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Archive for May, 2007

What’s in a name?

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Speaking (yesterday) of the effect of cyber information on hiring brought a sister subject to mind—is it you or someone else? Or are you invisible?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal throws a spotlight on the problem.

“In the age of Google, being special increasingly requires standing out from the crowd online. Many people aspire for themselves — or their offspring — to command prominent placement in the top few links on search engines or social networking sites’ member look-up functions. But, as more people flood the Web, that’s becoming an especially tall order for those with common names. Type “John Smith” into Google’s search engine and it estimates it has 158 million results.”

Vanity-wise my immediate reaction is who cares, but professionally it’s a real problem…

“More than 80% of executive recruiters said they routinely use search engines to learn more about candidates, according to a recent survey by executive networking firm ExecuNet.”

Not standing out is difficult, not being found can make recruiters doubt your veracity, and getting married can be a real career hit

“Before Abigail Garvey got married in 2000, anyone could easily Google her. Then she swapped her maiden name for her husband’s last name, Wilson, and dropped out of sight.

In Web-search results for her new name, links to Ms. Wilson’s epidemiology research papers became lost among all manner of other Abigail Wilsons, ranging from 1980s newspaper wedding announcements for various Abigail Wilsons to genealogy records listing Abigail Wilsons born in the 1600s and 1700s. When Ms. Wilson applied for a new job,interviewers questioned the publications she listed on her resume because they weren’t finding the publications in online searches, Ms. Wilson says.”

There are many thing you can do going forward, “Ms. Wilson now goes by “Abigail L. Garvey Wilson” when she publishes scientific papers.”

“”Any time you can distinguish yourself with a distinctive name or a distinctive characteristic that sticks out in people’s minds, that’s going to be the best solution,” says Matt Cutts, a Google software engineer.”

I think the lesson managers need to take away from all this is to remember that as all encompassing as the Net seems to be, and as good as search functions seem to be, “Seem is applied to something that has an aspect of truth and probability.”

It’s not a definite and certainly not an absolute—meaning that when considering information found, or not found, though search you should keep the salt handy and use it liberally.

Hiring a person’s past

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

I’ve written several times regarding how stuff posted online will never go away—no matter what you do—and the impact this has/will have—especially on your professional life.

Between now and June 15, Harvard is doing an interactive study on the subject. Read the case study and think about how you would handle the situation.

Information found on non-traditional sites needs to be taken with anything from a grain to a pound of salt, knowing that much of what’s written in social media is often untrue or, at the least, vastly exaggerated.

People do grow up (one hopes) and we’ve all done/do silly/stupid things in our lives—from birth to death—that we don’t expect to be widely publicized. The problem today is that our best buddy, who thinks something is really funny/interesting/gross, will post it somewhere to share with friends, and from there it travels over the world.

But what if the information is more serious and from a reputable news source?

Would you hire an activist involved in protests? Activists are passionate and you want passion in your people.

Would it depend on whether you agreed or disagreed with their cause?

This is the essential question—since a “yes” leads directly to homophily and guarantees less creativity/innovation in your organization.

Cultural Importance/Cultural Hype

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

Why is it that articles about changing culture in major corporations employing mostly skilled, well-paid workers, e.g., Ford, are met with serious discussion, but changing it in major corporations, with mostly minimum wage earners, e.g., McDonalds, is marked down as hype?

Why is a cultural change at Ford seen as key to the company’s survival, but instilling pride in the workers at McDonalds, Taco Bell and KFC is viewed as hype, Raising spirits is cheaper than raising salaries.’

Why do we expect young people to take pride in their first ‘real’ job, or care about the customer, when they were laughed at for the same attitudes/actions in their minimum wage job?

Why does our society denigrate those who work low-paying jobs, when they’re honest, hardworking, pay taxes and even manage to raise families?

In the same vein, why is the four-year grad, with a degree paid for by mom and dad, considered a better candidate than the one who took longer working ‘non-professional’ jobs to pay for the same degree from the same school?

Maybe companies need to wake up. I haven’t seen the same high sense of entitlement in kids who spent their summers working in minimum wage jobs as I have in the ones who worked frequently overpaid jobs for their parents or didn’t work at all.

And I, for one, am thrilled that companies such as YUM! Brands and McDonalds are finally building their people up and, hopefully, offsetting the normal teardown that goes with these jobs.

Memorial answers

Monday, May 28th, 2007

A cure for your headache or proof that you won the beer? Scott Allen definitely won the beer, or, for Scott, more likely Champagne. As to some being bad trivia, none of my highly educated friends even came close when I sent it privately, let alone corrected any.

So here are the answers to Friday’s Memorial brainteaser, although Scott already posted better ones!

  1. Boxing
  2. Niagara Falls (The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that pour over it every minute.)
  3. Asparagus and rhubarb
  4. Strawberry
  5. It grew inside the bottle. (The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.)
  6. Dwarf, dwell and dwindle
  7. Period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation marks, bracket s, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses
  8. Lettuce
  9. Shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts

A Memorial brainteaser

Friday, May 25th, 2007

Good grief, it’s the day before the Memorial Day weekend and the year’s almost half over. What happened? Seems like yesterday it was just getting started!

Oh well, the Friday before a holiday is time for some fun. Here’s a little quiz that a friend sent, something to give your brain some exercise. Nothing riding on the answers—except a beer if you’re silly enough to bet!

Note: There are no trick questions.

  1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.
  2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?
  3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?
  4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?
  5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn’t been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?
  6. Only three words in Standard English begin with the letters “dw” and they are all common words. Name two of them.
  7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?
  8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.
  9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter “S.”

Answers Monday.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

How not to hire

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

When I read Michael Horowitz’s description of what happened to him after CNET called I found myself thinking that it could serve as a blueprint of what not to do to potential (or current) stakeholders.

Michael’s definitely a gentleman, no attack or rant, he calls it a “failure to communicate” and he’s right, but, given his detailed description of what happened, that’s an understatement.

Granted, I haven’t heard CNET’s version, but I doubt it differs all that much. In fact, I’ve heard similar stories all too frequently—for decades.

But the difference between breaking trust in the past and doing it now is the speed and reach of the story.

Then: Tell friends and family who passed it on to their friends.

Now: Tell friends and family who pass it on to their friends.

The operative word is “friends,” which has taken on a whole new meaning in these days of blogs and social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, and now count in the hundreds, or even thousands.

So here’s some bankable advice, not exactly rocket science, but, considering how often it’s ignored, you’d think it was.

Hiring today is just as competitive as any other part of your business, therefore, you need to protect your street rep by honoring your verbal commitments, as well as the promises implicit in your corporate culture—if you’re not going to walk your talk then you’re probably better off shutting up!

CEO means what?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

It’s an equation that doesn’t change: who you are (your MAP) = what you do = what you’re called.

When it comes to business titles people are very creative, so the variations are numerous and telling.

Here’s a tiny sample, skipping blue language or all adjectives, of what I’ve heard from staff for CEO.

On one hand you have

  • Conceited Egomaniacal Overlord;
  • Caddish Elitist Obstructionist;
  • Controlling Embarrassing Obsessor;

and on the other you have

  • Concerned Energetic Overachiever
  • Caring Enabling Oddity
  • Charismatic Enterprising Optimizer

Where does your “nicktitle” fit?

Is that where you want it?

No? Then it’s time to change your actions, which means changing your MAP.

You may consider that bad news, but the good news is, as usual—it’s your choice.

So, for the sake of your staff and your investors, (not to mention family and friends) I hope you choose well!

Promotion tops death, divorce and moving

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Business Week’s UpFront grab bag of odds and ends always makes for fascinating reading; the following bit is a devastating comment on the corporate cultures responsible for propagating these stats.

“For some, climbing the corporate ladder brings on vertigo. In a recent survey, nearly one in five managers ranked getting a promotion as their most challenging life event. One big reason, say researchers at Development Dimensions International, which conducted the poll of 785 business leaders, is that 40% of managers get little or no support as they enter their new jobs, according to the survey. “It’s sink or swim,” says Matthew Paese, vice-president at the Bridgeville (Pa.)-based human resources consulting firm. Even more managers may express such fears in the near future, says Paese, as many baby boomers retire and leave an even bigger mentoring void for executives on the move.

The business leaders surveyed by DDI ranged from line supervisory staff to those in executive suites, including 400 managers outside the U.S. Promotion was ranked as “most challenging” by 19% of respondents, followed by bereavement (15%), divorce (11%), moving (10%), and managing teenage children (9%).”
By Joseph Weber

It’s incongruous that the same companies that invest millions recruiting highly educated, talented people at all levels then squander the resource by assuming they can progress to the next level on their own.

Most people learn to manage by watching/copying the managers they work for along the way.

Sadly, too many of those are best summed up in a quote from His Burial Too (1973), by Catherine Aird, “If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”

I remember one talented manager who said that his success came from doing the exact opposite of what was done to him by many different managers during his 12-year tenure at one company.

He wasn’t exaggerating, the company was known for its toxic culture and management, but was a great place for recruiting talented staff.

No matter if you’re CEO, department head or just manage a small group, you first need to discover whether you’re a good example or a horrible warning.

How? Look at two stats, productivity and retention.

If the first is high and the second low, then you’re a good example. If the reverse, then you need to decide if you want to stay a horrible warning or change.

The basis for either is in your MAP and, as with everything based in MAP, it’s your choice.

Of CSR, corporate culture, and MAP

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Milton Friedman said, “The business of business is business,” but the definition of “business” has changed.

To this end, I read a good post Saturday about CSR by Bryan Ong, but I take major exception with the introductory paragraph, especially the words I’ve bolded,

“The primary goal of any business is to make money and in today’s world, it is not just about making money and profits. More and more large organisations are beginning to understand that there needs to be a good balance of both evil and good. Evil in the sense of making money and good where the organisation consider the interests of both environment and humanity.”

I think that the damage a company does is far more representative of evil than its cash flow or profits. I think that saying they should balance is almost like saying that if a company doesn’t make a lot of money it can’t/won’t do much damage, a statement that is obviously untrue, as I’m sure Bryan would agree. (I know several small companies that don’t make much money, but are doing major ecological damage.)

However, as Bryan does point out, to work, CSR needs to be deeply embedded in your corporate culture.

So, before you jump on this bandwagon, check out your MAP, and that of your executives. Granted, CSR is quickly becoming a necessity in today’s competitive world, but people aren’t stupid, so faking it is practically a death wish.

CSR absolutely mandates walking your talk for it to be successful.

Vacations = productivity!

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Hey, boss person, when did you last take a vacation? Not a long weekend, or a few days tacked on to a business trip, but real vacation sans laptop and PDA.

Can’t remember? You’ve got a lot of company! According to an article in Business Week, “Americans take even less vacation than the Japanese, the people who gave rise to karoshi—the phenomenon of being worked to death.”

Did you know that “Former NASA scientist…recently found that vacationers experienced an 82% increase in job performance post-trip?” Or that “…a key ingredient in peak performance is a drastic change of venue coupled with shutting down for extended periods of time.”

According to psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, “Making yourself available 24/7 does not create peak performance, recreating the boundaries that technology has eroded does.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers and others use a kick-’em-out approach by insisting on vacations, while Netflix takes a more radical approach, elimination vacations and telling “…workers that so long as they get their jobs done, they can take as much time off as they like.”

Be really smart and follow the lead of “Kelly Services Inc. CEO Carl T. Camden [who] has started giving his wife gifts of time and attention as opposed to cars and baubles.” (Bet that marriage improved at least an order of magnitude!)

As for your people, don’t expect them to take off if those above them don’t—monkey see monkey do or, if you prefer a different image, lead by example.

So please, print out the following and hang it in your office. Give copies to your people. Add it to the company intranet and post it on the wiki.

Not taking a vacation is a great way to
ruin your health,
devalue your family,
undermine your team, and
show-off your insecurities.

None of which you want to do, so pick up the phone and book yourself a real vacation—sans laptop and PDA, with the cell phone for emergencies only.

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