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Archive for April, 2011

Expand Your Mind: Power, Empathy and Engagement

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Do you have a power-happy boss who never heard of engagement? The kind who believes a big title is all that’s needed to run an organization? If so, you might give him a copy of this article; it spells out why that approach dooms him to failure—sooner or later.

On the other side of the fence is David Kelley, founder of IDEO and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, who explains why, although largely unsung or ignored, empathy is a necessary trait to drawing the best out of people.

Everyone is talking about employee engagement, but what is it really? Is engagement a function of what managers do or is it outside of their control? Matt Grawitch, professor of Organizational Studies at Saint Louis University School for Professional Studies, offers a different view on engagement from most that I’ve seen.

I thought it would be nice to end today on a lighter note.

Have you ever given thought to CEO names? Or the difference between the names used by the guys vs. the gals in the corner office? I didn’t think so, but LinkedIn did. Check out the most popular CEO names and what they mean.

Image credit: MykReeve on flickr

Love Your Data

Friday, April 29th, 2011

4478876573_f66035d307_mBy now you all know that I am a digital dinosaur, no cell phone, no iAnything, and a careful participant online.

I would rather brand my company, RampUp Solutions, and product, Option Sanity™, than brand myself.

I probably qualify for residency in the privacy nut house.

However, I read with interest an opinion piece by Richard H. Thaler, an economics professor, who makes a great point.

If a business collects data on consumers electronically, it should provide them with a version of that data that is easy to download and export to another Web site. Think of it this way: you have lent the company your data, and you’d like a copy for your own use.

He goes on to offer specific examples of ways in which people would gain significantly from having access to that data if it was in a user-friendly form.

(His comments reminded me of the legal fight by people whose genomes were added to data bases without their consent.)

Senators John Kerry and John McCain (wow, that is an odd couple) have co-authored a bill called the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights, which is good (if it passes), but Thaler says it only addresses privacy and security issues, not useable access.

Both sound like a good idea.

The UK already has both.

US marketers claim that any kind of privacy or data control will affect the economy adversely; I even heard some say that any kind of limitations on the use of data in the US could impair the global recovery.


If, as Thaler demonstrates, giving useable access to collected data would allow consumers to better evaluate pricing to find the best deal the result would be less smoke and mirrors and (slightly) more authenticity.

It seems to me that would benefit the recovery—at least for those companies that aren’t playing games.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/4478876573/

Entrepreneur: Startup Hiring Myth #1

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Entrepreneurs, mompreneurs, solopreneurs, micropreneurs, partnerpreneurs, kidpreneurs, the list grows daily.

If you listen to the media these days the only career of merit is to be a somethingpreneur and that those who work for large companies should quit to start their own biz or be branded as losers.

I am taking this opportunity to state categorically, once and for all that that’s a crock.


There are millions of talented, driven, high producers who work happily in large companies of all kinds across the country.

They aren’t there because they are scared to do their own thing.

They aren’t there because they aren’t innovative or lack creativity.

They aren’t there because they are lazy, uncaring or stupid.

They don’t deserve to be labeled drudges or losers because they thrive in the corporate world.

They are the people who will buy or use the somethingpreneur products.

Their employers are the companies that will acquire or partner many of the somethingpreneur companies.

The somethingpreneur ecosystem would crash and burn without these companies and their employees.

The companies would crash and burn without those employees.

Somethingpreneurs couldn’t scale their companies without these people.

The idea that a person is better because they founded or work in a startup is hype; they are different, not worse or better—just different.

No matter the size of the company, it comes down to cultural fit.

Not just the company culture, but the specific culture propagated by the manager for whom they work.

It’s not just about risk-taking. The days when corporate size, unions, public service or professional degrees (doctors, lawyers) mitigated job risk are long gone.

It’s not even about a person’s accomplishments in their previous/current job.

It’s about what that person would do in your company’s culture and under your management.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/koalazymonkey/5089128512/

WW: The Covert Side of Facebook

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

YouTube credit: AishVideo

Birthday Culture

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Today is my birthday and I’m not working (I wrote this on Sunday).

From the time I was old enough to understand that my birthday was the day of MY birth, my special holiday, I refused to go to school on April 26.

No matter where I worked I’ve always taken my birthday off.

I never lied about it and even mentioned it during my interviews. I said I was happy to work weekends, Christmas, other holidays, but not on my birthday.

Surprisingly, they all agreed.

So it’s not surprising that when I started RampUp Solutions part of the culture was no one worked on their birthday; nor did they have to ‘make up’ the time off.

Over the years many executives have explained to me why giving people their birthdays off was a bad idea; here are their arguments and why they are wrong.

  • Too expensive – not when viewed as a recruiting, productivity and retention tool. It was surprising how many people viewed having their birthday off as a deal-breaker when interviewing.
  • Disrupts work flow – 95% of work can be scheduled to avoid a birthday and employees are the first to recognize the other 5%.
  • Other employees would be jealous – these execs and mangers just didn’t get it. They saw this as a perk for “stars” or “professional staff,” as opposed to everybody, totally missing the point.

Think about it, it’s one of those little things with enormous ROI.

And while you’re thinking, please have a piece of cake and drink a birthday toast to me.


Happy Birthday to ME

(No, there are not enough candles, in case you are wondering:)

Fickr image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/moonlightbulb/4871952762/

mY generation: It’s Easter

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

See all mY generation posts here.

Quotable Quotes: April 26

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Tuesday is April 26th, but more importantly it’s my birthday. There are some pretty cool people born on the 26th and I chose a few to share.

Marcus Aurelius was a big believer in MAP, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

William Shakespeare provides a great description of my two best friends, I hope you have people like this in your life, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

Bernard Malamud had great insight into how one learns, “Stay with it. . . ultimately you teach yourself something very important about yourself.”

Carol Burnett’s thoughts about life really refer to MAP, “Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.”

I was surprised to find that John Audubon and I have more in common than our birthday—we see our lives similarly, but I’m tempted to substitute ‘weird’ for ‘curious’, “I cannot help but think a curious event is this life of mine.”

Finally, since I was generous enough to share my birthday with Marc Andreessen, I wish he would reciprocate by sharing some contacts with me. (Sorry, couldn’t’ find a good quote.)

Image credit: RampUp Solutions

Expand Your Mind: Amazing, Eclectic Entrepreneurs

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Sometimes it’s hard for me to decide which is more impressive, the idea or the entrepreneur, so I thought I’d share some of the stories and see what you think.

Meet a friend in third grade who loves science as much as you do; fast forward to high school; get bored and watch a movie; when a cool scene catches your attention turn the special effect into a science; win a hundred thousand dollars and be given a card by a guy who says, “When you make your company, be sure to give us a call.” That’s the story of Matthew Fernandez and Akash Krishnan.

Then there is Andembwisye Mwakatundu, who figured out how cow poop could solve the energy crisis in Tanzania.

Or consider the story of Warner Johnson, a typical middle class kid whose mother told him, “You care too much about money to be a doctor.” Knowing that, he did as any money-loving college grad does and went to Wall Street where he found that success isn’t necessarily fun, so he went the entrepreneur route to money instead.

Shane O’Neill loves dogs and hated that they were unwanted and euthanized and he decided to attack the root of the problem. He was already a successful entrepreneur, so he started another company and committed 50% of the profits to organizations across the country that spay and neuter.

Finally, Sir David Tang, a billionaire entrepreneur and self-confessed digital dinosaur, started a website for the rich and famous “where celebrities tired of being impersonated on Twitter and high-fliers frustrated by big fat fibs pedalled in perpetuity on Wikipedia can once and for all put the record straight.”

So what’s more impressive, the people or their ideas? What do you think?

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Image credit:  MykReeve on flickr

Question Not a Silver Bullet

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

2808468566_dc22dede4b_mJohn Warrillow, at BNET, writes that the best question for weeding out victim mentality is “Tell me about the last time you made a mistake.”

He says that if the person accepts full accountability and doesn’t try to excuse or blame anyone else he almost always hires them.

While I agree it’s a great question and that the response tells you a lot about the candidate, I disagree that taking full responsibility necessarily makes a good hire.

There is a substantial difference between making excuses and a situation that leaves the person with no choice but to make the mistake.

There are too many managers who set their people up to fail, whether unintentionally or not. (Yes, there are mangers who do it intentionally.)
There is a difference between stating why the mistake was made and describing what could/should have been done differently and playing victim.

I advise creating a different dialog.

Manager: Tell me how [whatever].

Candidate responds.

Manager: Is that how you would have done it if you were in charge?

Candidate responds yes or no.

Manager: Why?

Asking why gets you to what you really want to know, which is how the candidate thinks.

How the person thinks is the crux, whether the candidate is a senior exec, admin or somewhere in-between.

And while it’s a good question to add to your interview repertoire I don’t think it’s strong enough to stand on it’s own as a ‘make or break’.

While discovering if the person has a victim mentality is useful, what is the advantage of hiring someone willing to take responsibility for a mistake that really isn’t theirs?

You need to know more; extenuating circumstances that at first may sound like an excuse can turn out to be plain facts.

Explore why the mistake happened, if and how it was rectified and what could have been done to prevent it.

In short, take time to dig deeper into any response that brings up a red flag, but do it with an open mind.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wadem/2808468566/

Entrepreneur: Excusing Lousy Management

Thursday, April 21st, 2011


Grrrr. I hate it when bad human traits are excused based on career choice, position, etc.

A group of experienced small biz owners ranging from late thirties to late fifties described themselves thus, impatient, short on focus, easily frustrated, likely to jump in and solve a problem rather than count on the employee to do it; traits that have no place in good management (or leadership, if you prefer).

The more accurate analysis is captured in a comment citing similarities in the corporate world,

The top managers do delegate (maybe that’s how they get to the top) but the rest stick their noses into everything just like small business owners. Guess it is just human nature and the reason most people are not very good managers.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, manager, worker, parent, whatever, you were you. You possessed a certain MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and embodied certain traits and you took those with you into your career and wider life.

Extreme examples make this glaringly clear, although even these examples are changing,

  • Cops who intimidate were bullies on the playground and sought a career in which bully MAP could flourish.
  • Pedophile priests were pedophiles long before they became priests and gravitated to a profession with both access and protection.

Careers don’t create traits, although they often magnify them.

“That’s who I am” carries a second, unspoken thought, “so deal with it.”

But “who I am” is your choice, not mine, and there is no good reason why I have to deal with it.

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