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Archive for July, 2012

Ducks in a Row: Resume Stupidity

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/triplezero/2617657041/Today is about resume stupidity by recruiters and management and the resulting lies.

It is about the stupidity of a required set of buzz words that recruiters use to screen candidates.

It is about the stupidity of managers providing that list.

It is about the stupidity of lying—even when the lie is a recommended action.

Recruiters like screening lists because it eliminates the need for a lot of up-front work on their part, i.e., they don’t have to talk to anyone who doesn’t use those words.

Forget the fact that there are many ways to describe something and most people describe their work using the words of their current management.

Way back in the late 1970s I worked with companies that built communications equipment (DTS, ROLM, etc.) and most software managers required experience designing real-time switches for telecom.

I had a fabulous engineer who designed real-time switches for a process equipment maker.

The software manager was furious; ranting on that it wasn’t telecom.

That made no sense to me; it seemed logical that real-time was real-time whether a switch was flipped or a valve was closed.

So I asked him to please explain the difference, so I could understand.

He started to talk and then stopped. There was a long silence and finally he told me to have my guy there for an interview the next day—he was hired on the spot.

It’s not that I was technically knowledgeable, but real-time is real-time made sense and the other didn’t.

The same goes for many “absolute requirements”—degrees, industry, etc.

As to the lies, I guarantee that sooner or later any lie you put on your resume will come back and bite you—even when it is a recruiter who recommends it.

Flickr image credit:  Frank Jania

Reasonable Grammar

Monday, July 30th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/g_kat26/4000171211/Last week I provided a graphic example of the importance of using capitals when writing; one I believed would be easily remembered and act as a cautionary warning.

Some call me a fanatic because, whether written or spoken, bad grammar in native English speakers makes me nuts, but I believe it’s a reasonable level of fanaticism.

I do expect people who graduated high school or the equivalent, let alone college, to know the difference between to, too and two, it’s and its and lose and loose; nor do I shrug it off when they insert a comma every three words for no apparent reason.

This is especially true in business where I also assume (fantasize?) that they will at least spell check the email or document and do a quick re-read to catch typos like form instead of from.

But I am not a perfectionist as is Kyle Wiens, who won’t hire for any position in his company—from writer to programmer—if they can’t pass a grammar test; nor do I agree with most of those who voiced the opposite in comments.

Moreover, while I believe that my grammar-in-action rates in the high nineties, I doubt I could pass the grammar test Wiens uses when interviewing.

Just because I use grammar correctly doesn’t mean I know all the rules behind doing so—nor do I care.

If you consider all this as lacking much substance consider that Wiens’ post, published a week ago by the Harvard Business Review, has garnered in excess of 2000-and-counting comments.

Interesting argument, but to me, Wiens and his detractors are perfect examples of what’s really wrong in the workplace these days.

Too many managers and workers are evangelizing a black and white, zero-tolerance policy about [whatever] and then doing their best to enforce it within their world.

Extremism leaves little room for being reasonable, which is the approach taken by Madonnahamel when he says, There’s a difference between being anal and being professional.”

Flickr image credit: g_kat26

Quotable Quotes: Bertrand Russell on Fear

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Most of us live with one kind of fear or another, although few of us admit it. Fear often masquerades as something else—envy, arrogance, failure, success—to name just a few. Bertrand Russell provides interesting commentary on fear in it’s many guises.

“Fear makes man unwise in the three great departments of human conduct: his dealings with nature, his dealings with other men, and his dealings with himself.” This explains much of what’s going on in the world today.

Fear not only paralyzes us it builds in our minds until it’s many times its original size; as Russell points out, “Until you have admitted your own fears to yourself, and have guarded yourself by a difficult effort of will against their myth-making power, you cannot hope to think truly about many matters of great importance . . .” I would add that ‘of great importance’ doesn’t necessairly mean global in scope or world-changing—unless you mean your own little corner of the world.

These days superstition is rampant and cruelty—physical, mental and spiritual—abounds in epic proportions at every level of human intraction. It’s worse now than ever before because technology has shrunk the world, given a louder voice to these evils and muted what wisdom is available. Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom . . .

Envy is another form of fear; fear that someone has more, but as Russell points out there is always someone with more… “Envy consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations. If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, but Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed.”

Fear feeds off fear and can be overwhelming. Fear of technology is usually well masked, but it can be substantially diluted if you remember that technology is finite, while humans deal in the infinite. There will still be things that machines cannot do. They will not produce great art or great literature or great philosophy; they will not be able to discover the secret springs of happiness in the human heart; they will know nothing of love and friendship.”

Fear drives ideology, ideology preempts thought and not thinking kills or, as Russell said, “Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.”

Russell didn’t name it, but he had a wonderful take on ideology, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

Have a wonderful Sunday.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Expand Your Mind: Honesty and Authenticity

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Today’s articles are focused on executives, but, as usual, the content is applicable to all levels of management, as well as non-management.

Let’s start with a question; is it possible to effectively manage electronically? Research going back to the 1940s shows that it’s not.

Managing is not a science; it is a subtle and nuanced practice, learned mostly on the job, through paying close attention to gestures and tone of voice. (…) Information technology can and should expand your range of communication, but cannot be a substitute for interactions that build trust, share vision, and enhance community..

Next comes a pair of articles from Forbes.

The first uses recent happenings in the financial arena to illustrate how execs rationalize poor and downright unethical choices.

“But we humans have found ways to not feel so bad about it when we behave a certain way — we basically disconnect these self sanctions.” (…)”If you were to go to church or temple, that’s a moral domain. People tend to not think about business as a moral domain.” — David Mayer, management professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

The second looks at what companies can do to stop unethical behavior.

For leaders to establish those policies, they’re going to have to fear the consequences themselves. (…) By paying attention to how the environment affects our choices, people can begin to treat their ethics as a skill to develop and continue developing, even as students graduate, enter the workforce, and become executives.

Finally, how authentic can leaders feel if they are forced by society to live a lie? That is the question that gay executives face every day.

But [after two decades] Beth Brooke was growing tired of hiding, particularly after being tapped to head Ernst & Young’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: A Dose of Reality

Friday, July 27th, 2012

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mArthur Bart-Williams recently shared the story of his startup on Entrepreneur Thursday. He’s back today to share insights he got while attending a major Valley conference on innovation—insights to both the industry and his own path, so listen up and if the shoe fits…

You Can’t Get  Where You’re Going if You Don’t Know Where You Are

by Arthur Bart-Williams

First a little background, I’m a serial technology entrepreneur working on my fourth company.  My first one, ViaNovus, was around for over 12 years and had two incarnations before being acquired, and I’ve been working on the most recent one, Canogle, for almost two years.

I’m passionate about startups, consider myself to be a student of the process, and am very familiar with the entrepreneurial roller coaster ride.  And although I’ve done all of this while living in the Bay Area, I’ve never delved into the Silicon Valley culture and consider myself an outsider.

Thanks to some prodding I’ve started carving out time to spend at events around the Valley and attended the AlwaysOn 10th Annual Innovation Summit in Mountain View this week.

It was definitely worth the time, with great exposure to impressive people and relevant conversations, but I was surprised at how overwhelmed I felt.

At first I thought it must have been from the volume of information that was presented and discussed, but after some reflection I’m clear that it was from the realization that as hard as I’ve been working I’ve still got a steep hill to climb that seems taller than Mount Everest in order to achieve the success that I want.

It’s going to take a whole lot more than I thought to make the annual AlwaysOn Global 250 list.  While depressing at first, it helps to know where you are on whatever journey you’re on.

I’ve always done a decent job at getting out of the building for customer development; now I’m getting an appreciation of doing it for company development.

That said, here are a few takeaways from the conference:

  • Surprise, the future of media for consumers is mobile (an over $50 Billion market), but it is also transforming the user experience of applications in large enterprises as they compete and cater to a younger workforce.
  • Brands, businesses and organizations need to be educated on how to use mobile and social platforms effectively.   The shift from the web to mobile is as significant as from radio to TV, and the code is yet to be cracked.
  • A next phase in mobile development is a consolidation of the hundreds of thousands of apps that compete for users’ attention along with an emphasis on hyper-localization, contextual relevance of marketing and facilitating instant actions.

I’ll be happy to respond to any thoughts or questions you have, so don’t hesitate to share them in the comments.

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Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: the Value of Vacation

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Most people know the value of real vacations—the kind where you totally disconnect from work—at least hypothetically.

Workforce experts and top managers understand the benefits.

Today isn’t an effort to list or extol the benefits of real vacations in yet another effort to convince you.

Instead, I want to introduce you to FullContact, a company that took a page from Tony Hsieh’s management book and applied it to vacations.

As most of you know, Zappos offers a pays people to not work for them.

Zappos offers to pay new employees a $2,000 bonus, plus time worked, to quit after completing orientation.

FullContact takes a similar approach by paying for the actual vacation.

Here’s how it works: once per year, we give each employee $7500 to go on vacation.

There are a few rules:

  1. You have to go on vacation, or you don’t get the money.
  2. You must disconnect.
  3. You can’t work while on vacation.

While many startups may not be in a position to pay for vacations, every company can provide time off and enforce rules two and three.

Read CEO Bart Lorang’s rationale and think about how to get your own people to step back, disconnect and recharge.

You won’t regret it.

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Flickr image credit: FullContact

A Lesson in Capitals

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottiet812/3064819572/My client/friend, EMANIO CEO KG Charles-Harris, has been a guest poster here; he’s received several hat tips for sending links to information used in various posts and he just wracked up another one.

I’ve written before about the importance of details when writing; details like commas, periods and capitals.

But the note KG forwarded drives home the importance of capitals—unforgettably.

Miki, I received this from a friend who is an English Professor and thought you would appreciate it; it’s short and to the point.

In the world of hi-tech gadgetry, I’ve noticed that more and more people who send text messages and emails have long forgotten the art of capital letters.

For those of you who fall into this category, please take note of the following statement: “Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.”

Thanks, KG; graphic word imagery does get the point across, even to teens.

Flickr image credit: ScottieT812

Ducks in a Row: Too Much Innovation

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Increasing innovation is on every CEO’s mind these days no matter how hot their current product/service, because innovation is what’s necessary to ensure their company’s future success.

But is there such a thing as too much innovation?

Ever hear the phrase ‘too much of a good thing’?

Innovation is good, but too much can kill as quickly as too little.

For proof, consider the story of Lego, which, after 56 years of growth almost bankrupted itself by developing a total ‘culture of innovation’ based on expert thought and best practices.

Kirk Christiansen [CEO] and his leadership team adhered to nearly every one of the major principles that are widely prescribed by experts in launching its spate of innovation in 2000 (…) “LEGO followed all the advice of the experts and yet it almost went bankrupt.” –David Robertson, Wharton practice professor of operations and information management, who studied the company and has a new book documenting what happened.

In turning itself around Lego did not pull back from innovation, rather it organized and channeled it.

Management gave everyone from the sales force to the headquarters staff the capability to create and suggest new avenues for growth. But their ideas were put to the test: Any innovation had to prove to be consistent with the company goal of LEGO being recognized as the best company for family products.

Did the new approach work?

Consider the numbers over the last three years and you decide,

  • sales have gone up an average of 24% annually;
  • profits have grown 41%;
  • third largest manufacturer of play materials; and
  • is in more than 130 countries.

Lego is positive proof that best practices work only when managed and tailored for each individual situation—even though they are usually billed as “one size fits all.”

Flickr image credit: Benjamin Chun

Hate, Intolerance and Responsibility

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Anyone reading the news—local, national or global—knows that hate and intolerance are increasing at an alarming rate everywhere.

Also, because there have been/will be so many elections around the world this year ‘leadership’ is in the news even more so than usual.

What responsibility do leaders—business, political, religious, community—bear in fostering hate and intolerance?

A lot.

Not just the age old race and gender intolerance, but the I’m/we’re-RIGHT-so-you-should-do/think-our-way-or-else.

The ‘we’re right/you’re wrong’ attitude is as old as humanity and probably won’t ever change, but it’s the ‘do-it-our-way-or-else’ that shows the intolerance for what it really is.

And leaders aren’t helping; in fact, they are making it worse.

During my adult life (I missed being a Boomer by a hair) I’ve watched as hate and intolerance spread across the country masked by religion, a façade of political correctness or a mea culpa that is supposed to make everything OK, but doesn’t.

Various business, political, religious and community leaders give passionate, fiery talks to their followers and then express surprise and dismay when some of those same followers steal trade secrets, plant bombs, and kill individuals—whose only error was following their own beliefs.

We are no longer entitled to the pursuit of happiness if our happiness offends someone next door, the other end of the country, or the far side of the globe.

I remember Ann Rand saying in an interview that she believed that she had the right to be totally selfish, where upon the interviewer said that would give her freedom to kill.

Rand said absolutely not, in fact the reverse was true, since her selfishness couldn’t impinge anyone else’s right to be selfish.

Leaders aren’t responsible; we are because we go along with it—as did the Germans when Hitler led them down the hate and intolerance path.

That about sums up my attitude

What’s yours?

Image credit: Street Sign Generator

Quotable Quotes: Robert Fulghum

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Does the name Robert Fulghum sound familiar to you? No?

Does All I really need to know… I learned in kindergarten” ring a bell?

Robert Fulghum wrote that book and several others.

The first quote of his I remember seeing was decades ago on a poster in my sister’s home. It said, It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a bake-sale to buy a bomber.” True then and truer now.

He said something else that has been useful in keeping the downs of my life in perspective, “If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.” Fortunately, I’ve had very few problems in my life.

There are a lot of people who consider Fulghum ideas simplistic, but I find that his thoughts make sense and are easily applied to the workplace.

Think how much nicer your workplace would be if your colleagues, not to mention your boss, followed this advice, “Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.”

Bosses would do well to keep this bit of insight firmly in mind, since it applies equally well to your team, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

And the next time you’re looking for a way to jump-start your team’s creativity, consider tweaking this cogent advice, “If you want an interesting party sometime, combine cocktails and a fresh box of crayons for everyone.”

Finally, and most importantly, think how much nicer the world would be if corporations, governments, organizations and just plain people lived by these five words, “Clean up your own mess.”

Image credit: Wikipedia

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