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.


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.


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.


BREAKING: Big Data Is Going to Tell Us Our Workforce is Hopelessly Flawed...

If you're a leader, you probably understand that the workplace is flawed. Whether you believe it is merely flawed or hopelessly flawed probably depends on your natural outlook and disposition.

Glass half-full? You know the workplace is flawed but you're confident we can make it better. Glass half-empty? You're jaded and shaking your head at what Skynetgifyou see.

But there is one emerging trend that's going to make even the most optimistic, Ned-Flanders types incredibly jaded.

Big Data.

If you mine the data from the systems you have access to, you're going to see a lot of ugly humanity. The smarter we get about ways to mine data and automate observations/trends, the more access we're going to have to the underbelly of human nature at work. Once these systems advance to a certain level, the only thing saving us from becoming incredibly jaded is....a Concern for privacy.

Case in point - a company named Synergy Sky, which has the following mission:

Synergy SKY that can leverage data from sensors, behaviour and your calendar to make all meetings more efficient.

We make use of the smart sensors in Cisco Room Series and third-party sensors for all other meeting rooms to achieve smarter utilization of meeting resources, through features such as no-show detection and booking vs actual usage reports.

Daaaaaaamn. Here's a recent press release on a product from Synergy Sky called Synergy of Things. Enjoy the total commitment to full control and the need for perfect efficiency:

New data from meetings technology providers Synergy SKY reveals 10% of workers are regularly booking fake meetings into their diary to keep colleagues thinking they are busier than they really are. 

The study conducted by Synergy SKY, who's meeting technology Synergy of Things tracks almost every possible conference call metric including “no-show detection” allowing managers to see stats on meeting attendance, reveals the average UK worker that books fake meetings is clocking up some 3 hours a week or over 150 hours a year in "fake meeting time". That works out at just over a whole month of deliberately wasted meeting-resources & time per year!

The study which analysed over 2500 meetings conducted via its software in 2019 was able to identify clusters of repeat meeting behaviour and it was on this basis Synergy SKY decided to conduct this study and uncover the truth.

Synergy SKY’s products Synergy Analyze and Synergy of Things were able to analyse over 2500 meetings and look at how many meetings were being booked but nobody was attending as the software tracks physical attendance through motion detection in meeting conference rooms and seamlessly synchronises with users personal calendars therefore allowing more insight into meeting events and workers schedules. 

It's coming for all of us. There's going to be as much data as we want, and we're going to have to make decisions on what data matters and what doesn't. If you believe that fake meetings are a problem, you'll want this type of solution. Of course, what you do with that information and how you engage your organization with this access to data depends a lot on your values as a company or leader.

You know the values I'm talking about...Trust, Respect for Privacy, Autonomy...LOL.

Put on your helmet folks, the privacy issues you've been exposed to are only the tip of the iceberg.


New Research Show Income Gaps Are (at least partly) Due to Working More Than 40 Hours Per Week...

Hat tip to my homeboy Tim Sackett on the research cite below. Sacks must have crazy email subscriptions and Google alerts to mine this gold.

Cut and paste from Marginal Revolution appears below. Littlefinger

That is a new paper by J. Rodrigo Fuentes and Edward E. Leamer:

This paper provides theory and evidence that worker effort has played an important role in the increase in income inequality in the United States between 1980 and 2016. The theory suggests that a worker needs to exert effort enough to pay the rental value of the physical and human capital, thus high effort and high pay for jobs operating expensive capital. With that as a foundation, we use data from the ACS surveys in 1980 and 2016 to estimate Mincer equations for six different education levels that explain wage incomes as a function of weekly hours worked and other worker features. One finding is a decline in annual income for high school graduates for all hours worked per week. We argue that the sharp decline in manufacturing jobs forces down wages of those with high school degrees who have precious few high-effort opportunities outside of manufacturing. Another finding is that incomes rose only for those with advanced degrees and with weekly hours in excess of 40. We attribute this to the natural talent needed to make a computer deliver exceptional value and to the relative ease with which long hours can be chosen when working over the Internet.

Our good friend Kathy Rapp will be back later this week with analysis of the Microsoft 4-day work week pilot in Japan. While we can all agree that 4-day work weeks are awesome, can we also agree on the following points?

1--There's always going to be some maniacs who are incredibly talented and will work 6-7 days a week for decades.

2--Those maniacs will generally climb the corporate ladder and assume more wealth than similarly talented individuals who worked 40-45 hours a week.

3--There's always going to be some absolute grinders who don't have the natural talent cited in #1, but due to the fact they'll work themselves just shy of having a stroke, will achieve as much or more than the individuals with more talent that those cited in #2.

I'll leave you with this cite from the research above:

"Another finding is that incomes rose only for those with advanced degrees and with weekly hours in excess of 40. We attribute this to the natural talent needed to make a computer deliver exceptional value and to the relative ease with which long hours can be chosen when working over the Internet"

Work-life balance is cool.

But work-life choices are everywhere.

My advice to my sons is to rack up the hours and advance as much as you can in the first 10 years of your career, then make some choices on work-life balance after you've kicked a little ass of the people listed in #2. You might be able to downshift by the time you're 35 and have a family if you do it right.

Don't assume because everyone agrees that work-life balance is good that everyone will opt in,
 or that everyone is limited to 40 hours as productivity and performance is measured.

Littlefinger: "Chaos is a ladder."

The crazy talented/driven people described in #1: "The fascination with work-life balance makes me ever more special."

Good luck with the balance, folks.


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. 


One Big Difference Between The Naturals In Your Company - and Everyone Else...

First up, let's define a natural in your company.

A natural is someone who:

--Performs at a high level in their current job, and Natural

--Everyone with common sense understands they are promotable at least 3 levels above their current job - all they need is time, experience and a bit of guidance. 

There are many things that define a natural. This post isn't meant to be a comprehensive listing of those things.  This post will only feature the following characteristic of the natural:

The Natural fields inquiries from managers/execs 2 or more levels above them with a incredibly high sense of urgency and always seeks to overdeliver on work product and service related to these inquires.

I know what you're saying. Is this really that important, Kris?

Yeah. It is. 

There's a quote from Don Draper on Mad Man I'd like to throw in here. Enjoy:

"People tell you who they are, but we ignore it, because we want them to be who we want them to be."

We want to believe that all of our employees have the ability to do great things.  It's not true.

I was talking to a CFO I served at a past company and she was expressing frustration at getting things done across the team she had inherited.

She had identified one team member on a team of 20 as being high potential and had tagged the rest at being disposable. The criteria was pretty simple - it was related to how quickly the team members acted when she needed something or gave them an assignment.

Unfair? Maybe.

Are some of those team members good at their jobs? Probably. But most of them aren't naturals who are poised for great things in their careers. How do I know this?  When I think back across my career about the naturals I have known in my career, they could be juggling 30 things and when a request came in from a VIP in their domain, they always made that person feel like they were the most important person in the world.

--They didn't return the email 30 hours or more later.

--They didn't let the request go into the void without updating the exec on how it was going or a status that it was done.

--They didn't fail to engage the exec with their opinions about what might make the project better or how they went out of their way to do the best they could.

Average employees do all the things listed above.  Naturals never do those things.

You can be a good employee and not be a natural. You're just probably not going to be promoted on an annual basis.

As leaders, treat employee urgency and responsiveness to your requests as the test that it is.  Step back and observe who steps up and who doesn't.

"People tell you who they are, but we ignore it, because we want them to be who we want them to be."

Your commitment to coaching is noted. But you can't coach someone into natural status, so don't try.  Take it all in - the naturals are identifying themselves, all you have to do is watch and listen.


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.


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?