But Will They Stay? (Weak Things HR and Business Leaders Say)

Ever hear managers, executives and even HR say some weak things?

Of course you have. For me, there's one thing that rises to epic level when it coms to weak: Kawhi

"I like them as a candidate. I'm just worried they won't stay."

This mindset values retention over talent, performance and more. The candidate is strong and wants to come. Yet, there's something about the work history (too heavy), the comp (we can't provide as much as we would like) and a myriad of other factors that make your hiring manger wring their hands about offering a job to the candidate in question.

As I write this, the Toronto Raptors are set to clinch the NBA championship tonight over the dynastic Golden State Warriors. The Raptors are up 3 games to 1, and their success is driven by the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, for whom the Raptors traded another all star for, even though Leonard only had one year remaining when the deal was made.

That means contractually the Raptors traded for an employee who would open up their recruiting process one year later, and faced a heavy chance they wouldn't retain him.

"I'm just worried they won't stay."

The older I get, the more I'm convinced that if you can keep great talent in your company for a stint of 2-3 years, you're better off for having had them, reaping the contributions they make - than never having them at all.

This obviously refers to the top 10% - the most talented among us.

The Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard and knew that it was highly likely they would have him for a year. They did it anyway. Now, they're about to win a title.

Unwillingness to bring in top talent - long term retention risk be damned - can say a few things about your organization:

1--I don't think we're very good and I'm sure they won't stay.

2--We're OK, I know we can get better, but I'm not sure we'll improve quick enough to retain them.

3--We're not going to be able to comp this person they way they'll need to be comped to retain them.

4--I'm personally threatened by hiring someone this good. I'd prefer to have village idiots around me.

But what if you put any and all of those fears aside and hired the best person available, then got the **** out of the way and let them do their job?

They might be gone in a year. But that year might have been a hell of run.

Just ask the citizens of Toronto.


Men Who Are Uncomfortable Mentoring Women: I'd Guess You're Doing This...

Is the number of men who are afraid to mentor women really on the rise in the #metoo era? As crazy as it seems, a new report from Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn Organization says this is the case. Here’s what the report says, we'll discuss after the rundown:

--Female employees are now facing a new threat to their careers in the post #metoo era. Me too

--Their male bosses are avoiding 1:1 time with them, for fear of how being alone with a woman will look.

--This is based on new research released by Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn organization which finds that "60% of male managers in the United States are afraid to do a one-on-one activity, and that the number of men that feel that way is on the rise since last year.

--Sandberg says senior male managers are also hesitating when it comes to business travel with their female employees as well as 1:1 dinners and that this number is on the rise since last year, up 33%.

--The obvious concern is already low mentoring rates when it comes to senior male managers mentoring women - and those rates dropping even further.

--This SurveyMonkey/Lean In online poll was conducted February 22-March 1, 2019, among a national sample of 5,182 adults in the U.S. ages eighteen and older. The modeled error estimate is +/- 2 percentage points. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from the February 22-March 1, 2019 SurveyMonkey poll. Data for all surveys have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age eighteen and over.

How do you feel about that?  I'm a guy, which means I should be careful, but I'm probably part of the problem if I'm afraid to share my opinion.

My advice to the men who aren't comfortable mentoring women is pretty simple. That vibe you're feeling in the #metoo era doesn't have much to do with the movement - it has everything to do with you.

If you've noticed women acting differently, being skeptical of you, etc.- it's probably time to take a hard look at your tendencies in meetings that include both male and female colleagues, direct reports and underlings.

You might be a brotastic mess. We get it, you're a guy. But if you're in meetings and all your small talk is with the other guys, that probably naturally flows into the work conversations when the meeting actually starts and work conversations are being executed. How often do you ask a woman in those meetings the subject matter expert over a man? How often do you make sure that a woman who's quiet and not participating gets a professional, clean shot at being a part of the conversation?

The answer is that a some of you don't do that. As a result, woman are likely to be a bit distant professionally from you. You feel that, and make the assumption that the distance is related to #metoo. Which leads you to report that you're really not comfortable with the whole 1/1 thing in the #metoo era.

Which is weak.

The answer is more engagement with the women on your team during the normal course of business. You're responsible for the distance you feel. Being comfortable in a 1/1 is easy - just go out of your way to engage with the women on your team during the normal course of business, and 1/1's will feel like an extension of that.

I'm far from perfect, but I know this. If you're afraid to do a 1/1, I can look at your meetings, conversations and more in public space and see subtle differences in how you engage men vs. women.

I'm just a guy. But if you defer shooting the sh*t with me in preference of engaging with our female co-workers before our meeting starts, you'll be well on your way to becoming comfortable with 1/1's with female.

Stop being creepy in your assumed stance of avoiding being creepy.


Bro-tastic vs. We Care: A Quick Review of Uber's Current and Past Corporate Values...

I'm always fascinated by the choices that companies and leadership teams make when they create company values.  

The challenge, of course, is to cut through the noise and get to what's real for the employees who work for your organization. To me, values can be aspirational, but are always best served by words that describe what makes the high performers in your organization different/successful, regardless of position.

In that way, company values can be incredibly powerful. But too often they're mostly aspirational and don't tell you anything about the top talent in Uberyour organization.

Of course, it can go the other way as well.  Leadership teams can do a great job of making company values actionable and representative of culture, but the words can mean too much - at times justifying negative behaviors.  

It's a slippery slope. You want to find the sweet spot in the middle - actionable words that don't create rationalization for behaviors that seem counter to accepted people practices.

Need an example? I thought you would never ask... Let's take a look at the company values of Uber, both back in the old days under CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick, and then look at the current values under leadership of Dara Khosrowshahi, who was brought in to provide adult leadership when the company was spiraling in multiple controversies brought on by cultural failings of the earlier leadership.

First, the Uber company values under Kalanick:

Customer obsession (Start with what is best for the customer.)

Make magic (Seek breakthroughs that will stand the test of time.)

Big bold bets (Take risks and plant seeds that are five to ten years out.)

Inside out (Find the gap between popular perception and reality.)

Champion’s mind-set (Put everything you have on the field to overcome adversity and get Uber over the finish line.)

Optimistic leadership (Be inspiring.)

Superpumped (Ryan Graves’s original Twitter proclamation after Kalanick  replaced him as CEO; the world is a puzzle to be solved with enthusiasm.)

Be an owner, not a renter (Revolutions are won by true believers.)

Meritocracy and toe-stepping (The best idea always wins. Don’t sacrifice truth for social cohesion and don’t hesitate to challenge the boss.)

Let builders build (People must be empowered to build things.)

Always be hustlin’ (Get more done with less, working longer, harder, and smarter, not   just two out of three.)

Celebrate cities (Everything  we do is to make cities better.)

Be yourself (Each of us should be authentic.)

Principled confrontation (Sometimes the world and institutions need to change in order for the future to be ushered in.)

Damn. I love values that show what it takes to be successful at a company, but you can kind of see where it could go off the rails. More on that in a second.

Next, the current Uber company values under the all-grown up Khosrowshahi:

We build globally, we live locallyWe harness the power and scale of our global operations to deeply connect with the cities, communities, drivers and riders that we serve, every day.

We are customer obsessed. We work tirelessly to earn our customers’ trust and business by solving their problems, maximizing their earnings or lowering their costs. We surprise and delight them. We make short-term sacrifices for a lifetime of loyalty.

We celebrate differences. We stand apart from the average. We ensure people of diverse backgrounds feel welcome. We encourage different opinions and approaches to be heard, and then we come together and build.

We do the right thing. Period.

We act like owners. We seek out problems and we solve them. We help each other and those who matter to us. We have a bias for action and accountability. We finish what we start and we build Uber to last. And when we make mistakes, we’ll own up to them.

We persevere. We believe in the power of grit. We don’t seek the easy path. We look for the toughest challenges and we push. Our collective resilience is our secret weapon.

We value ideas over hierarchy. We believe that the best ideas can come from anywhere, both inside and outside our company. Our job is to seek out those ideas, to shape and improve them through candid debate, and to take them from concept to action.

We make big bold bets. Sometimes we fail, but failure makes us smarter. We get back up, we make the next bet, and we go!

See the difference? Wow.

The values from Kalanick's time that I've highlighted note fairly aggressive values that champion assertiveness, machismo and the confrontation that was really the genesis for Uber getting off the ground. Let us not forget the amount of confrontation Uber was taking on with almost every city as they launched their service. They truly begged forgiveness and were the barbarians at the gate. It's only natural that this spilled over into the values and into the culture. Of course, that was a choice - they effectively hard coded that macho vibe into the culture, and as we saw later it became a shitshow of harassment suits, bullying, etc. 

Could they have pivoted on the values once they saw the negative behaviors inside the company? Of course they could have. But that type of pivot means you can't have a founder-driven cult of personality.

Exit Kalanick, enter Khosrowshahi. The second set of values are from a grown up company. The words are softer. They're reflective of a pivot in values for a company that lost it's way, but also reflective of a company where the tough founder-driven stuff has already been done.

Could Khosrowshahi have grown Uber from scratch with this cultural DNA?  Nope.  Should Kalanick pivoted his culture once market share had been obtained and his values began to be a liability? Yep.

Welcome to the goody room of "words matter".  Nothing is easy when it comes to using values to drive culture.  


Better Marketing For Corrective Action in HR...

I recently dropped a post titled "Is Corrective Action a Death Sentence?", which explored the fact that all too often, corrective action/progressive discipline is the beginning of the end. When an employee gets that document, all too often they have the opinion they can't save their job.
 
Of course, it doesn't have to be that way. What if we entered into the corrective action world actually
expecting that the employee could make it? That's the way it should be in my eyes. Of course, that The planmeans a couple of different things:
 
1--Our companies have to go into any type of corrective action plan thinking the employee can make it, with the right type of support.
 
2--The employee in question has to want to raise their performance to meet the requirements of your plan - not always the case.
 
3--No one can act surprised if the employee makes it.
 
Which brings us to the garden variety corrective action/progressive discipline plan.  Here's a couple of things to think about:
 
--It's not over just because you "wrote them up".  Identifying what the performance is and why it's not great is only half the battle.
 
--The other half of the battle? Actually telling them what they need to do to get off the plan.
 
What's acceptable performance look like?  Too often corrective action/progressive discipline documents don't describe what performance that meets expectations looks like.  That's a miss.
 
So if you're going to do corrective action/progressive discipline the right way, you have to provide a path where they are off the plan. Most of us don't do that. We're just taking a "step".
 
If you're different than that, you probably should consider renaming what you call corrective action/progressive discipline at your company. I know what you're thinking - just because I call it something else doesn't mean anything has changed - and you're right.
 
I'm only telling you to change what you call it if you're actually open to someone getting their performance together and coming "off'" the plan. By all means, if you're just taking steps, keep doing what your doing. I hope the corrective action/progressive discipline process goes well for you.
 
But, if you're doing it differently and providing the aforementioned path, you should rename it.  Here's some real options, all with elements of truth in them:
 
Real Options/Recommendations
 
--Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) - Frequently used by sales teams with hard numbers to back it up, the ole' PIP means what it says. Do this, and you're good.  Don't do this, and we probably can't keep you.
 
--Back on Track Plan - This name for the plan does what it says it's going to do. You're off track. We need you on track. Here's the plan to do it.
 
--Individual Development Plan (IDP) - I know, I know. This is usually centered around true employee development in the L&D space. But if you don't currently have IDPs as part of your human capital stack, this name is available to you for to use for performance situations.
 
If you had the exact right culture, you could also use naming conventions like the "Get Them Off Your Back Plan", which is 100% honest but likely way too cheeky for the seriousness of what's in front of you.
 
The bottom line is this - if you don't have corrective action that shows the path to get off the plan, you're signaling a lot of bad things. I understand those bad things are likely to happen in a lot of circumstances, but aren't we better than that?
 
Change the name if you're willing to work on it and provide clarity in feedback to those that are struggling in your organization.  Keep it as is if you're not - don't destroy the opportunity for others.

Is Corrective Action a Death Sentence?

Short post today about an important topic.  

Is Corrective Action a Death Sentence?

First, definitions for some of my readers who aren't HR pros.  Corrective Action is a formal process where you tell an employee, usually in a written document that is delivered in a formal Kick in the meeting with a witness - that their performance is below standards and unless they improve, they likely will be removed from the company in time.

Corrective Action is usually a three to four step process in most companies.  It's designed to reduce legal liability in firing someone, even in "at-will" employment environments.

Back to the question - Is Corrective Action a Death Sentence?

Well, that depends Sparky - what type of manager are you anyway?

Here's what corrective action means to the players involved:

The Company - "the employee in question isn't going to make it."

The Employee him/herself - "I need to look for another job."

Who's missing?  Oh yeah... The manager.  What corrective action means to the manager depends on what type of manager you are:

The manager as coach - to this type of manager, corrective action is just a escalated tool to show an employee they've been coaching that things are esclating.

The manager as bureaucrat - this type of manager isn't a coach and may in fact be a bit of a coward.  He/she hasn't really coached the employee from the heart, so when they show up with a formal corrective action document, the employee feels like he needs a lawyer.  Of course, they don't have that right.

Again, back to the question - Is Corrective Action a Death Sentence?

Corrective Action is never a death sentence to the manager who's an effective coach.  That manager is going to keep coaching for improvement and wants the employee to recover.  They've used corrective action to show the urgency and hope is turns around.  Unfortunately, to all other types of managers, corrective action IS a death sentence - because if you aren't actively coaching, your struggling employee has no shot at turning it around.

Which one are you?

 

 


5 Questions: Should Amazon Employees Take the Company Offer (10K, 3 Months Pay) to Quit?

I’ll give you $10,000 and 3 months of pay if you quit today and do something else. 

Who’s interested? Everyone!

Who takes me up on my offer? Well, that’s where it gets interesting. Amazon van

If the whole “we’ll pay you to quit” sounds familiar, it was the rarified air of the HR culture darling, Zappos.com.  We loved Zappos back in the day for a variety of things, including their offer to pay new hires to quit early in their tenure.  Here’s how the thinking went – if you’re not sure this is for you, we’ll pay you to eliminate the cultural misfit and just go.

The Zappos offer to pay you to quit was child’s play. Amazon saw that offer and said, “Hold my beer.”

In case you missed it, Amazon was in the news again late last week with a Godfather offer (you can’t refuse) to employees designed to create momentum to build the delivery capability needed to meet its future needs. The offer was this - 10K and 3 month’s pay for any employee who will quit and start a franchised delivery business under the Amazon partnership umbrella.  Here’s the details of the announcement:

The company announced they will pay two to three months salary and $10,000 in startup costs if an employee will quit their post and start a package delivery service. The company wants to make good on its promise to Prime members to cut delivery time in half from two days to one.

The offer is open to most part-time and full-time Amazon employees, including warehouse workers who pack and ship orders. The employee still has to be accepted into this program, and the company did not share how many people they think will apply and be accepted.

Newly anointed entrepreneurs can lease blue vans with the Amazon smile logo on it. The company estimates someone who owns 20 to 40 delivery vans can potentially earn $300,000 a year.

You have to admit, that’s kind of cool.  But it’s a trap for many of the Amazon employees who hear the offer and think being their own boss is a path that’s for them.

That’s because the business those employees would be entering under the Amazon partnership umbrella isn’t a delivery business, it’s actually a people management business.  CBS news did the math last year and reported that to make low six figure as an owner of this business, you’d need to employ at least 20 full-time equivalents per year.

Danger!! (Siren sound in the background)

Not sure whether the offer is for you, Amazon employees?  Fear not, because I’m here with an uber-simple 5-item questionnaire designed to help you understand whether you should quit your Amazon job and start a delivery business once you’ve been accepted into the Amazon “lease some vans and start a business” incubator. 

Answer the following questions “yes” or “no”:

  1. Have you ever thought your manager was a complete dipshit related to business savvy?
  2. Do you actively avoid dealing with some people at work?
  3. Have you ever been asked to be part of an interview process for open positions and thought, “I’m too busy” or “that’s not my job”?
  4. Do you ever vent to your spouse for long periods of time about co-workers?
  5. Have you ever had a co-worker vent to you and refused to get involved in whatever issue they had, either directly (telling them you didn’t want to get involved) or indirectly (waiting for them to finish their rant and excusing yourself as softly as you could)?

Score your answers in the following way:

--0-1“yes” answers: This Amazon offer might be for you.

--2-3 “yes” answers: You shouldn’t quit your day job. You’ll likely start well in your Amazon delivery franchise, only to grow disenchanted, look back and see year one was by far the best year of your delivery business.

--4-5 “yes” answers: Run away. You’re going to burn the f###ing trucks by month six, end up in jail for arson, insurance fraud and divorced.

The Amazon deliver business is a “people” business. Don’t be fooled by the vans, the cool scanners and the Amazon tech stack.  If you don’t enjoy (or can’t tolerate) the people side of business, you have NO SHOT at employing/retaining 20-40 full-time drivers in 2019, with America at peak economic cycle, hourly employees employed at their next job 3-7 days after quitting on you, and the 200 ways people will disappoint you in a given day and force you to engage them directly.

I hope Amazon will evaluate you for inclusion into the program with this in mind. 

But you might just have decent credit and be able to float a note for 20 leased vans.

Unless you passed my 5-question quiz with flying colors, stay on the Amazon payroll. As hard as life is there, it’s safer for you.


The Non-Working, Non-Credible Executive at Your Company...

Let's talk about something that impacts every organization - The perception of whether your executives do anything, and in a related topic, whether they are viewed as credible.

There's 4 buckets every executive at your company falls into: Magic

1--Works hard/does stuff and viewed as credible.

2--Doesn't work hard/do stuff but is viewed as credible.

3--Does stuff/works hard and isn't viewed as credible.

4--Doesn't work hard/do stuff and isn't viewed as credible.

The gold standard is to have execs in #1 - Does stuff/is credible.  Engagement is always easier when this is the case.  For the most cynical of executives, they'd love to be viewed as credible without really trying to dig in and work or understand what's going on 4-5 levels below them.

Entire TV series have been based on the disconnect - Undercover Boss, anyone?  The CEO puts on a stupid wig, goes to the front lines and finds that special person they want to help moving forward - everyone cries and the CEO is now aware of how hard the work is.  Check. Then it's back to the corporate jet and the Ritz.

Why am I posting about this today? I was reminded of the four buckets of Executive perception when Magic Johnson resigned as the President of the Los Angeles Lakers (pro basketball).  For the uninitiated, Magic is a top 5 player all time in pro basketball, and he's royalty when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers. So the Lakers hired him 2 years ago to return their organization to glory.

There was just one problem. Magic wanted the job, but he didn't want to have to work hard. In addition, the fact he didn't work hard in a job he didn't know how to do destroyed his credibility in his workplace, which for him was the community of other GMs doing work within the NBA.  You can get a good rundown of the Magic Johnson scenario here.

But back to your company.  Evaluating whether an executive works hard and is viewed as credible is tough for the following reasons:

a--It's not necessarily the executive's job to understand what everyone does and how the sausage gets made. They have a job that's different that the first layers of your company, and at times, just as important.

b--Employees love to hate. Just because they don't know what the executive does doesn't mean the exec in question doesn't work hard.  But it might tell you they need to connect more to be credible.

So how do you determine whether an executive works hard and is credible?  My first suggestion is to ask their executive peers who rely on them for services.  If the peers don't feel they work hard or are credible, it's likely you have a problem.  After all, peers at the executive level are aware of the demands of the job.  They're slow to say, "I don't know what he does", because they've heard that before about themselves.

Finally, look for command related to talent management 2 to 3 levels below them. Someone trying to understand the work and add value to the way your company's product or service gets delivered is likely to know who's good and who's not, and base it on tangible items clearly linked to success in the job, not politics or rumors.

There's a lot of people at your company who think your executives don't do anything.  They might be right.

You should try to understand if you're dealing with Jeff Bezos or Magic Johnson and take action accordingly.


Minimum Viable Product in the World of HR...

If there's one thing that HR could do better at, it's caring less about being perfect and shipping more HR product.

You see it all the time in the world of HR. We have big plans. Those big plans include the need for project planning, for meetings, vendor selection and deep thoughts.  After awhile, the process takes over the original intent, which was trying to serve a need and make the people processes of our company just a little bit better. MVP

We chase big, risk adverse, "get everyone on board" type of wins.  The development of those big wins can stretch into a year - no make that two years - of prep.  

What we ought to be chasing more is Minimal Viable Product, which in the software industry gets defined as this:

minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.

A minimum viable product has just enough core features to effectively deploy the product, and no more. Developers typically deploy the product to a subset of possible customers—such as early adopters thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. This strategy targets avoiding building products that customers do not want and seeks to maximize information about the customer per amount of money spent.

I'm looking at you, Workday.  You're on notice, SAP.  We love the big solution in the world of HR.  But the risk of big failure goes up astronomically when implementation plans are more than 120 days and your own HR team hates the product - after 18 months of work to "customize" "configure" it.

Of course, we'd be a lot better off if we would simply either design/buy the simplest solution to a problem we think needs fixing by HR.  To be clear, you can buy or design these minimalistic solutions.  Which way you go depends a lot on what you are trying to fix/improve.  The general rule of thumb is this related to the following types of HR "needs":

--Technology - always buy. Find the simplest solution you like, buy for the shortest term possible and roll the solution out.  If you prove the use case and gain adoption, you can always seek to upgrade to something more complex, but if it fails, initially buying simple is the smart play. Recruiting, performance and system of record tech falls into the "buy" category.

--Teach - You're buying a tech solution for early forays into Learning and Development?  You're kidding me, right? You know that you may build this and no one will come, right? You also know that the type of training you're generally asked for (manager and leadership training, etc.) is an area where you're the expert, right? hmmm....

--Process - You never buy process initially - you build.  You never spend money on a consultant to help you in any area before you  - the HR leader - has your own hot take related to what you want in this area.  

Thinking in a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) way is simple.  For tech buys, If you're first generation HR (no tech has existed), you should always find the simplest solution you like, buy for the shortest term possible and roll the solution out.   Figure out what's usable and what's not.  See this article from me for Best in Breed vs Suite considerations.  Open API's mean you have limited worries about tying all the data together.  Let's face it, you've got to grow up your HR function before you were going to use that data anyway.  Buy small and learn.  Maybe your v 2.0 tech solution is an upgrade to a more advanced provider.  But you don't by the BMW when you're kid is learning to drive - you buy the used Camry.

Here's some lighting round notes on what Minimal Viable Product looks like in HR - for some specific areas/pain points:

--Manager/Leadership Training - You want to shop big and bring in an entire series from an outsourced partner.  The concept of MVP says you should listen to the needs, then bootstrap a 2-hour class together on your own.  At the very least, you order a single module of training from a provider (I like this one)and walk before you run.

--Redesigning Recruiting Process - Put the Visio chart down, Michelle.  Dig into a job that represents a big area of challenge at your company and become the recruiter for that job for a month.  Manage it like a project and be responsible personally for the outcomes.  Nobody cares about your Visio chart - yet. They would love the personal attention you give them.  Once you run a single, meaningful search in a experimental/different way, you'll have real world stories and experience to create a <shudder> Visio chart that's based on reality.

Doing Minimal Viable Product in HR means you plan less, get to doing, run the action you're taking through a cycle and evaluate.  If it works, build on the 2.0 version with a bit more complexity.  MVP in HR means you ship more product that's lighter than what's traditionally come out of your office.

Get busy shipping more HR product.  Plan less. Play the Minimal Viable Product game and if you're going to fail, fail quickly.

 


The Cold-Blooded Art of Owning/Getting In Front of Huge Career Mistakes...

Let's face it. If you're in the game and playing to win. you're going to have some failures. Sh*t that goes sideways. 

"Regrettable situations", as I like to refer to them. Keep-me-posted

I like to think Teddy Roosevelt had it right at the turn of the last century when he gave a speech widely known as "The Man In The Arena".  It goes a little something like this:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

TL;DR: People who aren't making sh*t happen shouldn't be allowed to criticize. At worst, we shouldn't listen to those who have never put themselves out there via risk-taking in their own careers.

It's easy to play it safe. But that's what gives birth to boring careers, tract housing and underfunded 401ks.  Whether you're playing to win for a greater cause or you just think careers and the rewards that go with them are the ultimate scoreboards of life, Roosevelt's "Arena" is as true today as it was in 1910.

If you're in the arena, it's going to get messy.  Failure will be in your neighborhood.

So let's talk a little bit about the spin cycle necessary when you do fail, or when your underperformance isn't widely known, but could be held against you by your enemies, or at least those who view you as standing in the way of their own career progress.

Scenario: You're working on an important project. Things aren't going well and some of your co-workers understand (correctly, I might add) that an important client contact has grown to dislike you (this could be either an external or internal client). It seems that in repping the best course of action, you try to play hardball with this individual when they were blocking your progress, and they didn't take kindly to being told what to do/leveraged/semi-threatened.  Now the words out on the street by those in the know - you're in trouble on this project, and while it likely won't destroy your career, it certainly doesn't help.

To make matters worse, you've got people in your own company/department gossiping about this personal sh*t show that you're at least partly responsible for.  As with most gossip, it starts among those who would most like to see you fail and who haven't done 1/4 of what you've done for your company (see Teddy's speech).

Still, it's a problem. You've underperformed, and people are talking.  The good news is that the people who matter most in your career (your boss, perhaps your boss's boss) aren't yet aware.

That's what this post is for. You've got a choice to make, and here are your options:

1--Do your best to muddle though the situation and hope it doesn't explode on you, taking the equivalent of your right leg from a career perspective at your company.

2--Get to the person you wronged and try to make it right.

3--Execute on a policy of no surprises to your boss (as well as proactive disarming of those who would position themselves as your enemy), hitting him/her with the reality of the situation and generally getting in front of bad things.

Most people choose option #1.  Just play the string out and hope for the best.  The weakest view option #2 as the best path, but for purposes of this exercise, I'm assuming you blew that person up for a good reason - they were being unreasonable in their blocking of what needed to happen, etc.

It's option #3 that most true Alphas use - getting in front of bad news and taking the leverage away from all who wish them harm.

I'm reminded of this art by this post from Jeff Bezos of Amazon (No Thank You, Mr. Pecker) - which details the fact that the National Enquirer was blackmailing him under the threat of releasing partially nude and totally nude photos of him that he supposedly had sent to his girlfriend/mistress - to influence him to call off his investigation of why his personal life had earlier come under much scrutiny.

I'll let you go read the Bezos post.  As it turns out, the richest man in the world is probably a bad person to blackmail.

But back to you and me, and our more pedestrian careers. When things go sideways and sharks are circling, it's probably always best to get in front of the bad news with the people who control your career - for the following reasons:

A--The cover up always feels worse than the actual situation.

B--When you tell those that matter, you can control the narrative.

C--Important people with power (those that control your career) hate surprises and being embarrassed.

Do you really want those that want to stick it to you to control that initial narrative?  Of course you don't.

You got sideways on a piece of work. Nobody died. Be a player and march into the office of power, let them know about it and tell them what you're thinking about doing to fix it.

Then ask for their advice. People who believe in you love to be asked for advice when you're having trouble.

Game. Set. Match.  Haters who watch others (you) play in the arena - be gone.


Call Up The Co-Worker or Boss You Used to Hate and Tell Them You Understand...

We've all had alpha personality co-workers or bosses we couldn't connect with.  

They were overbearing. They had to do it their way. They were too far in the weeds and hyper-critical of your work.  You didn't like them. Hate's a strong word, dislike is not.

So you ran away and got the hell out.  Time to do your own thing. 

Then a funny thing happened. You grew up, got promoted a couple of times and found yourself being a lot like them.  You didn't notice the similarities until you had a flash point with a direct report.  Then it hit you:

"OMG. I've become what I used to hate."

That's probably true. But the failure didn't happen today, it happened with the younger version of yourself.  You didn't know how hard it was to run the show. 

Need an example?  How about Kyrie Irving of pro basketball's Boston Celtics? Kyrie is infamous for running away from the demanding, badgering, bitchy shadow of Lebron James, requesting a trade after winning a NBA Title with Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017.

Now he's around a bunch of youngsters with the Celtics and feels like the parent Lebron tried to be to him. So he called Lebron to tell him he finally grew up, and apologized for being a bratty kid.  More from ESPN:

Celtics guard Kyrie Irving said that in the wake of his outbursts at coach Brad Stevens and forward Gordon Hayward on the court at the end of Saturday's loss at the Orlando Magic and pointed criticisms of Boston's young players afterward, he called LeBron James and apologized for the way he handled criticism from James when the two were teammates in Cleveland.

"Obviously, this was a big deal for me, because I had to call [LeBron] and tell him I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold," Irving said after scoring 27 points and dishing out a career-high 18 assists in Boston's 117-108 home victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. "I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.

"[LeBron] was one of those guys who came to Cleveland and tried to show us how to win a championship, and it was hard for him, and sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world."

Some of the people you used to hate were bad people. Some were good people trying to keep the wheels on the bus as it rolled along at 150 mph and were better than you gave them credit for.

Now that you're running things, you should reach out to the latter group and tell them you appreciate them - if only belatedly.

It might be the start of an important relationship you need professionally.