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Archive for October, 2006

Free, scary costume

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Happy Halloween! In case you’ve got party plans and want to be a really scary character sans blood and guts.

The costume is almost anything handy, but ratty jeans, well-worn black t-shirt, preferably with an anti-social message, worn sneakers, scruffy hair, and red-rimmed eyes is the norm; or you can go all the way over to pure designer if that’s your thing. The only necessary accessory is a laptop (or facsimile if you think you might party hard enough to lose it). That’s it, the generic (feel free to customize it) costume of one of the scariest folks cruising along today.

Your character plays with water systems, steals from online accounts, rips off Second Lives, messes with elections, and shakes down the online gambling industry.

Figured it out yet?

Good. So, grab your (metaphorical) black hat and let’s party! And may you enjoy an evening of great treats and no tricks :-P

Culture, ya gotta love it

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Culture matters! So say some of the most successful/innovative managers and companies on the planet, Lou Gerstner, BMW, Nucor, Immelt/GE, IBM, and more.

Google, one of the most written about, innovative, companies around, works hard on hiring people who are cultural matches, knowing that it’s not just what they know, but the way they think, their MAP, that matters.

Google’s head of HR, better known as the chief culture officer, says, “Our culture is one of our most valuable assets.”

I love hearing culture being talked about this way, since that’s always been my belief. Matching people to cultures is why, over my 25 years as a technical headhunter, around 75% of my recruits stayed four years or longer with my client companies.

In May I referenced an article I wrote way back in ’99 about using your culture not just to retain your people, but also as a recruiting and screening tool.

What an ego trip to see so many of the best companies doing exactly that!

Corporate skullduggery isn’t new

Friday, October 27th, 2006

I ran into a great quote on this Friday before Halloween and, considering the just breaking, recent, and not-so-recent business news, it seemed especially apropos.

“Corporation, n. an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.” — Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

Have a great weekend—and remember to set your clocks back Saturday night.

Shared intelligence

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Management, especially senior management, receives or can access a wide range of industry information. In many companies this information is shared at peer level and, maybe, one level down.

Making it company policy that competitive and market intelligence is widely disseminated throughout the organization is a great way to improve innovation and productivity. Why?

Increasing the number of people with access to the information increases the odds for breakthrough thinking and reduces the risk of wheel-spinning.

An article on a competitor’s product can spark an engineer’s original design idea; gossip about changing industry dynamics can prevent a stumble in marketing; an investment report on a new service offering can suggest an innovative sales approach to a desirable customer.

While highly visible industry developments circulate swiftly and prompt immediate strategy meetings and fast responses, the majority of competitive information needs only to be made available, not necessarily read, at a real time pace.

Everybody picks up viable industry intelligence, along with potentially valuable gossip.

  • CEOs receive strategy reports by investment firms, management consulting companies, along with high level information and gossip from the Board.
  • Managers receive reports from hired industry experts and publications.
  • Marcom and others interact with the media.
  • Salespeople gain information from customers.
  • Engineers and others observe competitive equipment at trade shows.

People at all levels talk—at tradeshows, networking events, industry conferences and seminars, as well as at social events, bars, restaurants, etc. Most people spend at least part of that time talking about business-related topics.

Smart managers make sure that the information is shared, up, down, and horizontally, by using internal blogs, intranets, wikis, etc., because they know that some managers derive their power through information control. Further, they actively work to encourage everybody to read and discuss it.

Since the goal is to encourage everybody to share everything, no matter the source, all posts should include some form of attribution. Whether they are formal (reports, white papers, news) or informal (conversations, heresay, gossip) the content needs to be accurately assessed and valued. This is especially true with informal intelligence, since, by definition, it needs to be cross checked against other intelligence.

As a manager, who are your customers?

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Customer service is a major topic these days, as is employee retention, but do they really have anything in common? You bet!

No matter your position, from CEO to team leader, your people are your customers.

That’s right, customers. That makes you an ESM—employee service manager.

Why do you service your people? To

  • help them achieve their full potential;
  • assure high productivity;
  • lower turnover; and
  • create an environment that’s a talent magnet.

How do you service your people? By

  • cultivating the kind of MAP that truly values people and understands how important it is to manifest that;
  • offering high-grade professional challenges to all your people and, then, making sure that they have the resources and all the information necessary to achieve success;
  • fostering fairness so that people know they are evaluated on their merits and favoritism plays no part; and
  • always walking your talk and living up to your commitments.

What’s in it for you?

  • Better reviews, promotions and raises;
  • increased professional development;
  • less turnover and easier staffing; and
  • what goes around, comes around—everything that you give your people will come back to you ten-fold!

The wired choice

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

I’m a firm believe in unplugging from everything now and then, getting to know oneself, dreaming and recharging batteries you may not even know exist.

I don’t believe that computers are a bathroom necessity or that they promote intimacy in bed; I do believe the Internet can be addictive.

I also believe that, as with most things, you have a choice—although it’s a lot harder once you’re addicted.

But it seems that there are millions of people who aren’t poor, aren’t old and aren’t connected. Even though they use it at work, they have no interest in being connected the rest of the time.

Whether to be wired, along with how much to be wired, is a choice that should be

  • made consciously,
  • not be driven by peer pressure,
  • independent of the “cool” factor, and
  • stay within your control at all times.

Technology is a great tool—as long as you run it and it doesn’t run you.

Do that, and you can have it all.

More about the tenacity of cyber stuff

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

In August I wrote Like diamonds, cyber-stuff is forever, ending it with the comment, “Your little corner of the world in cyberspace includes the past, present and future…”

More proof stacked up this last week, and it’s far more worrying than the self-postings that are (somewhat) mitigated by claims of youth and/or naiveté.

Far more serious is Expunged Criminal Records Live to Tell Tales, on October 17th, that shines a spotlight on the fact that records from the justice system have a life of their own, “The problem often arises,” said Ms. Rodriguez-Taseff, the Miami lawyer, “because so many agencies have access to criminal records… Even though you have an expunged record, oftentimes a policing agency or a corrections facility allows private entities to gain access to it.”

As with resume and credit databases, once entered, data seems to migrate with a life of it’s own—ask anyone who has tried to remove their resume or straighten out incorrect credit info, let alone clean up identity theft.

And on the 21st came A Student’s Video Résumé Gets Attention (Some of It Unwanted), telling how a the video accompanying a resume was apparently leaked by someone inside UBS, and spun out of control across the web and into the real world. The applicant says “… he may have lost his chance to work on Wall Street, and added that he may not succeed in securing a financial job at all.”

So, what does all this mean to individuals and business? A lot, but here are what I see as the four main points.

  • There needs to be far more education of users regarding the lack of privacy and the migration of data—and it needs to be done in compelling, easily understood terms.
  • Companies need to rethink where to draw the line when evaluating background checks.
    • Does it matter a decade or more later that someone did wild things in high school?
    • If so, which things matter?
    • How should the intervening “good behavior” be weighted?
    • Whose responsibility is it to double-check the checkers?
  • Companies must strengthen internal confidentiality. It takes very little to ruin a street rep and breaking candidate trust is one of the fastest. Those that don’t assure confidentiality can look forward to the duel results of
    • far fewer candidates to choose from; and
    • more legal difficulties from those that are leaked.
  • Based on the power of the lobbying interests, waiting for any kind of solutions from Washington is likely a waste of time.

Whatever happens in years to come, it’s certainly going to prove interesting, to say the least.

Homophily and hiring

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Sometimes having the things you know instinctively, or from casual observation, confirmed by expert studies is downright depressing.

I noticed it while growing up, fought it over my 25 years headhunting, wrote and article about it in 1999 called Hiring in Your Comfort Zone, and blogged about it last March in People like me.

Studies looking at its origins and insidiousness were reported Monday by Shankar Vedantam.

“It” is homophily, it’s been around forever, it’s an attitude I personally dislike and it keeps getting worse.

“Smith-Lovin’s research, for example, shows that homophily is on the rise in the United States on nearly every dimension of social identity. Ever larger numbers of people seem to be sealing themselves off in worlds where everyone thinks the way they do.”

As deplorable as this is from the social science perspective, it can be the kiss of a very slow death for companies.

Managers who, unconsciously or not, hire in their own image, no matter how they define that, do their employers harm.

A workforce that homoginizes along any lines is a workforce that will either miss, ignore, or be unable to reach a part of their market.

Ten red flags when interviewing

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

My major concern when creating a list such as this is that the managers will take it too literally, which isn’t how it’s meant. So, when you’re interviewing, watch for things that are similar underneath, but may look/sound different on the surface.

Rather than ten flags, I’ve listed ten categories with specific examples of each. Once you understand the categories you’ll have little trouble using them to recognize other manifestations.

One last note. As you read these, you might think, “Well, of course…” or “Everybody knows that” and wonder why I bothered mentioning it. The answer is that the sheer frequency can make such mindsets seem normal and, even, acceptable. Much worse, is managers’ willingness to rationalize them away in direct proportion to the need for the candidate’s skills.

  • Attitude
    • Bad attitude, including, but not limited to:
      • Cranky
      • Chip on shoulder
      • Depressed
      • Poor me/victim
      • Angry
      • Arrogant
      • Inflexible
      • The world owes me
      • Flippant, glib
    • Me-centric, including, but not limited to:
      • Looking around the room when talking to someone
    • Reality check
      • Unrealistic expectations
      • Wasting time (the manager’s, HR’s, the recruiter’s, their own) when there is no real interest in the job
      • Relying on experts and ignoring their own good sense
      • Taking it all too seriously
    • Dress/appearance
      • Unprofessional/unappealing appearance
      • Dirty/ragged cuticles, uncared-for nails, hands
      • Grubby, sloppy (as opposed to business casual) clothes
      • Too much skin including strappy sandals, navels, midriffs, décolletage
      • Scruffy leather products
  • Preparation
    • Producing a hiring-manager-unfriendly résumé
      • Long
      • Boring
      • Skills, but no accomplishments
    • Thinking “What I do/want” instead of “What I can do for you”
    • Not researching the company, technology, market, industry trends, etc.
  • Fudging/fibbing/prevaricating/lying/any & all euphemisms
    • Taking credit for something one didn’t do
    • Taking sole credit for something one didn’t do alone
    • “Adjusting”
      • Position
      • Longevity
      • Graduation date, degree, major
    • Inventing anything
    • Enhancing anything
  • First impression
    • Arriving/calling/emailing late
    • Last minute cancellations
    • Not showing enthusiasm from the start
  • Interviewing
    • Not turning off cell/Blackberry/etc.
    • Not bringing additional copies of the résumé
    • Not being willing to address negatives to show their positive side (AKA rolling over and giving up)
    • Answering information-seeking questions “yes” or “no”
    • Asking no questions or only closed-ended questions (as opposed to information-gathering ones)
    • Disparaging former employers/companies
    • Not preparing short war-stories relevant to a particular job
    • Not offering insights on a situation uncovered in research for fear of being “used.”
  • Compensation
    • Asking for a specific salary
    • Asking about salary/benefits in the first interview
    • Making compensation your number one criteria
  • Follow-up
    • Not following up personally by phone as appropriate
    • Relying on/hiding behind email

If you have any questions, feel free to give me a call at 866.265.7267

Incentives that motivate

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Incentives can be great motivators when combined with the right culture and presented in the right way.

Incentives don’t have to be expensive, whether they involve money or stuff. Even then, if you go one step further and combine them with a high-visibility presentation the effect will increase exponentially. In other words, make receiving [whatever] a big deal. Awards should always be accompanied by the “sound of trumpets, roll of drums,” whether real or imaginary.

An engineering vp I used to work with gave away company pens, the good ones done for clients, whenever an engineer solved an especially sticky problem, offered extra help, thought of a unique solution, etc. But he didn’t just walk over and hand the engineer the pen; instead, he presented it at meetings when everyone in the department was present, described why the person was getting it, how much he appreciated the effort, and the impact it would have on the project, etc. The pens became a badge of honor and everyone worked extra hard to earn one.

Good chocolate is an excellent small reward for daily accomplishments. My favorite is from Scharffen Berger, it’s exceptionally good chocolate (including dark, my favorite:), and one product, in particular, lends itself really well to a small rewards function.

Many kinds of food, fruit, cheese, etc., also work.

Buy several annual family memberships to various museums, zoos, etc. Besides normal access, most offer special visitation nights to special exhibits and holiday showings.

Create company money worth various amounts (10/25/50 cents, $X) that can be accumulated during the year and redeemed to buy whatever someone wants. (Avoid surprises by tracking the outstanding debit.)

Putting various prizes in custom fortune cookies is a great motivator (there are many vendors from which to choose); they lend them selves to the same kind of excitement as the grand prize spin on Wheel of Fortune.

Plants and flowers are yield results far beyond their cost.

Buy stuff that can be taken apart and give the parts as prizes. People can trade and swap parts with each other to complete their thing faster.

Coupons to used book or music stores, both virtual and local. (Remember that dollars go a lot further at used stores.)

Create Best [whatever] awards, modeled on the Oscars, and name them. Have various categories within the company and within each department, including separate awards for managers. Nominations should come from colleagues and bosses. Present the awards annually at a special dinner or, possibly, combine with the company’s Holiday party. With the right buzz they can have the same effect as the Oscars, increasing pride and conferring bragging rights.

Finally, tap your people for more ideas, just be sure to have loud fun with whatever you choose to do.

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