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Archive for May, 2006

Practical compensation Q&A

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

When working towards fairness in compensation several basic questions usually arise. I’ve grouped the first two together since they address the same issue.

Q: How do you handle current employees who believe that they’re a “senior” whatever when they are not? (The problem often stems from friends who seem to have comparable credentials and do have that title at other companies.)

Q: What’s the best way to handle people whose titles were inflated at their previous company? (Title bloat probably started when the first boss called his ex-apprentice an associate to keep him from setting up shop on his own.)

What you’re looking for is a simple approach that won’t backfire on you sometime in the future. Start with an objective, third party industry-standard job description that also benchmarks salary and tweak it to fit your circumstances (for example, the duties and responsibilities of a sr anything will differ significantly in a company five times your size). You may find that purchasing one makes sense, but first do some in depth research on the new. Avoid using the descriptions found on many of the salary sites, since your employees can usually find one that supports their view. Publish the information internally so that anyone can look at it, know why they don’t have that title and what they need to do to achieve it in their particular area. It must be public; that way, every person in your organization knows where they stand, what they need to improve, what skills they must gain or whatever is necessary to get the next promotion and/or raise.

The descriptions also tells new hires what their title means and what the company’s expectations are. Although they should have some flexibility, they are firm enough to assure people of their fairness.

Be prepared! If you and an employee do disagree and can find no resolution to the position and/or salary issue, you need to be prepared for that person to walk. But even if it’s the middle of the project, remember that what you give one person sets a precedent for everybody else and that’s a can of worms that you really don’t want to open.

Q: What’s the best way to handle salary increases when bringing someone from a low-cost area to a higher-cost area?

A: Implement the objective descriptions/salaries described above and stick to them! Of course you want the salary to be competitive with the candidate’s internal peers, but you can’t increase it an additional 20% above that to offset the housing costs. It would be unfair, because everybody already in the area is dealing with the same costs. And don’t assume that you can “sneak” it in through some special kind of bonus or one-time compensation. Your people aren’t stupid, word will get around, they will get upset and they will start looking.

Yes, this makes relocation to some areas more difficult, since salaries are not nearly as geographically-disparate as they once were, but losing a candidate, even a great one, is far less costly than the loss in productivity as word gets around, let alone the cost of an X% increase in turnover (the X being determined by employee perception of just how unfair the difference is).

More tomorrow!

Fair compensation is relative

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

My post May 24th talked about how monkeys lose productivity when treated unfairly. Unlike the managers I described in that post, good managers know that unequal pay can create problems, but they also know that not everyone with the same title deserves the same compensation—in fact, to do so would be extremely unfair! Most companies establish a range for each job and some guidelines within each range, but they frequently fall short of what’s needed in the real world.

So, how do you draw the lines to achieve fairness?

All the people I’ve talked with over the years define “fair” relative to themselves and those around them. Developers working in a small local company didn’t compare their salaries to the developers in IBM, nor to their bosses. They compared them to their peers, i.e., similar job, background, title, company, industry and location.

The problems arise when the person they sit next to gets X more dollars or a promotion for reasons such as those mentioned the 24th, reasons that have nothing to do with skill, experience, attitude or actual work. This knowledge is what helps you develop working guidelines for the ranges your company’s ranges.

Let’s say that ABC Corporation uses a three-level structure in engineering: engineer I, engineer II, and senior engineer and that there’s a $20K range within each level. They currently have five people who are Engineer II. The salary range is $60K – $80K. Of the current people:

  • Judy was recently promoted and is at $62K;
  • Jim, $68K, and Craig, $72K, both have been working for six years. Although Jim has an MBA, he started in sales engineering while Craig had three years’ experience in a specifically needed skill when he was hired.
  • Tracy is making mid-seventies with five years of direct experience; and
  • Kim, at $80K and due for promotion, has a Masters’ and 17 years of experience, 5 of them in ABC’s field.

Although they’re all Engineer II, because the salary differences are based on factual points, not charm, politics, or managerial whim, the group is satisfied that they’re being treated fairly.

A tiny bit of justice—that might even survive appeal.

Friday, May 26th, 2006

Yesterday at 9 AM PDT I had a most delightful alert hit my inbox.

Jury: Enron CEOs Lay, Skilling found guilty of fraud

By Jim Jelter

Last Update: 12:12 PM ET May 25, 2006

HOUSTON (MarketWatch)– A jury on Thursday found Enron founder and former CEO Kenneth Lay guilty on all six counts of fraud and conspiracy charges while former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was found guilty on all securities fraud counts but acquitted of insider trading charges. End of Story

And it reminded me of a joke that made the internet rounds at the time of the Enron crash.

When Kenny was young he moved to the country and bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. The next day the farmer drove up and said, ‘Sorry son, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.’

Kenny replied, ‘Well then, just give me my money back.’

The farmer said, ‘Can’t do that. I went and spent it already.’

Kenny said, ‘OK then, at least give me the donkey.’

The farmer asked, ‘What ya gonna do with him?’

Kenny: ‘I’m going to raffle him off.’

Farmer: ‘ You can’t raffle off a dead donkey!’

Kenny: ‘Sure I can. Watch me. I just won’t tell anybody he is dead.’

A month later the farmer met up with Kenny and asked, ‘What happened with that dead donkey?’

Kenny: ‘I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars a piece and made a profit of $898.’

Farmer: ‘Didn’t anyone complain?’

Kenny: ‘Sure, the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.’

Kenny grew up, went to college, and (as you probably guessed) became a CEO.

Have a great holiday weekend and I’ll see you all Tuesday.

MAP and your words

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Words both the express and reflect your MAP. How important are they? How much do they matter? Can substituting one word for another change the meaning/outcome of the discussion/conversation? Would you rather work for/be a “tough” manager or one who is described as a “hard-ass?” Few people would choose the hard-ass, but how many use them interchangeably when talking?

Here’s an excerpt from a conversation I had yesterday with a client,

CEO: I’m concerned that [head of sales] level of aggression is not high enough and that he feels somewhat uncomfortable about pushing the sales folks and being a hard-ass.

Me: What exactly do you mean by hard-ass?

CEO: Requires very high standards of performance – preferably without being unpleasant, although that’s necessary from time to time.

Me: Unpleasant is really not acceptable. Tough doesn’t mean unpleasant as long as it’s fair. Unpleasant indicates emotions and emotions shouldn’t come into it. It’s unpleasant when your boss is upset and yells or threatens. When your boss calmly holds you accountable to quotas and goals that you’ve previously agreed upon, it may be uncomfortable and you may not be happy, but that’s different than unpleasant.

CEO: I meant tough.

Me: OK, but you need to be careful of how you phrase things. Words such as “hard-ass” carry lots of negative baggage, whereas “tough” has fairly positive baggage.

It’s the baggage you need to watch. Words carry social meanings beyond their definitions and those meanings cause many of the miscommunication and misunderstandings in human interaction.

You need to stay aware of the words you use, keeping in mind how they are used and perceived by society in general, and especially your specific audience. Avoid words that are generally considered negative, in spite of whether personally you consider them neutral or even positive. Your true purpose when communicating should be to be heard and accurately understood, not to change the societal perception of a word convenient to your use.

Whether you like it or not, the words you use reflect Your MAP—who you are, as well as how you view yourself, those around you and the world in general. It’s worth a little effort to make sure that the reflection is accurate.

Monkey see—monkey don’t (AKA fairness)

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

I coach on MAP—it’s effects, uses and how to enhance/change it—so I tend to collect articles and information that will help illustrate and/or drive home a critical point. MAP is both timely and timeless with the same topics arising in successive generations of managers, so the past articles are often of just as much use now as when they were written.

Obvious as it may seem, fair treatment of employees is one of those things to which managers constantly make exceptions citing all sorts of “reasons.”. So you can imagine my glee when I picked up my newspaper a few years ago and read an article about a new study by Sarah Brosnan, of Emory University in Atlanta.

Briefly, what Sarah did using capuchin monkeys working in pairs was to start by rewarding them equally with a slice of cucumber for performing a specific task, then rewarding one of the working pair with a grape instead (capuchins eat cucumbers, but love grapes). The results? The performance went from 95% success to 60%, but at least they still did the same amount of work. However, when one received the grape for doing less work, i.e., not performing the task at all, the success level dropped like a stone—all the way down to 20% for the cucumber crowd.

OK, back to the managers. Frequently, when I ask managers about a discrepancy in treatment, compensation, promotion, etc., what I often hear is along the lines of, “X and Y are equal with similar experience attitude, and duties, but…” (In grammar “but” is a conjunction used to indicate an exception to whatever was said previously.) and they finish the sentence with comments such as:

  • “X should earn more because he’s supporting a family.”
  • “X needs the promotion because her husband walked out on her.”
  • “X just moved here and the housing is expensive!”
  • “X is too short to be a manager.”
  • “X and I went to the same school.”
  • “X is cute.”
  • “X reminds me of _________ so I will/won’t…”
  • “I don’t like X.”

Enough! This list could go on all day, and it just gets sillier.

However, what never ceases to amaze me is that these managers see nothing wrong (let alone illegal) in their actions and expect either no repercussions or maybe some minor grumbling—or they just don’t care. What they never seem to expect are significant drops in productivity, high levels of turnover (no matter the economy) and the occasional lawsuit. In fact, most of them are shocked when something does happen, and harbor serious doubts as to whether the inequities actually have anything to do with it.

Of course, the most hilarious justification I hear is that “nobody will find out.” You would not believe just how many line managers, not to mention HR people, at all levels actually believe that people don’t discuss their compensation/stock packages. Why companies even have rules stating discussing it is not allowed and can be “cause for dismissal.” Understand, these aren’t old-line, dark ages managers I’m talking about, but really enlightened, 21st century, believe-in-empowerment types! When will managers learn that secret compensation is right up there on the reality scale with Santa and the Tooth Fairy!

Being treated fairly has always been at or very near the top of people’s wish list. The only real change in the last thousand-or-so years is that it’s moving from the wish list to the demand list.

So the next time I’m faced with a manager who doesn’t have a clue, I’ll just whip out a copy of the article to get my point across—and what do you want to bet some exasperated manager is going to look at me like I’m nuts and say, “So what? I hire people, not monkeys.”

What people want…

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

Starting in the 1980s when the media turned the spotlight on how economic survival, let alone success, would require enormous cultural changes at corporate giants such as AT&T (they blew it), IBM (amazing success), and Xerox (still trying), discussions of culture and its effects have dynamically increased each year with no end in sight.

Dozens of experts and thousands of people have used millions of words to describe and explain culture. Here are 10 random responses from non-managerial knowledge workers to the question, “What’s culture?”

  1. The people. Their personalities and interpersonal communications.
  2. The ambience that the company emits.
  3. The environment in which workers co-exist and achieve the company’s goals.
  4. It should describe the company’s work environment/atmosphere/morale, etc.
  5. The company culture is the framework or environment that motivates employees to produce the best results for the company.
  6. It’s [the company’s] identity.
  7. The way things really are as opposed to how they’re described.
  8. Environment of interaction and judgment.
  9. How people relate to each other professionally and personally.
  10. The reason for coming to work.

These answers from “nobodies” accurately and simply state the concepts propounded by both experts and academics using multi-syllabic words and fancier language.

Well beyond salary, culture is why people join a company—and more important, why they stay. It is what motivates (or demotivates) them, and cultural changes are frequently why they leave.

Workplace negatives usually the first topic of conversation and today’s savvier workers really pin down what they don’t want:

  • Too much politics: personal, group, or senior management
  • Unfairness; favoritism; star mentality
  • Unnecessary bureaucracy; inflexible process or bureaucracy masquerading as process
  • Poor management practices such as: erratic management; micro-management; workaholism; intimidation; belittling or contemptuous treatment; no loyalty; poor scheduling; the attitude that “we don’t have the time to do it right but we have the time to do it over”
  • Any form of harassment whether overt or covert
  • A generally negative attitude, i.e., the glass is half empty
  • Arrogance or an elitist attitude
  • An unwillingness (at whatever level) to seek and implement the compromises necessary to meet organizational needs within the required timeframe

Obviously there are many more philosophies, attitudes, and actions that could be listed, but most of them will fit the spirit, if not the specifics, of those above.

Unfortunately people learn from experience and many people have never experienced cultural elements other than those described above, so that their actions eventually start to mimic their experience—whether consciously or not—but that doesn’t mean they like them.

Turn your attention to the positives and the sophistication of today’s workforce is even more obvious. Here are some of the high points that people at all levels say they want for themselves and from their managers:

  • The opportunity to truly “make a difference.”
  • To be treated fairly.
  • To trust management and be trusted by them.
  • To embrace the idea that work can and should be fun.
  • Accurate prioritizing of company, team, and individual goals while keeping them synergistic
  • No “blue sky” projects or scheduling.
  • A positive “can-do” attitude (aggressive, but realistic—the glass is half full).
  • A conscious effort to stamp out “not invented here” syndrome (in all its varied forms) so as to not waste time reinventing the wheel.
  • Continuing development and quality improvement in people, product/services, and processes.
  • Committing to employees, customers, and investors—and meeting those commitments.
  • An open, accurate, company-wide flow of information starting from the top.
  • An environment that encourages people to reach their full potential, professionally and personally.

Again, each positive on the list covers a multitude of specifics and some are direct reversals of items on the negative list.

In general culture comes from the top and rarely can be changed from below. However, if you are strong enough and believe deeply enough, then for better or worse you can become an umbrella to your organization and separate it from the culture of the company in general. Since this is a very difficult path to choose it is wise to make the choice consciously and not find yourself accidentally bucking your company’s culture.

In brief, here are the steps to take to start the process of creating/changing your culture. Whether you are CEO of a startup or a boss (any level) in a large company you need to

  1. Know who you are: Since this step is strictly between you and yourself you need to be brutally frank as to your attitudes towards people, motivation, what’s important, what’s OK to do, etc., in other words, know your MAP! It doesn’t really matter with which list (positive or negative) your attitudes and beliefs are synergistic, what matters is that you know where they fall, are comfortable with that, and understand that you need to hire people who will flourish in the environment you create.
  2. Define your cultural goals: Using the knowledge of your MAP determine the kind of culture you want and write a description including your vision and the specific infrastructure, processes, practices, etc., that are needed to make it reality. Test the attractiveness of your cultural vision by whether you would want to work in a similar culture. If the answer is yes then you can proceed with it; however, if your response is “no way” then you need to rethink what you want because over the long haul people tend to gravitate to people like themselves (likes really do attract). In other words, you will be hired by, work with and hire those with similar attitudes.
  3. Know what you have: Honestly assess (warts and all) whatever culture currently exists in your company and department (if you have one or more people you have some kind of culture); without a detailed assessment you won’t know what you need to tweak, change, circumvent, ignore or avoid.
  4. Be aware of the cost of change: Changing culture often results in turnover and turnover can be costly no matter the condition of the labor market. People join companies because they feel comfortable and change is rarely comfortable. If they don’t like the end result (or the direction it’s heading) they are likely to start looking. If the manager is aware and prepared that isn’t always a bad thing; cultural changes can’t happen without changing employee mindset and some people won’t change, worse, they will make every effort to sabotage the changes. By being prepared you can not only circumvent that, but often turn the saboteur into a new culture evangelist.
  5. Don’t assume: The human race functions to a great extent on various sets of unconscious assumptions. In the workplace people tend to assume that people with similar educations, experience levels, positions, etc., have similar mindsets, attitudes and philosophies, and, based on those similarities, would create similar cultures thereby guaranteeing their willingness to buy into their vision. Predicating acceptance of change on the assumption of deep, unproven commonality is a recipe for disaster.
  6. Don’t overwhelm the troops: Whether you are changing an entire corporation (Gerstner and IBM), creating a culture for your startup, tweaking it within your department or group, or revamping it in your small business, recognize that you can’t just come in, make an announcement, and expect people to buy into the vision. Present it in small bite-size pieces and such a way that people feel they have input in the process and creates a feeling of ownership.
  7. Communicate and sell—don’t order and tell! Even if your goal is a truly collaborative, nurturing culture that challenges and then helps people to realize their full potential you can’t just walk in on Monday and announce that that’s the way it will be from then on.

First, it’s unlikely that anybody will believe you (talk’s cheap); second, if you’re new it’s unlikely that they’ll trust you (no track record with them); third, whether you’re proposing a radically different culture or just fine tuning the current one they have no reason to get on the bandwagon (people really do hate change).

In the final analysis what you do will carry far more weight than anything you say about your culture. It boils down to your having the courage to walk your talk.

Do You Write [Job] Reqs Or Wrecks?

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Every profession has it’s own language and when I started headhunting I learned that a job requisition was shortened to job req or just req. However, after listening to or reading a number of them I decided that they were more wrecks than reqs—and wrecks didn’t help the hiring effort one bit!

The labor market cycles with the economy, so whether there is a dearth or abundance of candidates hiring is rarely easy. Identifying good candidates takes time whether at full employment or high unemployment, the difference is whether you put the time in pre or post ad.

The approval process and physical format for a req are determined by your company, however, the content (as opposed to the form) is what’s important because without good content you have a wreck—not a req.

To start with, HR cannot really write your req, nor should you expect them to. It is you as manager who knows specifically what the person will be doing, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the team. It is you who knows with whom the person has to interface and with which other departments she’ll be working. When most people tell a third party what they want in a position or person, the information usually falls in one of the following categories:

  • Vague: This demands a high degree of psychic ability. From 10 or 15 words followed by “you know,” the recipient is supposed to describe what is a very specific set of responsibilities requiring a sophisticated professional with some form of esoteric experience, skills that compliment those already in place and a personality that will act in synergy with an unknown group of equally eclectic individuals to form a team.
  • Generic: This description requires psychic ability combined with a librarian’s research talent. A brief description of skills ends with “like the last few, only this one will be working on the new product, so it would be nice for some direct experience from one of our competitors—you know.”
  • Ridiculous: The manager’s written description, 10% of which is responsibilities and 90% a detailed description of every single skill, personal trait, educational credit, and experience the manager has ever dreamed of adding to his team. (This approach is also referred to as the “laundry” or “wish” list.)

When you write a req you must take time to think! Obvious? You wouldn’t think so if you spent much time reading job descriptions or listening to what headhunters are told. Writing a viable req may take time at the beginning (less with practice), but it saves time in the long run by providing better screened candidates for interviewing.

Too many managers “figure out” through interviewing trial and error exactly what they are looking for. This approach is not only frustrating for both candidate and manager, but also wasteful and inefficient on every level—not to mention expensive. Additionally, it hurts the company’s reputation by wasting the time of candidates, who then tell their friends, “I don’t know why they wanted to see me, the job didn’t interest me and I didn’t fit it anyway, so don’t bother with them if they call.”

Since hiring frequently involves more than one interviewing manager, it is important to have agreement on what qualifications, personality, style, etc. they all want. I remember one candidate who interviewed with three managers. Each manager described the req so differently that the candidate got really excited because he thought the company had three openings and he would be able to choose which he liked best. In fact, the company had one opening that interfaced with two other departments, hence three mangers interviewing, each with his own view of the position! To prevent this, everybody involved must agree on the minimum acceptable experience and skill level for the position—not the wants and wishes, but the minimum needs!

Finally, to guarantee real success (yours, the candidate’s, the team’s, and the company’s), remember: You are not hiring a skill-set suspended in time and space or a cyborg that can be reprogrammed if needs be; you are hiring a living, breathing human being with all the pluses and minuses that entails. Once you get in the habit of writing a good, i.e., fillable, req and adhere to it, you will find that the entire hiring process becomes easier, takes less time and isn’t subject to the whims of charm.

Don’t Hire Turkeys!

Friday, May 19th, 2006

I was sorting through some old files and ran across an article I wrote for the MSDN ISV Program Newsletter – May 1999 (issue 27) I love running into stuff I wrote years ago. Why? First, because when it’s far enough in the past, it’s like reading someone else’s work, so the writing skill (or lack of it) really shines out to me. But most importantly, it reinforces my belief that the MAP concepts we’ve developed over the years are valid.

I thought I’d share the article with you since it’s relevance hasn’t changed in nearly a decade (only the phone number is obsolete, it’s now 360.335.8054:).

MSDN ISV Program Newsletter
May 1999
Issue 27

The information provided is for informational purposes only and Microsoft Corporation and its suppliers make no warranties, either express or implied, as to the accuracy of such information or its fitness to be used for your particular purpose. The entire risk of the use of, or the results from the use of this information remains with you.

Please feel free to send feedback to msdnisv@microsoft.com

———-

SPECIAL ARTICLE

Miki Saxon, President of RampUp, offers some helpful tips and perspectives on how to recruit and retain valuable employees.

Don’t Hire Turkeys!

Use Your Culture as an Attraction, Screening, and Retention Tool and Turkey-Proof Your Company

Companies don’t create people-people create companies. At the beginning, most start-ups have great cultures that attract great people, but when business heats up, cultural focus is quickly overwhelmed by other priorities. It takes a certain kind of person to brave the early days of a start-up. Generally, these people don’t like bureaucracy, politics, back-stabbing, etc. In the beginning it’s easier for startups to hire people “like themselves.” First they hire all their friends, and then their friends’ friends. Then what? New positions have to be filled and the only people available are strangers.

So how do you hire strangers and not lose your culture? Since your culture is a product of your people, hire only people with matching or synergistic attitudes. The trick is to have a turkey sieve that will automatically screen out most of the misfits and turn on the candidates with the right values and attitudes. Your sieve is an accurate description of your real culture. It must be hard copy (write it out), fully publicized (everyone needs to know and talk about it), and, most important of all, IT MUST BE TRUE. Email it to every candidate before their interview and be sure that everyone talks about the culture and sells the company’s commitment to it during the interview.

Everybody interviewing needs to listen carefully to what the candidate is saying and not saying. Don’t expect a candidate to openly admit to behaviors considered negative since he may be unaware of them or not consider them negative at all (remember “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap). Red flags need to be followed up, not ignored because of skills or charm. Consider the environment the person has been working in, find out if he agreed with how things were done, and more importantly, how he would have done them if the decision were his.

Whether or not the candidate is a manager, you’ll want to find out about his attitudes and approaches to managing as well as work function methods. Probing people to understand what their conscious responses, as well as their intuitive ones, are to a variety of situations reveals how they will act, react, and contribute to the company’s culture and its success.

Finally, it is up to the hiring manager to shield the candidate from external decision pressures, e.g., friends already employed by the company, headhunters, etc., and above all, it is necessary to give all candidates a face-saving way to withdraw their candidacy and say no to the opportunity. If they don’t have a graceful way of exiting the interview process they may pursue, receive, and accept an offer, even though they know deep down it is not a good decision. A bad match can do major damage to the company, people’s morale, and even the candidate, so a “no” can actually be a good thing.

Remember, the goal is to keep your company culture consistent and flexible as you grow. From the start, you need to consciously identify what you have, decide what you want it to be, publicize it, and use it as a sieve be sure that EVERYONE who joins, fits. Doing so means that the people who join in year three will have as much fun as those who started the company in the first place.

Miki Saxon is the Founder and president of RampUp. RampUp helps high-tech startups and fast-growth companies dramatically improve their employee retention and prevent the dysfunction of turnover by leveraging the company’s culture, implementing progressive staffing practices, and teaching confusion-free management communications. For more information, call 415.648.6100 or visit them at www.thinkRampUp.com.

Managing self-starters

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

When your company is really tiny, just how flat can the organization be? How well do “self-starters” manage themselves? These are crucial questions for startups and small businesses since how they are addressed can make or damage your company.

One of the first important outside hires made when a company is ready to grow is in sales. Today, founders are often technical with a biz type who handles sales and marketing. Unfortunately, technical people have a tendency to think that non-tech jobs are no big deal, especially in sales and marketing. They believe that hiring salespeople is no big deal—that as long as they have a good track record in their previous sales position and understand the product they can manage themselves.

If this sounds off base to you, you’re right, it’s not that simple. To use a real-life example, I had a client who thought that way.

Previous to hiring me this CEO hired a salesman, we’ll call him Jack, with a fantastic sales record selling to the same market. The CEO personally taught Jack the product line and explained what the company was working to accomplish and then pretty much gave him free reign.

In the year Jack was with them he sold only two accounts, spent a good deal of his time on marketing and managed one large client. In that year Jack’s commissions totaled only $15K. When he left he went to work in a field completely unrelated to anything he’d sold before and in a market about which he knew nothing. In his first year at the new company he earned over 125K in commissions.

What was the difference? Management. Based on his track record both the CEO and Jack assumed that he could manage himself. However, Jack didn’t have, and didn’t create for himself, the structure, accountability, etc., necessary to be successful. When Jack left he admitted that although he had no knowledge or training in marketing, he spent substantially more time than he should have on it.

After the CEO and I had fully analyzed what happened he concluded that the failure was 80-20, with the 80% his responsibility. Hind sight is 20/20, and my client believes that if he had taken the time to do what was needed instead of expecting Jack to completely manage himself, that he would still be with the company and doing a spectacular job.

So remember when you hire that “self-starter” does not mean self-managed. Even the best will need direction, structure, and accountability in order to perform brilliantly.

Stress-relieving head-game #1

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Over the years clients (and others) have asked some version of, “How do you manage to stay so laid back? When I can’t do everything I’ve planned, I still find myself very frustrated. Sometimes I feel that I’m running out of time—not to achieve greatness, but to just get done all the things that need doing. I know you’re in the same situation, but it doesn’t seem to effect you. “

Part of my answer is that I burned myself to the point that I don’t over-commit the way I used to, but mostly my solution falls under the heading of “head-games.”

I admit that overcoming a bit of frustration would heighten my feelings of accomplishment and success, but more than a bit would leave me feeling that it’s (didn’t matter what “it” was) hopeless. Then I really got to thinking about what would/did happen when I didn’t get something done. my boss/clients would holler, but, lo, no thunderbolt shot down from the heavens to incinerate me; the sun continued to rise in the east; and the task was still there at the dawn of the new day.

Since that finally sank in, I find it much easier to prioritize and schedule me (both biz and personal) by applying what I call the Thunderbolt Theory of Importance.

Since then, I’ve been a lot happier and rarely stressed. I find very few things stand up to my Thunderbolt Theory, so I have very little that falls in the do-or-be-frustrated category. It doesn’t always work, but it sure helps!

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