Mediocre People Don't Like High Achievers...and Vice Versa...

Saw this video clip below from Alabama coach Nick Saban and had to share. As an Auburn season-ticket holder, it's hard to post about Saban, but - no one's had more success, seems more demanding or non-tolerant of sloppiness.

The video below is pure Saban - after a disappointing year by his standards - talking about his goals for spring practice. The gems include:

--"Mediocre people don't like High Achievers"

--and "High Achievers don't like mediocre people"

Don't let other coach-speak like "on the bus". "off the bus" and "do your job" distract you. The real message here is that Alabama Football, led by Saban - which never takes a recruit who isn't elite, period - is headhunting the players and people in his organization that are net negative to the cause.  

At Alabama, being net negative to the cause as a player doesn't mean a thing about ability - it's mindset, ability to work with others, play a role, etc.

Saban goes on to tell his players that one day, they're going to be in the world of work, and someone like him is going to be on mission to get mediocre people out of their company as an agent of change.

"Which one do you want to be?", says Saban.

Saban is telling them they could lose their jobs, scholarships, etc. He's also channeling Good to Great from Jim Collins with the reference to mediocre people.

I'll allow it - Saban is a maniac, and bonus points to the work reference to his players, all of whom believe "work" is the NFL, which is assuredly not for everyone in this meeting. Topgrading is alive and well and if Saban is doing it, we should be thinking about it as well. 

Video below (email subscribers click through for post to view) and at link above.


Framing As A Working Professional: What It Is and Why You Should Do It...

“The most talented successful people in the workplace consistently “frame” their goals, work and outcomes via varied communication strategies.”

-Kris Dunn, aka “KD

When someone quotes themselves, hold on tight!  Buckle up! Framing

What is framing? It's not being a victim. It's being proactive. It's getting your story out there as a professional, "framing" the dialog about who you are, what you're working on and most importantly to you - how you're doing.

It's using of a variety of communication techniques to ensure all know what you are working on - including face to face, email, reporting and more.

Framing includes:

--Communicating what your goals are for a specific period.

--Communicating your challenges and progress.

--Communicating your wins and finished work product.

--Communicating your opinions and takes on what's going on around you in your area of subject matter expertise.

How's not bothering people with your goals, progress and outcomes going?  Not great, right?

You should frame more.  Don't let others build the narrative about who you are or how you are doing - take responsibility for the story. 

Framing is necessary for your career. Framing, for lack of a better word, is good.

Framing works. Do it - stop being shy.


FAKE IT: Acting Interested in Corporate America Is a Succession Factor

Who's to know if your soul will fade at all
The one you sold to fool the world
You lost your self-esteem along the way
Yeah

--"Fake it" by Seether

One of the biggest things that separates contenders from pretenders in Corporate America - across all functional areas - is the ability to fake interest and attention.

You're in a 7-hour training class.  Next week you're in a 3 hour ops review.  Boredom happens.

If Darwin were a noted OD thought leader in business, he would write that an adaptation that allows some to survive and thrive is the ability to fake interest and attention with body language, eye contact and just enough participation to make it seem like they're engaged.

Does it matter?  Only if you want to get further than you are now. Competition is fierce. The real players in corporate America look engaged - at all times - even when they aren't.  

Look around at your next meeting.  You'll know what I'm talking about.  Some people have this type of opposable thumb, some don't.

Of course, faking it leads to learning because you're dialed in juuuuuust enough not to miss important shit. 

Seether video below, people.  Worth your time but a little NSFW. Happy 2020... (email subscribers click through for video)


RIP David Stern: On The Need for Confrontation in Leadership...

In case you missed it, David Stern, past and longtime commission of the National Basketball Association (NBA), passed away over the weekend.  

But this post isn't about sports. It's about leadership, and the at times, ugly side of leadership.

Stern was arguably the best leader/commissioner in the history of sports. But to put it bluntly, Stern wasn't nice to those around him.  He had laser focus on what needed to be done.

And yes, at times, Stern played very rough. By all accounts, he was a BULLY. David-stern

As ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski writes, Stern was unapologetic in his obsession to swell the league with stars in prime television markets, Stern was relentless in his pursuit of big, bigger and biggest for the NBA. This was Stern's NBA, and Stern did almost anything he wanted for those 30 years on the job as commissioner. He was a visionary and a dealmaker and a tyrant and a revolutionist.

Ever heard of the No A**hole Rule?  Sure you have. It's a good one, but the secret to the No A**hole Rule is that it doesn't apply to visionary leaders. Sometimes in key positions, you need a**holes.  A**holes get shit done. Of course, the a**hole in question better be world class in many things and deliver on the vision. If they deliver, you accept the a**hole tendencies.

Translation, if someone is good enough as a leader, you accept the tyrant tendencies because being a tyrant is all about EXECUTION.

David Stern was a Tyrant. But the NBA tolerated it because he was that freaking good. Go read the Woj story linked above and do a google search and read a few more memories of Stern as a leader.  

I'll leave you with one of my favorite accounts of Stern as tyrant from Ethan Strauss of The Athletic:

The previous commissioner’s old NBCA speeches did not welcome participation from coaches, especially the one given in Chicago, shortly after the NBA had signed its 2007 national TV contract. According to multiple coaches who were there, Stern communicated the importance of the TV side having access to locker rooms. Then-Chicago Bulls coach Scott Skiles raised his hand and told Stern, after a preamble of “no disrespect,” that the locker room was his “sacred space.”

Based on multiple coaches’ retellings of this legendary league story, Stern dispatched the response with withering sarcasm.

“Well, let’s see,” the smiling commissioner began. “On the one hand, we have eight billion dollars from our broadcast partners. And on the other hand, we have … Scott Skiles!” Stern then lit into him, telling Skiles in so many words and curses to shut up and that he didn’t want to hear any more out of him. Skiles went quiet, as did the room.

“He was neutered,” one coach relayed of Skiles. “Scott thought he was brave. And after Stern was done with him, he wasn’t brave no more.” All the coaches in the room got the message. Commissioner Stern wasn’t asking. He was telling. And woe be unto whichever clipboard clinger flouted the dictate.

RIP David Stern. You were a tyrant.  But you got sh*t done.


Fake Hustle In Corporate America...

There's a term that coaches in sports are familiar with - it's called "fake hustle".

What's fake hustle in sports?  Fake hustle is when an athlete shows incredible effort, but only does it when the play in question has already been decided.  It generally has no impact on the play, and due to the theatrics involved, may hinder the team the athlete is playing for by Cable guy causing others to do additional work.

Example - Loose ball in basketball, and an opposing player has an obvious angle to the ball that's going to result in him gaining possession 99.9% of the time.  The fake hustle guy never misses this opportunity to dive on the ground or run by the opponent, often after he already has the ball.

To the naked eye, it look like great effort.  To the trained eye, it just took fake hustle guy out of the play, and the team is less prepared to defend as a result.

Fake hustle guy sucks.

What's the equivalent of fake hustle guy in corporate America?  It's the guy that comes in with lots of email comments after hours of work has already been completed.  He could have been part of that work, but instead, he'll ask the "big questions" to peers (not subordinates) in a public forum once the work is done.

To the untrained eye, it looks like he's value added.  The the trained managerial eye, it's fake hustle or fake smarts.  Don't take 10 minutes to lob stuff over the wall and try to be a hero.  Do the work, be part of the team.

Fake hustle guy sucks in corporate America as well.  Hit me with your example of fake hustle guy at your company in the comments.


Sheryl Sandberg and the Balancing Act of Personal Mission vs Company Mission...

Personal values in the business world are tricky. While we all have the code we live by, we also have to go out and make a living for ourselves and are families.

Generally speaking, the average professional doesn't have huge conflicts between their Gallowaypersonal code of ethics and who they work for. Of course, from time to time their might be a meaningful "situation" that causes us to take a personal inventory of what's most important, but for the most part the biggest struggle we have is having to eat large amounts of **** to stay employed, because that's just the way world is.

Work is hard. Business is harder. Put on a helmet.

BUT - the most lofty among us have choices. I'm talking about people who have truly made it, creating wealth throughout their careers that helps them arrive at the point where they no longer have to eat large amounts of ****.  People who have arrived have choices - but do they have an obligation to make things better for the rest of us or take a stand against disconnects between their code and the company they work for?

This is on my mind as I read, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway. In the book, Galloway fires off this gem regarding Sheryl Sandberg:

“Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg told women to “lean in” because she meant it, but she also had to register the irony of her message of female empowerment set against a company that emerged from a site originally designed to rank the attractiveness of Harvard undergraduates, much less a firm destroying tens of thousands of jobs in an industry that hires a relatively high number of female employees: media and communications.”

---"The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway

Shots. Fired.

I don't believe that Sandberg has any requirement to leave Facebook due to the origin/mission disconnect referenced between Facebook and someone who would author a powerful book like Lean In. I could easily make the argument that Sandberg can do more good for women at Facebook than she can anywhere else in the world.

But the stronger your push related to mission, the more disconnects matter. Especially when you have acquired the means, which automatically reminds me of this Ferris quote.

Is Sandberg a hypocrite as Galloway seems to be alluding to? I say no. But it's an interesting case study related to this reality - the more you go on record and define your professional brand by mission, the more people will identify the inconsistencies and attempt to hold you accountable.


WHEN THE BOSS BULLIES THE TEAM: METH, I'M ON IT...

By now, most of you have seen the anti-drug campaign coming out of South Dakota with ads that show regular people with one of two tag lines:

"Meth, I'm On It"

"Meth, We're On It"

There's a lot of layers to the visual campaign, including:

1--South Dakota, like many states, has a huge Meth problem. Meth+we're+on+it

2--The ads show regular people. The assumption is that by being on "it", the people show are either using Meth and you don't know it, or the people shown are mobilizing to fight the epidemic.  A double entendre, perhaps.

3--When the campaign launched, there was laughter. Ridicule, even.

Here's some analysis from the Huffington Post. Take a look and I'll give you my take after the jump:

South Dakota’s governor on Monday unveiled what she considered a powerful new anti-drug campaign to combat the use of methamphetamine in the state. Now, TV spots, billboards, posters and a website featuring South Dakotans saying “Meth. We’re on it” is going viral ― for better or for worse.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem launched the campaign to raise awareness about the meth epidemic in South Dakota. The state spent $450,000 for a Minnesota ad agency to come up with the slogan and campaign, reported the Argus Leader. Noem also requested more than $1 million in funding to support treatment services.

But the new slogan is being ridiculed by many and attacked on Twitter in viral hashtags.

Bill Pearce, assistant dean at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, criticized the campaign. “I’m sure South Dakota residents don’t like being laughed at. That’s what’s happening right now,” he told The Washington Post. 

Noem defended the new slogan, saying all the uproar suggested the campaign was working. “Hey Twitter, the whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness. So I think that’s working,” she tweeted.

When I've brought this up to my friends and laughed about it, they've brought up a good point- if people are talking about it, isn't that the goal? Hasn't South Dakota already won with the coverage?

To that, I say, NO.  Somewhere in South Dakota, here's how the decision making process went:

1--The ad firm pitched the boss the idea for "Meth, We're On it".

2--The boss adopted the idea as her own and sponsored it HEAVILY.  The message was clear, "Meth, WERE ON IT, right? I love this idea", said the boss.

3--The underlings couldn't bring themselves to tell the boss what they really thought. As time passed, the stakes were higher. Costs were sunk.

4--The campaign launched and what everyone around the Boss thought happened. The state took a huge "L" and the mockings dramatically outweighed the benefit.

My friends, this is what happens when a leader has a reputation for having to have all the best ideas and operates as a non-collaborator.  When direct reports can't win debates and arguments - even when they are right - really bad decisions get though and big failure happens.

Was the campaign worth the attention? Ask the 2,000 families in the state that got a mock Christmas card of their family created by relatives outside the state. Their family is pictured, with the now famous font "Meth, We're On It" superimposed and distributed to 100 other people in the family outside the state of South Dakota.

Good times. But that leader got what She wanted - and for good effect, immediately requested 1M in funding for the epidemic, which is like you and me requesting $1 for help with our annual cost of health insurance.

Always ask and listen to your team. Give them a chance to help save you.


Saying "No" Helps Train the Recipient What "Yes" Looks Like...

If there's a big problem in corporate America, it's that we say "Yes" too much at times.

Yes to that request..

Yes, I can help you..

Yes, I'd be happy to be part of your project team...

Yes, your response to my request is fine...

There's a whole lot of yes going around.  The problem?  Only about 1/2 of the "yes" responses are followed up with action that is representative of all of us living up to the commitment we made.

That's why you need to say "no" more.

Of course, simply saying no with nothing behind the no positions you as jerk.  So the "no" has to have qualifiers behind it:

Say "no" more to peers asking you for things, but then qualify it with how the request could be modified to move you to say "yes".

Say "no" more to your boss, and qualify your response to her by asking for help de-prioritizing things on your plate - which might allow you to say "yes" to the new request.

We say "yes" in the workplace when we want to say "no". We do it because we don't like to say no, and because we are horrible at negotiation.

Say "no" and tell people how the request could be modified to get to "yes".

Or just say "no" and walk away.  Either way, you've helped the organization's overall performance by providing more clarity. 


Here's What Job Security/Being Untouchable/Arrogance as a Leader Looks Like...

If you've lucky, you've felt it at some point in your career. The swagger and incredible self-confidence that allows you to throw caution to the wind, confident you have the ability to provide for yourself and your family. 

"If you don't like they way I do it, find someone else to do the job."

To be sure, we've all thought that. But how many of us have actually said it? That's rare air for any working professional, and it usually means one of four things:

1--You're incredibly confident in your ability to find another job. In fact, you may already be on the market and have turned down a few offers Dantonio recently.

2--You at the tail end of your career and you've stored up enough acorns for a long winter (i.e., retirement).  You're daring someone to take you out.

3--You're an incredible ****, full of arrogance, disagreeable with all and really a negative force within your organization.

4--You're tired. You have to work, but you're at the end of your rope. You won't quit, so you're daring someone to make you go find another job.

I'm reminded of some leaders feeling untouchable by this report from last weekend's college football slate. Michigan State was at Wisconsin and just got drilled.  Here's how the post-game presser with Mike Dantonio went via ESPN:

"The Michigan State head coach drew even more attention to his inept offense in the aftermath of a 38-0 loss at Wisconsin, if that was even possible.

In his postgame news conference, Dantonio was asked if his offseason staff changes — he shuffled his offensive staffers’ responsibilities but did not fire any existing coaches or bring in anyone new — might have been a mistake.

“I think that’s sort of a dumb-a** question,” Dantonio replied."

That's taking "it you don't like it, find someone else" to a whole new level.

Let's put in context what 38-0 feels like in the corporate world.

--38-0 is being the incumbent provider in a renewal process and not making it to the final four and presenting live.

--38-0 is opening up a new call center and not taking a single call your first day - but you're not sure where the calls went instead - nobody got the calls.

--38-0 is agreeing to ship the new software release and when your CEO hits the site to test it, it crashes his Microsoft Surface.

Now imagine you're the manager in the call center scenario. Someone from corporate fixed the problem routing calls that your team couldn't fix. You go a meeting on the second day to revisit what happened.  Someone from corporate asks you, "Do you think you have the right people on your team moving forward?"

You don't miss a beat.  “I think that’s sort of a dumb-a** question,” you reply.

That's next level Job Security/Feeling Untouchable/Arrogance as a Leader.

"Next Question"

May you reach the level of success in your career when you can play offense and be belligerent rather than answer questions/concerns after failure.


Emerging Skill for Leaders: Making All Feel Welcome & On Equal Ground...

I read this post recently by William Wiggins at Fistful of Talent on Transgenderism. It's a simple, insightful piece on being aware. 

Prior to reading William's post, I finished Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac. It's the story of how Uber rose from humble beginnings to become a Unicorn, then stumble from the top as it's bro-tastic culture caused it to be tone-deaf to the world around it via PR fiasco after PR fiasco.

Both are highly recommended reading. One is 500 words and one is 80,000 words.

There's a lesson in reading progressive takes on emerging workplace issues, many of which have involved orientation/gender, then combining them with cautionary tales.  

The lesson? Being a leader in modern times is tricky. Consider the following realities:

  1. You're a leader.
  2. You're full of personal thoughts, a specific background and some form of bias.
  3. When change comes and you're asked to consider the rights of yet another special class of people, it's easy to react as if it's a burden or worse.
  4. You can say it's all gone too far. Many will agree with you.
  5. But - You'll ultimately acknowledge the rights of the class of people in front of you - or you won't be allowed to lead anymore.

History shows this cycle to be true.

What if you weren't late the game? What if you decided that rather than be late to the game, you made it a priority to make all feel welcome and on equal ground in your company or on your team as a leader?

What if?

I'll tell you what if, my friend.  If that was your approach, you'd find the people in question - the special class of people currently causing others discomfort (the groups change over time) - incredibly willing to work for you and just as importantly, freed to do their best work.  You'd be maximizing your ability to get great work from the resources you have.

When you're early on inclusion, a funny thing happens. Performance and the ability for someone to do their best work goes up.

None of us are perfect when it comes to the change cycle outlined in #1 through #5 above.  But I feel like we're moving quicker through the cycle to acceptance, and that' a good thing.

Performance goes up as bullshit goes down.  Just be crystal clear on what's bullshit in this cycle (Hint, it's the ones slow to acknowledge those with differences).