Suck Less: The Reality Behind Your Small Failures at Work...

Let's talk about small failures at work. The kind that stack up and make you feel like you had a crappy week.

Some of you think everyone is watching you when you fail small.  The dirty little secret is no one is watching you unless you beat them (good for you, but watch out) or lose to them (at which point they'll tell others or discretely imply that they crushed you). Of course, life at work doesn't have as many true "L's" as we think.

People are hopelessly self-absorbed.  No one is watching you for the most part, or has time to stop thinking about themselves to evaluate - wait for it - you.  Bask in the fact that your small failures are not really seen or evaluated by those not directly impacted.
 
Then get ***ing better.  Because you might have a problem if you never get a "W".
 
Signed - Your agent KD
 

Chill Out: It Really Doesn't Matter Where Your Kids Go to College...

I've got a senior in High School, and you know what that means - time for admission envy, parental handwringing and everything that goes with along with that.

Sarah's going to Vanderbilt/Harvard/Stanford.  Man, I wish my kid would have worked harder...

I get it - we all want more for our kids. To the extent they've worked hard, we want them to go to the best school.  When that doesn't happen, we start worrying, because not being admitted to a top school is a classic 1st World problem. The volume gets amped up when your kid is a high performer and can't even get a sniff to a top school with a 4.4 GPA and a 32 ACT.  See this post (spend more time on the comments from parents who feel they've been wronged) for some crazy stories, accusations of unfairness and helicopter parents losing their minds.

It's easy to understand your paranoia.  If the school your kid is going to isn't up to par in your mind, or if you think he/she has been wronged by an admissions process, it's easy to rant and wish for more. C-siue

Until you figure out the following 2 things:

1--Comparison is the thief of joy, and more importantly;

2--By the time your kid has his second job and/or 5 years into the world of work, it's not going to matter where he/she went to school.

Couple of things to offer up. First, consider this study that estimates the economic return of attending an elite college, a summary of which appears below:

Stacy Dale, a mathematician, and Alan Krueger, an economist, collaborated in two large-scale research studies (Dale & Kruger, 2002 & 2014) in which they effectively controlled for the background characteristics of students attending colleges that varied in selectivity (based on average SAT scores of the entering class). The first study was of students entering college in 1976, and the second was of those entering in 1989. Essentially, their question in both studies was this: If people are matched in socioeconomic background and pre-existing indices of their academic ability and motivation, will those who go to an elite college make more money later in life than those who go to a less elite one? The overall result was that the college attended made no difference. Other things being equal, attending an elite school resulted in no income advantage over attending a less elite school, neither in the short term nor in the long term. 

The key, of course, is students matched in socioeconomic background, academic ability and motivation.  Match kids up by those factors, and there's no outcome difference in attending Kennesaw State vs Georgia Tech (Atlanta example, plug your own in for your area of the US).

And when it comes to the factors considered, give me motivation over the other factors once a decent level of academic ability is present.  The average GPA of millionaires is said to be 2.9 - I'll be back with more on that later this week.

I see it all the time as a recruiter - people from elite universities with average careers, and people from schools I've never heard of killing it and running the world.

I was blessed to have my first son do the minimum at a really good high school to get a 3.7 GPA and mail in a high 20's GPA.  So my expectations are managed, that's easy when your kid knows not to apply to elite schools.  But he was an absolute grinder in other things in his HS years, so I know he has a shot via transferred motivation to do great things and outperform a 34 or higher ACT.

I'm a recruiter by trade. If you're still recovering from your son or daughter going to the state school, chill out. He or she has a 50/50 shot to outperform the kid of the mom who stuck the Stanford admission in your face.  But only if they grind and the motivation is greater than their peer group.

BONUS - Video below shows a kid wanting Ivy and coming to the realization it's University of Illinois (from Risky Business, click through if you don't see the video player).


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. 


4 Ways to Determine If a Candidate Has Ambition...

“I’m tough, ambitious and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.” 

— Madonna

Ambition. As much as many of us are uncomfortable saying publicly that it’s a value/feeling/potential factor we want in our organization, ambition is needed in your company to get great results.

You know your high-ambition employees. They are the ones that often do great things and occasionally put tire tracks across the back of some teammates in the process. Are you better with or without these people? And if everyone is happy with their current status, who moves the company forward?

I'm up over at Workforce Magazine giving you 4 Ways To Determine if a Candidate has Ambition... Get that whole article by clicking here...


AMBITION WEEK: Coaching Your Ambitious Direct Report to Not Be Hated...

Capitalist Note:  I'm tagging this week "Ambition Week", celebrating the people in your organization that want to dominate the world.  You know these people - they are the ones that often do great things, and occasionally put tire tracks across a teammates back in the process.  Are you better off with or without these people? Let's dig in and decide together...

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
--Bill Bradley

If you're like me, you love a direct report with ambition.  People with Ambition get shit done. Do they get shit done because they believe in you as a leader or they believe in themselves?

If you're asking that question, you're concerned with the wrong things.  Just celebrate the execution that comes with ambition and stop thinking so much. (the answer, btw, is that they believe in themselves and are motivated by moving their careers forward)

One problem that is universal related to direct reports with high ambition levels is that they can become hated by their peers - the folks they work with.  It's pretty simple to see why.  The folks with ambition treat life like a scoreboard and more often than not are low team (on a behavioral assessment).  Their peers want to do good work for the most part but don't have designs to rule the world.  Friction ensues. The team views the high ambition direct report like an opportunistic freak. A brown-noser. Someone that would run over his own mother for the next promotion.

So how do you coach your high ambition direct report to play nice with the lower ambition locals?

The key in my experience is to confront the reality with the high ambition direct report - you're looking to do great things.  You're driven.  You want to go places and you're willing to compete with anyone you need to in order to get there.  Start with that level set.

Then tell them they have to get purposeful with recognition of their peers.

If a high ambition direct report starts a weekly, informal pattern of recognition of their peers, a funny thing happens.  They start to look human to those around them.

But in order to make it work, you have to confront them and convince them that work life is not a zero sum game - just because you give kudos doesn't mean a high ambition FTE won't get the promotion or the sweet project assignment.  It actually makes them stronger, because in addition to all the great individual work they do, they start to be perceived as a good to great teammate, which unlocks some doors to management/leadership roles in a way that great individual work can't.

But that doesn't happen for the high ambition direct report unless you are honest with them about this:

1.  You're high ambition and would run over grandpa to win/survive/advance.

2. You're peers think you're a dick, and that's going to limit you.

3.  You're going to fix it by recognizing those around you on a weekly basis for great work, and you're going to reinforce that recognition by sharing your thoughts informally beyond the email you send, the shout out you make in a meeting, etc.

Don't be a dick, high ambition direct report.  Share the love and you'll actually get to where you want to go sooner.

Signed - KD

 


AMBITION WEEK: Value The Folks In Your Organization Who Are Dissatisfied (In a Good Way)...

Capitalist Note:  I'm tagging this week "Ambition Week", celebrating the people in your organization that want to dominate the world.  You know these people - they are the ones that often do great things, and occasionally put tire tracks across a teammates back in the process.  Are you better off with or without these people? Let's dig in and decide together...

"You go out to eat, can't pay, y'all can't leave
There's dishes in the back, he gotta roll up his sleeves
But while y'all washin', watch him
He gon' make it to a Benz out of that Datsun
He got that ambition, baby look in his eyes
This week he's moppin' floors, next week it's the fries.."

--Golddigger, Kanye West

Ambition.  As much as many of us are uncomfortable saying it's a value/feeling/potential factor we Ambition want in our organization, ambition is needed in your company in order to get good stuff done.

Here's the golden nugett from a few years back from Paul Hebert over at Fistful of Talent:

"Mad Men Season 5 started this past week.

Full disclosure, before this past week’s episode, I’ve watched a total of 6 minutes of Mad Men.  But the hype was too much for me to bear, so I DVR’d it and sat and watched it the other night.  It’s awright.

But… I liked it a lot more when I heard this line…

“Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition. It’s the coal that fuels the fire.”

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it and the more I figured there was a lesson in it.

And here’s the lesson IMHO:

If you work too hard to make every employee happy and satisfied, you create a group of people who never want anything to change."

Interesting and true in my eyes.  If everyone's satisfied with how things are going, who pushes the envelope and tries to change things for the good at your company?

Backstory: A few years back, I was doing a classic "section 2" in performance management for the company I was with.  As part of that exercise, we were trying to change the traditional company values we were rating people on (hard to do and pretty ineffective) to "potential factors", which are more like "DNA" strands you want to evaluate all your people on.  The things you value most across all employees, regardless of role.  

As part of that exercise, we did broad brainstorming as a leadership team - coming up with 37 potential factors to whittle down to the 5 or 6 we would eventually go live with.  The ones you would expect were there - innovative, driven, etc.

2 members of the leadership team came up with - and were adamant about including - ambition in that list.

You would have thought that they did something unmentionable to the American flag.

As it turns out, the rest of the team couldn't get past the fact that ambition comes with some negative baggage - sometimes people act in self-serving ways, a zero-sum game mentality can be rewarded, etc. No matter how the 2 leadership team members came back to the positives associated with ambition, the others couldn't get over the negative attributes associated with its use as a potential factor.

But ambition is real and gets results, just like Mad Men and Paul outline above.  

It takes a gutsy company to include ambition in a performance system.  But, whether you put it on paper or not, you're likely rewarding ambition behind the scences in your company.


Does Drama at Work Cost the Average Worker 2.5 Hours Per Day? #workhuman

Capitalist Note:  I'm spending the first couple of days of this week at WorkHuman in Austin.  Put on by Globoforce, WorkHuman is the most progressive HR Conference available, with past shows focused on emerging trends like mindfulness, meditation and more - the leading edge of people practices and how HR can build them.  It's also hard to get a free Diet Coke at WorkHuman, because that stuff is bad for you - but healthy options are available and free.  One of the best shows I attend, highly recommended.

Stop me when you've heard this before.  

You're a manager of people/leader.  You're walking in one day and you get stopped dead in your tracks.  Allison wants to talk with you.  Allison has been known to get wound up and need some vent Tonytime with you on a periodic basis.

You've been trained by the world that you need to be a good listener as a manager.  So you invite Allison into your office and let her unload- you let her vent.

45 minutes later, you don't feel like you've really done anything to help.  You're concerned about a couple of things that Allison has said, but when you try to talk about some actions you can take, Allison says the following:

"I don't want you to do anything with this - I just needed someone to talk to"

F###. You walked in at 8am - it's now 8:50.  Allison feels better - at least for today.  You don't.

Did you do the right thing by allowing Allison to vent?

I had the chance to listen to Cy Wakeman talk Monday afternoon at WorkHuman in Austin.  For those of you that don't know her, here's the 411 on Cy via her own site:

What if you could diffuse workplace drama and be happier at work and in life? The great news is...now, you can!

Cy's research shows that the average worker spends 2.5 hours per day on drama.  Either interacting with others or just being worked up on their own.  She feels activities like the one described by me above with "Allison", while well intentioned by you and me, are actually net negative to the workplace.

Cy believes that rather than engaging in that vent sessions to let someone unload, you need to hold them accountable for what they can control.  One of the ways she recommends you do that to an individual that wants to b*tch is to diffuse the drama and ask “what does great look like” to get the person in front of you back to action.

"What does great look like?"

The concept is that someone wants to complain to you.  Many times they're wanting to complain about things they can't control, or realities they've made up in their own mind.  The question "what does great look like?" is designed to get them back to action.

Thus,"What does great look like?" is followed by "what part of that can you control?", then followed by the guidance "go do some of that.  Now.  You'll feel better"

My description of the technique provided by Cy is from 30,000 feet.  Go to her site at the link above and there's books with much more detail, tools and process to cut through the drama, take on fewer vent sessions and just 180 people back into action.

Cy Wakeman is a smart, smart person. The hard part for HR leaders in eliminating ego and drama in the workplace is transferring her techniques to the average manager of people. Possible? Yes. Hard? Yeah....

Allison: "We Need to talk."  <starts ranting about something your manager of people knows will take 45 minutes to diffuse>

Your Manager of People (MOP): " I know what you're talking about.  What does Great Look Like?"

Allison: <taken aback by the interruption> <Thinking>

Allison: "It would be great if you and the other members of the leadership team would smarten up and fire the two people I'm talking about."

Your MOP: <wishing he had read Cy's book - the one you gave him>

The point?  Cy's got some great thoughts and eliminating drama is a great aspirational goal.  The devil is in the details - to get the best results, you'll need to arm your managers with not only the question to regain control of the conversation, but the techniques to overcome all the sidetracks they'll encounter.

What does great look like?

That depends on who you ask.   

 

 

 


Welcome to the Hoops Coaches Absolutely Losing their **** Conference Room...

Capitalist Note - March Madness starts today.  I'm re-running a post from a few years back on a conference room theme I think would absolutely rock.  Survive and advance, people.  Survive and advance.

------------------

At Kinetix, we have some themed conference and breakout rooms.  There's Boiler Room, Tommy Boy, Moneyball, etc.  I think it's time to have a room - to be named later - which includes portraits of basketball coaches absolutely losing their ****.  Here's some photos that could be turned into portraits to create just the right look and feel for our next remodel.  Take a look and enable pictures if you can't see them on the email.

The working title is "Can We Talk?".  Hit me with your better name for this conference room in the comments.

H to the Izzo:

Tom-izzo-michigan-state

 

Bob Knight:

Knight

 

The always crazy Frank Martin:

Martin

 

Calipari calling "Double Claws Right":

Cal

 

The Bo Ryan "Fake Happiness Pose", also known as the "I dare you to T me up for being happy":

Boryan

 

The Bob Huggins "I don't have to yell, just look at this suit":

Huggins

 

And last, but certainly not least, Kim Mulkey showing her players how to get into a defensive stance - in 3 inch heels:

Mulkey

Do you have any pictures you can lend to my cause?  Now that I think about it, the room should absolutely be named SURVIVE AND ADVANCE.


Would You Rather Have High Trust/Marginal Talent or High Talent/Marginal Trust?

That's a loaded/trick question. 

You probably reacted to that by thinking, "we have nothing if we don't have trust".  To me, I'm not sure - I think it depends on your definition of trust.

Do you think trust is integrity at all times and ethics? How to you measure that? Is trust doing things like you expect them to be done? Do people have to check in with you if they're going to do something that would cause you not to trust them? Have you trained them on what that is?

Of course you haven't. And the definition of trust is different for all of us.

That's why I think I would pick high talent over high trust if given the choice for an organization. Talent gets things done and if an organization has a high talent level, odds are that organization will outperform it's peer group.

An organization full of people you can trust might be a high performing organization - or it might be lame from a performance perspective. Odds are, organizations full of people you can trust will fall along the bell curve.  

Of course, the two factors - talent and trust - aren't mutually exclusive.  You can have both.

The problem is that for all the issues with measurement of performance, we are still much more capable of measuring performance in an individual than we are of measuring how much we can trust that same person.  And our definitions of trust will differ dramatically person by person, which creates unbelievable variability within a single organization.

You don't know you have a problem with trust - until it's gone.  We should always pick talent over intangibles we have trouble measuring.

If you can tell me how you accurately measure trust, I'll change that stance.