Meet Jim: A Questionable Performer, But Willing to Kill at a Moment's Notice...

Meet Jim.

Some of you know Jim (some of you know this person as Janice, but regardless of the name, the profile is the same).

You joined your company and as expected, it took you a year to figure out all the relationships. As you got acclimated, you understood Jim's title, who he reported to and more.

You just weren't sure what Jim did. Jim

Another year went by. Then another. Then it came into focus.

Jim isn't good at a lot of things. But Mike, the exec he reports to, trusts him. And as it turns out, you finally figured out what Jim is good at.

Jim can kill things.

Jim is ready to be dispatched at a moment's notice on behalf of Mike to handle ugliness that Mike wants no part of. Jim is willing to say the things Mike can't, to do things Mike doesn't want to do, to act as Mike's proxy when unpleasantness and nasty things are required.

Here comes Jim.

See Jim kill. 

Where's Jim today? Well, he really doesn't have to be "here" all the time because Mike needs him about once a quarter or 4X a year.  If you want urgency, you'll see it when Jim is called into action.  Jim understands his role. Jim is the fixer, the cleaner - the one who does the things.

He's tenacious. He's resented. He's also feared, because when people see engagement from Jim, it means Mike is looking to close some business.

Fear Jim. If he reaches out to you directly, there's a message attached to whatever he asks you to do.

Say yes to Jim.


Comparing Job Offers: Always Pick The Best Boss...

From our Kinetix Tips series (email subscribers click through for photo):

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 6.54.10 PM

Of course, I was operating with limited characters in that space, so one elaboration. A potential boss's comfort with that question really doesn't include him automatically saying "yes".  The comfortable potential boss reflects on that question and compares the good and bad he/she brings to the table.

A quick "yes" to the question, "are you a good/best boss?", probably means they're not great at managing talent. Because it's way too hard to be that cocky about being good.

 


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.


AWAY BAGS: When Your Horrible People Practices Turbocharge Sales...

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity. That might be true.

For proof, look to Away Travel, which is the maker of the ultra-hip and ultra-cool Away Suitcase.  It's a Away trendy product, but one that I had an only passing awareness of.

Of course, that's before the shit hit the fan. My awareness is incredible now - more on that later.

Many of your are aware of a scathing article about Away that published on The Verge, detailing a bullying culture based on the communication tool of Slack. The gist is this - Away promoted radical transparency and attempted to force all communication on the public tool that is Slack, and as a result, there was little to no privacy in communications. When a diverse set of employees tried to set up their own private Slack channel, a high ranking exec popped in to monitor/participate in the group, even though she didn't fit the diversity the group was based on.

A few days later, members of the group started being fired. The Verge article hit, and it was an internet sensation for a couple of days. If you want more detail about what's being called a toxic culture at Away, go read the Verge article now.

But I'm here to talk about what happened AFTER that article hit.  Here's the chain of events that I saw:

1.  Within days, CEO Steph Korey stepped down amid criticism of the ruthless internal culture at the luggage startup she co-founded.

2.  Away named a new CEO.

3.  I listen to a pretty ruthless podcast called Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway. They had Away on their list of things to talk about during the week it all broke. That wasn't going to go well for Away, because these two are ruthless with bad stuff at companies.

4.  Away didn't run. Instead, they leaned in and sponsored the podcast. I've never heard Away as a sponsor of this podcast, so I'm assuming they bought the ad rights to the episode that aired with their news.

5. Scott Galloway, one of the hosts, did a live read as a result - in his usual personality, having fun with it.  They had already made the call with the CEO, so the talk was more about the action the company took rather than the bad cultural stuff.

The lesson here? If you act quick enough (fire the people in question) and lean in to the coverage, you can actually create buzz around a product and turn the negative talk into a business opportunity.

Here's what I did after hearing the podcast - 

  1. I went and checked out the product.
  2. I'm at least 50/50 to buy an Away bag as a result.
  3. I never would have gotten that close to purchase without the hard lead in on the podcast and controversy by Away.

The lesson?  Act fast when bad stuff happens and don't hide.

If you run the right type of business, you might just end up with a boost to your business. While that's not a recommendation to bully people on Slack, it's a case study on how to react when bad stuff happens.

BONUS READING: A Guide to Away Bag Knockoffs on Amazon


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. 


The 4 Rules of Office/Company Romance If You're a Manager of People (McDonalds CEO Version)...

Quick story from the Capitalist.

It's early in my career, and there I am one night - trying to outwork what I don't know as a young professional. I'm in the office about 930pm (no one else there, humblebrag), doing work for a VP level partner who had taken me under his wing. I'm heading back from the restroom, where I have to go the edge of the elevator corridor to hit the main doors of our office and there it was.

The president of our division (mid 50's) getting into the elevator with a mid-20's administrative assistant from a department managed by one of his Romance direct reports. Meh. Like a pro, I kept moving and acted like I saw nothing. It never came up. 

Of course, it doesn't mean they were heading to a Holiday Inn Express or had just treated his office as the same. But c'mon, he was kind of a sleeze towards women and they didn't really have any reason to be connected for work.

In case you missed it, McDonald's has fired CEO Steve Easterbrook over his relationship with another employee, according to a press release from the company over the weekend. McDonald’s shares sank 2.3% in premarket at 10 a.m. in London, or 5 a.m. ET, which could wipe about $3.4 billion off the company’s value.

McDonald's had been in a period of success under the leadership of Easterbrook.  Now, it's thrown into a period of turmoil and 3.4B is gone.  Crazy.

Seems like a good time to set up some rules for office romance. Note that these rules don't apply to everyone - if you're a rank and file employee, you do you.  No, these rules of office romance are for managers of people only - let's face it - you're different, the stakes are higher and there are special rules for you.

Here's your 4 Rules of Office/Company Romance If You're a Manager of People:

1--Never date someone who reports to you. This seems obvious, and they'll be some who email stories of lifelong romances that started this way. I hear you. I'm glad you found love in all the wrong places. For everyone else, especially in the time of #metoo, it's a bet - your job/career vs your rationalization that your "in-team" romance is going to lead to Mr./Mrs. Right.

2--Don't date someone in the company (on someone's else's team) if you're a manager of people inside a company with less than 250 employees.  That number is a bit random, but it feels right. The standard line will be don't have a relationship with someone on your team, but people on other teams might be OK.  Key word is "might".  The bigger the company, the more conflicts with people on other teams won't be a problem.  Get below 250 people in your company (and certainly in companies with 100 or less employees), and you might as well be dating someone on your team.

3--The bigger your job, the less latitude you have to date people in your company. It's called leadership, and your decision to reach down 2-3 levels in your division to find love and companionship looks weak and sleazy. We thought you were the one to lead this (business unit, division, location, company), now we've got people talking about how much time Jan is speaking time in your office. Unfair? Maybe. That's burden is what the money is for.

4--Report any relationship to HR and consider getting acknowledgements and waivers signed. So here we are - you're in a relationship in the company, and you've had the wisdom to drop by HR and let them know. Without knowing what policies you have on this, I can tell you you've done the right thing.  As a manager of people, you need to transfer the ticking time bomb of office romance to the HR team. What will they do?  Probably nothing - but disclosing the relationship means you were above-board and sought counsel on the right way to proceed. 

5--(Bonus) - Don't be sleazy or give people the creepers as you consider office romances.  Or just don't even consider it as a leader/manager of people, maybe?

Welcome to the show, kid. You're a manager of people, and when it comes to office romance, managers of people get treated differently. You have more power than you think you do, and with that in mind, there are rules.

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


Budget Season: Do You Have Any Ideal on Labor Costs By Project/Service?

It's budget season for a lot of us, and in addition to revenue projections, one American pastime is alive and well in the budget process, even in 2020.

Sandbagging!

You know it's true. If you're a leader in the field, you're attempting to load up the expense side of your budget as much as possible, often times because you may have no control F35of the revenue targets that are handed to you.  You NEED that expense side to be as high as possible so you can slash it as needed in an effort to meet your EBITDA or Net Income number, even if you miss the crazy revenue target.

Games people play. Right or wrong, you just can't stop them.

If expense loading is a game in budget season, guess what the favorite parlor game of all is during this time?

Sandbagging the headcount budget!

In most businesses, headcount is the biggest fixed (or is it unfixed) cost. The bigger the headcount budget, the bigger the pile of sand that can be used to make earnings if you miss revenue.

Which begs the following question:

Do You Have Any Ideal on Labor Costs By Project/Service at your Company?

While most of would say yes, that's a yes that we "kind of know" but can't give you "actual math".

I'm reminded of this fact by a conversation I had over the weekend. My son's a freshman in college and a Aerospace Engineering student. He started going down a rabbit hole of what it took to build an American Combat Aircraft.  As you might expect, numbers release are limited, but then he found this gem of an article on the production of America's latest generation fighter jet, the F-35:

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, better known as the GAO, has released a new report on the status of the F-35 program overall. One of the most interesting tidbits in the report was metrics on how many man hours of labor it takes to manufacture each type of F-35 and how those numbers have changed over time.

The chart below shows exactly how many labor hours are poured into constructing each F-35 variant on average. With the A model unsurprisingly being the lowest at 41,541 hours in 2017, the more complex B model taking 57,152 hours, and the carrier-capable C model coming in at 60,121 hours. 

Then, they shared this chart, which shows how production labor costs have dropped over time with the F-35:

F35

Using the standard 2,000 hours in a work year, that shows the highest value version of the F-35(c) actually takes 30 man years - just to deliver the airframe.  And it used to 50+ years!  Using either number, you can safely say it takes the equivalent of a worker's entire career/prime of career to deliver a F-35c.  Crazy.

With those numbers in mind, you don't have labor and headcount problems, you have labor and headcount concerns.

The bigger point here for the budget season?  It's the fact that the smart finance pro in front of you - the one who is going to make the final decision on whether to cut the fat out of your headcount budget - is not only evaluating the sand in your numbers, he or she is asking for the numbers behind the numbers. The smart Finance pro asks questions about your assumptions and wants to know that you're a good steward of the headcount received.

All things being equal, they'll cut someone else's headcount numbers instead of yours - IF you can articulate how responsible you've been with the resources provided and how you're doing more with the same headcount.

Showing improvement in production costs over time like the F-35 program (you can do this even if you're delivering service rather than product) is good backup to have during budget season.

Good luck with the final budget meetings with Finance. May your sand continue to flow.

 


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.


Amp Up Your Employment Brand Like Domino's...Or Maybe Not...

When it comes to attracting candidates to your employment brand, purpose matters.

Candidates are increasingly seeking a sense of purpose in their work, so it makes sense to embed purpose in your values through connection to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) themes.  Companies like Unilever have gone all in on this approach and even mandated executives assign a purpose to every product in the company's portfolio. An examination of how Uber's company values changed after a period of turmoil show a transition from focusing on winning to working with others, serving community and valuing differences. Intent of your messaging matters.

BUT.... and there is a but....It's dangerous to reach when it comes to the purpose you assign to your business. If you're simply a nice business/company with a good product, don't suggest that you're trying to save the world.

I was reminded of this danger when Domino's used footage of employees as they marketed their Delivery Insurance/guarantee, which says that if your order isn't right, they'll make it right quickly and free of charge.

That's good business, but not a 8.3 on the Richter Scale of CSR and corporate purpose. Watch the following video (email subscribers click through if you don't see the player below) and we'll break it down afterwords:

Amp up your employment brand like Domino's... or maybe not.

“we're going to be expediting this order, people”

If I close my eyes on that audio, it feels like I'm in an emergency room and someone's life is at risk.

Then I remember, "no, Jenny just called to complain and she didn't get the cheesed stuffed crust".

Flash forward from the pizza oven room to drivers running up steps to help get Jenny's calorie count up. What really happens when that complaint comes in? I'd imagine it involves talking about who screwed it up. But someone's Netflix night is in peril, so let's expedite the order and send the fastest sprinter in the room, but let's make sure we obey all relevant traffic laws.

Somebody's going to blow out an ACL if we're not careful.

You get the vibe. Mission and purpose for your company is important. But don't chase world-defining purpose when showing your employees if it doesn't exist. But showing pride and the love of the craft for the people who make the product?  That never goes out of style.

Don't chase world defining purpose with your employment brand if it doesn't exist.  Just be you.