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Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Fairness, Trust and Authenticity

October 16th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Expediency seems to be the lens through which everything is viewed these days. Not that that’s new; this post dates to 2011 and it wasn’t new then. Flexibility is a great trait, but there are things it doesn’t enhance — such as company values. In fact, it destroys credibility, as described below.

Join me tomorrow for a great take on trust from the inimitable Wally Bock.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

3829103264_9cb64b9c62_m Kevin Spencer http://www.flickr.com/photos/vek/3829103264/Do clichés annoy you? There’s a good reason some of the tired, old clichés stay around—namely, they work. They say what needs to be said in a way that isn’t left open to interpretation, like ‘walk your talk’ as opposed to ‘authenticity’.

I was reminded of this after listening recently to an entrepreneur.

Here are the salient points of the conversation,

  • he had built a culture based on fairness, trust and authenticity;
  • he worked hard to hire the smartest people available;
  • salary and stock options were based on necessity, i.e., he did what he had to do to land the best candidates.

I asked him what would happen when people learned of the discrepancies between their package and a peer’s; that the approach seemed to fly in the face of his “fairness, trust and authenticity” statements.

He replied that

  • people trusted him to do what was best for the company;
  • he was fair to each person based on their individual expectations;
  • any effort to implement a uniform compensation (salary and/or stock) policy would hobble his ability to hire stars; and
  • it was a non-event because nobody knew anyone else’s package.

I have to admit, the naiveté of his final point cracked me up (I managed to control my hilarity).

Basically, he seems to believe that fairness, trust and authenticity have flexible meanings and that expediency trumps them all.

What do you believe?

Image credit: kevinspencer

If The Shoe Fits: The Importance Of ‘Whole Self’

October 13th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThe suicide of Austen Heinz, CEO of Cambrian Genomics and other founders in 2015 that focused a spotlight on the increasing levels of depression among entrepreneurs.

The same people who are responsible for their company’s environment, as well as its culture

Have you created an environment for your people in which they are as productive, creative, confident, and happy as possible?

Is it one that welcomes their ‘whole self’?

Or just the easy, socially acceptable, whatever-it-takes-to-fit-in version?

The above traits are enhanced when people can bring all of what makes them them to work.

It’s well-known that startups reflect the attitudes of their founders.

If founders choose to ignore or, much worse, deny the importance of ‘whole self’ and the positive mental health associated with it they should expect problems (not challenges).

The more pressure to fit in the more energy is spent camouflaging/hiding and even denying parts of one’s self.

That’s energy that would be spent on more positive efforts in a different environment.

An environment that actually welcomed ‘whole selves’ in fact, not just in talk.

Use the links; read the articles.

Then take a hard look at how many of your people are actually bringing their ‘whole’selves’ to work.

And if it’s not 100%, then do something about it.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ryan’s Journal: Mentoring Is Where It’s At

October 12th, 2017 by Ryan Pew


Have you ever mentored someone in life? How about the reverse where you sought out a mentor? Chances are you have.

Most of us are greater than the sum of our parts and it’s because we have had people in our lives invest in us in one way or another.

We got the chance we didn’t deserve, the role we didn’t qualify for or the lucky break. How did we get to where we are?

Hard work of course, but also a network.

I read an article yesterday that spoke about how college GPA was not as important as the network you build while in school. That network has a greater influence than the A you could make in math class.

I guess I should count myself lucky as I was never going to be a Rhodes Scholar, but I did know how to build a network of folks from different walks of life that I still reach out to years later.

What does this have to do with mentoring? For one thing mentoring is about understanding where someone is and where they want to go.

From there you can offer input on how to achieve that end state. A lot of times in life we have an impact on our network in big and small ways and it’s important to keep that in mind.

Since graduating college 5 years ago I have participated in a mentoring program where I, as an alumni, mentor current business students.

It has been great. I learn what drives an individual and I have a chance to make an impact.

However, I have found that I am the one to benefit from the relationship.

It keeps me grounded, reminds me of where I came from and focuses my gaze on my future.

Mentoring is key to moving forward in life, while also taking someone with you.

Next time you’re in a position to give someone a shot why not say yes?

You might be surprised.

Image credit: Ron Mader

Knowledge Isn’t Smart And Smart Isn’t Wise

October 11th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

elastic brain

A couple of weeks ago, in an aside in a post about transformation, I said, “(‘wise’ being very different than ‘smart’).”

Since then, I got a couple of phone calls (I love phone calls; that’s why my number is displayed on the blog.) wanting to discuss the difference.

They both suggested I share my thoughts here, in case anyone else was curious — my thoughts based on my experience. Feel free to disagree.

Smart isn’t about what you know — that’s knowledge.

Smart isn’t about innate intelligence — but about how you use it.

Smart is about what you do with what you learn, whether from books, experience, the streets, general human interactions, or all of the above.

Learning starts when you’re born and continues all your life — or it should.

Obviously, you’ll be better off if it does — and in deep doodoo if it doesn’t.

Wise is a whole different thing.

There is no guarantee you’ll ever become wise — no matter how much you learn or how smart you become.

Wise starts when you apply what you learn to various situations, but goes way beyond the application.

Wise comes from applying, tweaking, synthesizing and repeating over and over in multiple versions and situations.

Wise isn’t something you say about yourself on social media; it’s something that others say about you — eventually.

Wise isn’t fast; it happens over a long period of time — no instant gratification, except the pleasure that comes from knowing that what you figured out worked.

Finally, while you can learn from devices, they will never make you smart, let alone wise.

Image credit: arvind grover

Ducks in a Row: Screens And The Death Of Engagement

October 10th, 2017 by Miki Saxon


Robert Sutton, Stanford management prof and the author of “The No Asshole Rule” and “The Asshole Survival Guide,” is a very smart guy.

His knowledge and understanding of the forces affecting the modern workplace, and what to do about them, are encompassing and engaging.

Here are three things Sutton believes are increasing rudeness and making things worse.

  1. We make less eye contact nowadays — and therefore have less empathy
  2. Income inequality is on the rise, leading to jealousy and scorn
  3. We work in open offices, which exacerbate existing problems

Exacerbating the loss of empathy are tools, such as Slack, that further reduce eye contact, even when working right beside someone. In fact, as mentioned yesterday, physical proximity doesn’t matter when communications are screen based.

While bullying bosses are falling out of fashion, technology may encourage people to adopt harsher, less empathetic communication styles, said Liz Dolan, a former exec at Nike, OWN, and the National Geographic Channels. (…)  “It makes it really hard for people to understand what boundaries are when they don’t really get to know each other because all their communication is online,” Dolan said. “We all know that it’s true that there are things you would say in an email or a text message to someone that you would never in a million years say to their face.”

What’s worse, researchers at the University of Florida have found rudeness to be contagious. So just one heated email can have a truly toxic ripple effect throughout your team.

These factors play a mojor role in engagement — or the lack of it.

According to Gallup Daily tracking, 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged — meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.

The overall effect is summed up in one word: loneliness, according to former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

… being physically close your colleagues doesn’t guarantee you’ll feed off their brainpower or work ethic. There must still be some aspect of social connection — be it joking around or thoughtful conversation — for health and productivity to improve.

“A more connected workforce is more likely to enjoy greater fulfillment, productivity, and engagement while being more protected against illness, disability, and burnout,”

In short, screen time -> less empathy -> more rudeness -> escalating disengagement -> increased loneliness = lower productivity and engagement.

This sequence of events has a very personal effect on you, too, in terms of poorer reviews, smaller raises, and fewer promotional opportunities.

Image credit: Joshua Smith

Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Physical Advantage

October 9th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

This Golden Oldie dates to 2015, although many of the links are much earlier. Suffice it to say that two years later more companies have turned to technology and more people spend their days with screens than with each other. Simultaneously, engagement has plummeted, moral is in the basement, and toxic cultures are on the rise.

Join me tomorrow when we explore the connection between the two.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mA Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

Do you use technology to solve problems? Enhance creativity and drive innovation? Develop your team and build your people?

Years ago I wrote Fools, Tools, and Management Cool about how technology doesn’t take the place of good management.

I’ve written about the advantages of silence and the importance of unwiring and how to be Luftmenschen (people who deal in the non-tangible: ideas, thoughts, dreams).

When it comes to technology, you may want to rethink the approach.

A growing body of neuroscience research has begun to reveal the exact ways in which information age technologies cut against the natural grain of the human mind. Our understanding of all kinds of information is shaped by our physical interaction with that information. Move from paper to screen, and your brain loses valuable “topographical” markers for memory and insight.

Although screens have their strengths in presenting information — they are, for example, good at encouraging browsing — they are lousy at helping us absorb, process, and retain information from a focused source. And good old handwriting, though far slower for most of us than typing, better deepens conceptual understanding versus taking notes on a computer — even when the computer user works without any internet or social media distractions.

In short, when you want to improve how well you remember, understand, and make sense of crucial information about your organization, sometimes it’s best to put down the tablet and pick up a pencil.

The work described was done by the Drucker Institute and is easy to try with your people.

The great news if you want to try unplugging is that the basic techniques are simple and free. Here’s an Un/Workshop-style exercise you can try on your own time, with your own team, in just a half-hour: Including yourself, get six or more of your colleagues together. Divide yourselves into two or more small groups. Give each group one piece of paper with a single question printed on it: Who is our customer?

Depending how young your team is you may incur some minor costs — like the need to shop for paper and pencils and possibly explain how to use them.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If The Shoe Fits: Marc Benioff — Global Champion Of Women

October 6th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAsk most tech founders about role models and who they want to emulate and you’ll usually hear the same names —  Gates/Jobs/Page/Zukerberg/Bezos.

Rarely do you hear Benioff.

Granted, Benioff’s Salesforce’s revenues aren’t as high and the valuation is “only” $66 billion, but Salesforce sells no consumer products — ads are products — therefore has a much smaller market.

Revenues aside, Benioff is a much better leader and role model.

Not just a philanthropist, but an activist philanthropist who is not afraid to use his clout and get in the face of his peers.

Given the same clout, would you do the same thing?

A guy who believes a company’s concerns should go beyond its investors to include all its stakeholders, direct and indirect.

How far beyond yourself do your concerns go?

Tech’s been on the hot seat lately for a host of reasons, with gender issues front and center, especially equal pay.

Most, including the “role models” listed above, have been vocal in their promises to address the pay disparity.

Benioff, however, has put his money where their mouths are.

In 2015, his company did a salary study, and it turned out they needed to make some changes. So they spent $3M to level the playing field. A year later, they put salaries under the microscope again and found they had to spend another $3M to close additional pay gaps.

Now Benioff has pledged to evaluate salaries on a regular basis. For this and more, he was named a “Global Champion of Women in Business.”

And before you whine about not having enough cash to do that stop and think.

If you pay your people equally when you hire and promote there wouldn’t be a pay gap for you to erase.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ryan’s Journal: What Happened To Value?

October 5th, 2017 by Miki Saxon


This week’s events have been shocking and heartbreaking for many. As I currently write this post, 58 people have been killed in the Vegas shootings and over 500 others have been injured.

An event that was meant to be an evening of fun turned into a nightmare. I cannot begin to fathom the pain people are going through and my heart is with them.

These posts will never become overtly political and I am not well versed enough in policy debates to chime in. One thing I do understand though is the value of life.

As a father I cherish my girls and wife. As a former Marine I have experienced immense loss as comrades have fallen in combat. I have seen the best and worst of humanity and at times struggle to understand it.

In this case we have had a tragic event that seems to have no apparent reason as of yet. As business people and fellow humans how can we respond?

It can be cliché to say we should treat every moment as our last, but there is some truth to that. In addition though we can look at ways to add value to people’s lives daily.

In sales we are taught to always generate value. Understand a client’s problem and seek to find a solution.

Just today I spoke with someone who is evaluating a complex software solution. After speaking for a bit it became apparent that he needed more information, so I sent him a relevant white paper and followed up to ensure it helped on his quest.

There are also times where we can generate massive value in a short period of time.

One survivor of the Vegas shootings found a truck with the keys still in it. He decided to take it and made three trips to the hospital delivering roughly 30 people who needed care. This person adapted to the situation, identified a need, and acted.

Tomorrow when you’re at work what will you identify as a need?

We always have a choice to lament the problem and not act.

Or we can choose to take massive action.

I choose action.

Image credit: Olga Berrios

Malcolm Berko Explains Disruption

October 4th, 2017 by Miki Saxon

Have you heard of/read Malcolm Berko? He writes a twice-a-week column answering financial/investment questions — just one answer in each column.

In addition to being broadly educated and financially knowledgeable, he is a superb and truly witty writer, doesn’t suffer fools at all, and, after reading him for decades, has no sacred cows. (I highly recommend him.)

I thought this recent question and his response would explain the coverage, and downright scare hype, surrounding AI, robots and the tech upheaval of many industries, such as retail.

Here is the salient part of the question.

My professor believes that “its disruptive pricing power chokes employment, restrains wage growth and is bankrupting competitors.” He believes that Amazon is “too negatively impactive on our economy, especially wages, and must be restrained by government-decreed divestiture.”

Berko wasted few words on what he thought of the prof and went on to explain as follows:

Joseph Schumpeter, a brilliant economist and bald as an egg, who passed away in 1950, explained capitalism as a series 50- to 60-year waves of technological revolutions causing gales of creative destruction, or GCDs, in which old industries are swept away and replaced by new industries. These new industries generate new economic activity, employing more people, who buy more products, creating more demand and, resultantly, increased employment.

  • First GCD, between the 1780s and 1840s, was fueled by steam power. During those years, the steam engine increased our gross domestic product fivefold, and employment grew fourfold.

  • Second GCD, between the 1840s and 1890s, the railroads replaced wagon trains, stagecoaches and sailing ships. (…) Resultantly, our GDP exploded sixfold, and employment grew fivefold.

  • Third GDC, between the 1890s and the 1940s, was charged by electricity. Inexpensive electrical power hugely improved industrial efficiency and labor productivity. This bred a sixfold growth in GDP and a fourfold rise in our working population.

  • Fourth GDC between the 1940s and the 1990s was powered by oil and the automobile. People moved to the suburbs and families owned two cars as the GDP increased eightfold and the workforce grew fivefold.

  • Fifth GDC is information technology and the microchip. It’s making other technologies obsolete and altering our social, cultural, political and economic futures in ways we never imagined possible. We’re on the cusp of that wave today.

Excellent for understanding what’s happening, but what neither Schumpeter nor Berko adress is the enormous upheaval, fear and human pain that comes with each wave.

It is terrifying to be told that skills you have worked to develop and hone for 5, 10 or 20 years, or longer, have no value.

But in today’s world, where what-you-do-is-who-you-are, that often means that you, the person, has no value.

While Berko is correct about the potential of an unimaginable future, which you may not even live to see, that future is of little solace and does nothing to mitigate the terror and economic woes facing you today or tomorrow.

Two parts of the solution is to put your energy into coping and immediately develop the most important skill/attitude they probably didn’t bother teaching you in school.

Learn to love learning.

PS I sincerely hope you take the time to read Berko’s full column. I guarantee it will be time well spent, as are all him writings.

Image credit: Creator’s.com

Ducks In A Row: Passionate Blunders

October 3rd, 2017 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/onedaycloser/8340162647/A few months ago I reposted Passion Unchecked, because it still seems to be the favorite excuse when things go wrong.

It was Ben Kaufman’s explanation when Quirky failed.

“If I ever go too far, it’s because of the passion I have for this place, and the love I have for this place, and the community,” Kaufman tells Business Insider. “I want this thing to be so perfect and so great. And, yeah, often I may take it too far, but it comes from a place of love, you know?”

Everybody lauded the passion with which Travis Kalanick drove Uber’s growth — until he drove it off a cliff.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s new CEO, told his troops that they need to take responsibility for what’s been happening.

“While the impulse may be to say that this is unfair, one of the lessons I’ve learned over time is that change comes from self-reflection. So it’s worth examining how we got here. The truth is there is a high cost to a bad reputation.

High cost indeed, but it could go much higher if the most recent lawsuit gains traction.

Irving Firemen’s Relief & Retirement Fund filed the lawsuit in California federal court on Tuesday. The lawsuit does not say how much the retirement fund is seeking but alleges that Uber has lost at least $18 billion in private market value as a result of a series of scandals and controversies.

Passion isn’t limited to startups; it is present to some degree in almost all humans, especially those in formal or informal leadership roles.

It is the wise boss who understands that while passion is necessary to attract, motivate and sustain people uncontrolled passion isn’t what brings success.

Success results form a mix of passion, intelligence, grit, planning, and hard work.

What changes is the amount of each needed to deal with a given situation.

Image credit: One Day Closer

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