondering how you can build a great team like the mother of dragons when you started with no FTE's?

“Winter is Coming.” “You Win or You Die.” “You Know Nothing, Jon Snow.”

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you know these quotes as parts of iconic conversations from your favorite series. If you’re not a fan of the series (TV or book), you still likely recognize these quotes as fodder from a series that’s made a friend a bit too obsessive.

The team at Fistful of Talent? We view these quotes as coaching conversations. That’s why we’ve built our next webinar around Game of Thrones.  

Join us on May 19th at 2pm Eastern for “RAISING DRAGONS: What Game of Thrones Teaches Us About Performance Coaching and Building Teams,” (click any of the links on this post to register) and we’ll use Castle Black and King’s Landing to explore best practices in performance coaching by giving you the following goodies:

— A quick rundown of the history of Game of Thrones from a leadership perspective. Have a favorite character who’s dead? Whether it’s Ned Stark or Khal Drago, we’ll go rapid fire and tell you what they did well from a coaching perspective, then tell you what dysfunction caused them to be… well… cancelled.

— We’ll feature the 5 most notorious leaders currently alive on the show and break down their coaching style—where they’re strong and where they struggle—with the help of the performance management experts at Halogen Software. Odds are you’ll find a mother of dragons, a short fellow and dire wolf owner in this breakdown. 

— We’ll breakdown the five most common coaching conversations in corporate America today and tell you which Game of Thrones leader your managers should emulate to nail the conversation—so they can maximize their team member’s performance.

We’ll wrap up the webinar by telling you what the coaching styles of the 5 characters featured means for their future—and the future of the teams they lead.

You’ve signed up for enough boring webinars, right? Break the pattern and register for our Game of Thrones webinar, and we’ll deliver the performance management/coaching science with a layer of pop culture you’ve grown to expect from Fistful of Talent.


That College You Want To Attend? It Won't Matter By Job Number Three In Your Career....

My friend Tim Sackett had an interesting post up last week, describing his experience at college scholarships, tuition breaks and admissions as a white family with a son holding a 4.0 GPA and a 30+ ACT.
The net?  His son’s favorite schools either didn’t admit or granted admissions and said, “that will be full price – 68K per year”. More from the Tim Sackett Project:
"My middle son is about to make his college choice. He’s got some great schools that have accepted him. He has some great ones that did not. His dream school was Duke. He also really liked Northwestern, Dartmouth, and UCLA. He has a 4.05 GPA on a 4.0 scale (honors classes give you additional GPA) and a 31 on his ACT (97th percentile of all kids taking this test).  He had the grades and test scores to get into all of those schools.

What he didn’t have was something else.

What is the something else?

He didn’t come for a poor family. He didn’t come from a rich family. He wasn’t a minority. He doesn’t have some supernatural skill, like shooting a basketball. He isn’t in a wheelchair. He isn’t from another country.

He’s just this normal Midwestern kid from a middle-class family who is a super involved student-athlete, student government officer, award-winning chamber choir member, teaches swimming lessons to children, etc., etc., etc."

The comments are as interesting to read as Tim’s post – so read those as well.
I’ve got two sons that will follow Tim’s into a similar world – kids with dreams.  Some of those dreams will undoubtedly be crushed in similar fashion to Tim’s kids.   That’s the bad news.
The good news?  Welcome to “Camp Suck It Up”.  It’s a school that Tim knows well – I can tell you that as his friend.  Don’t get me wrong – he’s got a great life, but like all of us, he’s out there grinding on a daily basis.  One of the reasons I think I’m fairly chill about bad stuff happening is that I get rejected in the business world on a weekly – if not daily basis.
My only source of comfort for Tim – and anyone else of any color, gender or nationality – is that after your second job in the workplace, it really doesn’t matter where you went to school.
In my first job out of college, I was a dumpster fire.  I followed the rules, was compliant and good at times, but I wasn’t as ready for prime time as I would be a few short years later. 
By my second job, I was starting to figure it out.  By the time I took my third job, no one cared where I went to undergraduate.  I was valued based on what I had done and the potential people could see in me.
It sucks that Tim’s son won’t potentially end up where he wanted. But, if he kicks ass in the workplace early, it won’t matter 4 years after he’s done.  
That’s the reality for anyone of any race, gender or nationality these days.  Go get the hell kicked out of you in jobs one and two. Learn and get better.  
Emerge in job three with a portfolio of work that shows you’re a smart kid who gets things done and can learn on the fly.  Then you'll win. I'm betting all the Sacketts make that leap.