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Archive for September, 2011

If the Shoe Fits: How to Hire for the Long Haul

Friday, September 30th, 2011

3829103264_9cb64b9c62_m Kevin Spencer http://www.flickr.com/photos/vek/3829103264/Yesterday I had the displeasure of enduring multiple power outages for about 90 minutes. When the power finally stabilized and I turned on my computer nothing happened.

Nothing I tried worked, so today I dragged out a seven year old laptop and spent the time between phone calls getting enough running to be able to work—more or less. (don’t you just love technology?)

However, one of the calls was from a founder whose last three hires didn’t work out. They all had great skills, but none worked well with the team. All three fell in the category of “first outsider,” AKA, cold hire, in other words not friends or referrals.

He asked if there was a way to ensure a good fit with the current team.

I’ve been asked this a lot lately, so I think it is once again time to share the following post with you.

Don’t Hire Turkeys!
Use Your Culture as an Attraction, Screening and Retention Tool to Turkey-Proof Your Company.

Companies don’t create people—people create companies.

All companies have a culture composed of its core values and beliefs, essentially corporate MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and that culture is why people join the company and why they leave if it changes.

Generally, people don’t like bureaucracy, politics, backstabbing, etc., but when business stress goes up, or business heats up, cultural focus is often overwhelmed by other priorities.

In startups, it’s easier to hire people who are culturally compatible, because the founders first hire all their friends, and then their friend’s friends.

After that, when new positions have to be filled 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.

Here is how you do it.

  • Your sieve is an accurate description of your real culture.
  • It must be hard copy (write it out), fully publicized (everyone needs to know, understand, believe and talk about it), and, most important of all, it must be real.
  • Email it to every candidate before their interview and be sure that everyone talks about the culture during the interview and sells the company’s commitment to it.
  • 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 that don’t fit the company MAP, since she may be unaware of them, may assume that your culture is more talk than walk or consider it something that won’t apply to her.
  • Red flags must be followed up, not ignored because of skills or charm.
  • Consider the various environments in which she’s worked; find out if she agreed with how things were done, and, more importantly, how she would have done them if she had been in control.
  • Whether or not the candidate is a manager, you want to learn about her management MAP, approaches to managing, leadership and work function methods.
  • Probing people to understand what their responses, conscious as well as intuitive, are to a variety of situations reveals how they will act, react, and contribute to your 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.

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 will do major damage to the company, people’s morale, and even the candidate, so a “no” is actually a good thing.

Remember, the goal is to keep your company culture consistent and flexible as you grow. From the time you start this process, you need to consciously identify what you have, decide what you want it to be, publicize it, and use it as a sieve to be sure that everyone who joins, fits.

Use your cultural sieve uniformly at all levels all the time. If someone sneaks through, which is bound to happen occasionally, admit the error quickly and give her the opportunity to change, but if she persists then she has to go.

For more help, download the CheatSheets in the right hand frame or give me a call at 360.335.8054.

Option Sanity™ is a great screening tool because it mirrors your culture

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock allocation process.  So easy a CEO can do it.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.” Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Fickr image credit: Kevin Spencer

Entrepreneurs: Role Models

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

A comment in response to an article entitled Steve Jobs Is a Lousy Role Model caught my eye.

I agree that good managers have to ‘manage’ their employees emotional well-being but I believe visionary leaders have to execute on their vision… Don’t get confused that good managers can build an innovation company without effective leaders to lead the charge.

Jobs ability to see around corners product-wise is unique, but that skill doesn’t make him a leader; it makes him a product visionary.

Yes, he is brilliant; yes he has charisma; yes, he screws up and the combination proves he’s human.

What needs to be understood is that Jobs successes don’t excuse his bad actions.

Do yourself a favor and recognize that your vision can also be your own personal Kool-Aid.

Richard Branson is also a visionary and successful entrepreneur, but his approach is a world away from Jobs.

The trick to finding a role model is to eliminate the singular, find multiple models and emulate their best traits after tweaking them to fit your own MAP and situation.

Last year I wrote, People love to quote the adage “there is no “I” in team” when somebody’s ego gets out of hand; perhaps a new adage is needed that states “there is no “I” in leader.” Of course, someone will argue that there is an ‘i’ in leadership, which is true, but when ‘i’ becomes ‘I’ it changes leadership to leadershit.

Even Steve Jobs phenomenal success provides no reason to change my mind.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Worded Wednesday: Fat Faces = Success!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Today isn’t really wordless, if it was you would miss all the fun.

I’m sure you notice all the studies being done and, if you are anything like me, wondered about their obviousness (healthy calories cost more, who knew?), let alone the stupidity of some studies and their results.

Today I’m going to share what has to be the stupidest I’ve seen in years.

Unfortunately, I can’t embed the pictures, but the study offers “proof” that the width of a CEO’s face can predict the company’s financial performance.

Rather than adding my own comments on the subject, take a moment to read Idiocy Alert! Research says fat-faced CEOs perform better by Wally Bock. Why try to improve perfection?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ducks in a Row: Don’t Metaphor Your Culture

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Do metaphors fly free at your workplace? Do you find yourself using them in order to be heard?

According to Ceri Roderick, emeritus partner at business psychologists Pearn Kandola, while metaphors can be a kind of expressive shortcut, they can also have a detrimental effect.

“The language you use can affect your corporate culture.” Thus, if you spend long enough talking about “cutting the competition off at knees”, he says you are going to have a workplace where a kind of Nietzschean ethic rules and the weak are meat for bullies.”

I admit to using metaphors, although far less than I did a few decades ago. I find some are good ways to achieve focus, such as “the elephant in the room;” I may be guilty of the occasional 500 pound canary, but not of 800 pound gorillas. (Science writer Richard Conniff notes that “gorillas are vegetarians, not predators and the average alpha male spends most of his time passing gas, picking his nose and yawning; not the image a hard-charging executive wants to present to the public,” but actually a valid description of many executives.)

And while I know good culture fosters innovation, thinking outside the box has little to do with it, since it’s not possible.

The biggest problem with metaphors is that they are boring and limit people’s ability to effectively communicate.

If you don’t believe me play the metaphor game at your next meeting as follows:

  • choose a scorekeeper;
  • explain that the point of the game is to NOT use any metaphors;
  • attendees listen for metaphors and call the speaker on them by shouting ‘metaphor’;
  • the person who used the metaphor then restates their comment/point;
  • using a metaphor scores one point;
  • the person with the lowest score wins and
  • gets the prize (candy bar, lunch coupon, etc.)

It’s surprising how difficult it is for many people to discuss anything sans metaphors.

Jamie Jauncey, a business language trainer and author, says, “Business is ultimately about people and connecting and relationships. It should be using the real language of human exchange, not some Orwellian bizpeak.”

This is true whether you are in sales, engineering, finance or whatever. You and your people need to connect with each other and with ‘them’, wherever and whomever ‘them’ may be.

Flickr image credit: ZedBee | Zoë Power

Employee Enchantment

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Are you one of the thousands of managers who spend your days trying to increase productivity and improve your company’s bottom line and you nights worrying that you aren’t doing it fast enough—if at all?

Does your company hire experts to teach motivation and employee engagement techniques?

Do you twist in the wind trying to implement complex, sometimes costly, approaches?


Why complex when some of the smartest CEOs, advisors and academics are all saying the same thing?

Simply put, in the words of Tony Hsieh, if your employees are happy they will make your customers happy; if your customers are happy they’ll spend more; if they spend more your bottom line will grow.

Saturday I gave you multiple links showing just how simple and inexpensive engaging your people can be—but not everybody reads Saturday.

So, instead of writing yet another post on engagement, I thought provide a video from Guy Kawasaki, who talks about how to “enchant” your employees.

His advice is simple and doable, although it does require the right MAP.

The only cost may be to your ego, since in order to implement it you need to change.

YouTube image credit: http://youtu.be/s_ju0HhPpaU

mY generation: Descriptification

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Oops, Jim’s video card died, so today’s comic is from the archives and it’s more true today than when originally published in 2008.

Also, Jim is getting married October 29 and things are heating up, so there may be more from the archives.

OR, if you would like to guest with your own comic please let me know. –Miki (editor)

See all mY generation posts here.

Quotable Quotes: Dumb Boss Quotes

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

5727249976_6959da1d5e_mI found this great list of dumb boss quotes and thought I’d share my favorites along with my editorializing. You can check out the rest of the list here. There’s an old saying that people don’t quit companies, they quit managers and today’s quotes will tell you why.

First up is the manager who exemplifies the Peter Principle, “I’ve noticed that our ‘cost of goods sold’ rise whenever we experience greater sales. What can we do to reverse this trend?”

Then there is the obviously caring manager known for his leadership skills, “I’m getting a new company car new week. Please call the dealer and ask him to delay the delivery until after Wednesday’s layoffs. I want to appear sensitive.”

Many times what managers tell candidates in an interview isn’t exactly the way things work on the job, “I’m sorry if I ever gave you the impression your input would have any effect on my final decision.”

Other managers don’t bother to pretend, “I threw your suggestion away. Only managers can make suggestions.”

Some managers give are known for putting their people in no-win situations, “If you are on schedule, then your plan was not aggressive enough. If you are behind schedule, you must be goofing off.”

There are many managers who really don’t have a clue when it comes to motivation, “Don’t worry, give it a try. You have nothing to fear but failure, demotion and termination.”

Just in case you think that these are all fiction, the following were added by readers.

From Sophia: “You are not here to think, you are here to do.”

From dliney: Manager: “We’re going to promote you- you’ll be like a faculty member.”
Staff: “Then there will be a raise”
Manager: “Uh-no.”

From cwbailey64: “Frankly, I know I hired you, but you have to admit… you have no talent.”

Anonymous: Everyone who disagrees with me signify by saying “I resign.”

I hope enjoyed these as much as I did and will take a minute and add your own to the collection.

Image credit: HikingArtist.com

Expand Your Mind: Surveys

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

I owe my Saturday readers an apology. Expand Your Mind was absent last week and I have no excuse; worse, I have to admit I just plain forgot. That is embarrassing. I hope today makes up for it.

A rude awakening for all the companies and managers who believe they can treat their people any way they choose comes from an Aflac survey-based report saying otherwise.

77 percent of adults employed full/part time, and not currently self-employed, stated they would leave their current position to become an independent entrepreneur.

However, PeopleMetric’s 2011 survey on employee engagement says the opposite when compared to 2007.

…more employees intend to stay with their employer, feel motivated to put forth extra effort, recommend their companies as a great place to work, and say they love their current organization.

What’s the difference; why such disparate results?

More research from Harvard shows that what excites and engages people has nothing to do with money and everything to do with managers (you knew that).

According to recent research, the single most important factor is simply a sense of making progress on meaningful work.

Next, two excellent survey-based articles about women and work.
First, research from Harvard Business Review, looks at the factors that impact both women and men when competing.

…how women and men perform at work may be strongly linked to the gender of the person they are competing against.

And from McKinsey comes advice based on feedback that focuses on changing deeply embedded attitudes.

…a survey we conducted earlier this year indicated that although a majority of women who make it to senior roles have a real desire to lead, few think they have meaningful support to do so, and even fewer think they’re in line to move up.

Finally, a word about the poster boy of engagement, Richard Branson.

He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.

Not a bad way to live!

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: Changing the World

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

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

I have never watched a reality show, other than Extreme Home Makeover (fi that qualifies).

I’m not a glitterati watcher, never watched Paris Hilton, haven’t seen and don’t know or care why Snooki is famous and have no idea why anyone would want to keep up with the Kardashians (whoever they are).

I never heard of Francisco Dao, either, but I totally agree with his recent (contorversial) comments regarding the number of valueless startups.

I wonder whether members of the technology community have lost the ambition to build lasting companies that contribute to productivity instead of another “flavor of the month” social media application.

Dao hits more of my hot buttons regarding the general shallowness of many entrepreneurs, especially in places like Silicon Valley.

Instead of recognizing the entrepreneurs who have quietly risked it all to build something lasting, we get caught up in social media popularity contests and Twitter “influencers.” We too often ignore the men and women who have built companies that provide livelihoods for their employees while we fawn over self-help gurus offering four-hour short cuts. And although we act the part of intellectuals and world changers, most of us are so reliant on social proof that the first question we ask when considering a conference or event is, “Who else is going?”

‘Who else is going’ has been the key social-climbing question since humans first stood erect, so that isn’t new, but the idiotic social scoring systems, most of which are quantity-based as opposed to quality and easily manipulated, have taken shallow to a whole new level.

Going to conferences, hanging out with entrepreneurs or telling people that you’re a “start-up guy” does not put you in the category of those who put all their chips on the table to turn an idea into a reality.

A few weeks ago I offered encouragement to entrepreneurs who are truly out changing the world as opposed to those with yet another social, addictive, mindless/brainless time-waster or app to sell stuff to consumers.

In 1983 Steve Jobs landed John Sculley with his legendary closing question, “Do want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?”

Many of today’s startups are the equivalent of yesterday’s sugar water.

So I ask, are you making sugar water or changing the world?

Option Sanity™ changes the stock allocation world

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock process.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.” Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Image credit: Bun in a Can Productions

Entrepreneurs: Past, Present, Future

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

“All great companies have a rowboat mentality. You row hard, but you’re still always looking behind you to the past.”Howard Stringer, CEO, Sony

Many young entrepreneurs believe having no history is their greatest advantage—and to some extent it is.

But it’s also their greatest dilemma.

Having history doesn’t mean you are locked into considering only the past, instead of facing forward and engaging the future—although many companies do exactly that. (It’s called resting on your laurels and people, as well as companies, are guilty of doing it.)

By the same token, fixing your eye strictly on the future, with no consideration of past actions, yours and others, can cause you and your company to fall flat on its face.

You need a mix of past and future to know what is worth keeping/emulating and how to take it to the next level; when and how [whatever] should be tweaked for optimum performance in the current situation; and when to jettison it and what to replace it with.

Also, as with most athletic endeavors, knowing you have accomplished X in the past gives you more courage and belief that you can accomplish Y in the future.

Finally, there is much wisdom embodied in the old saying, “Profit from the mistakes of others, you don’t have time to make them all yourself.”

Flickr image credit: fosco lucarelli

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