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Archive for May, 2013

If the Shoe Fits: Compensation Fairness

Friday, May 31st, 2013

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


      1. How fair is your company’s compensation plan?
      2. Do you have a compensation plan for both salary and stock?
      3. Do you pay your “stars” more, whether cash, stock or both?
      4. Do you offer it to lure them in the door?

If you answer ‘yes’ to questions 3 and 4 then you must answer ‘no’ to 1 and 2.

Winging it with no plan is a major ingredient of financial disaster.

Offering high salaries and/or giant stock options before knowing how well a person will perform at your startup is a recipe for talent disaster—history may not accurately predict the future.

One of the key determinants of satisfaction — or dissatisfaction — with compensation is how employees feel their pay package compares to others, according to Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell. “No doubt if somebody thinks he or she is doing the same work as another who is paid a lot more, this leads to resentment and ultimately to disengagement.”

And the last thing you need in a startup is resentment and disengagement.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Expanding Your Market and Talent Pool

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/3249165942/This post is for entrepreneurs (and thinking people everywhere).

If you aren’t actively working to engage the fastest growing segment of users you are missing a very large boat—seniors.

According to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, from 2002 to 2012 senior users increased 16% each year, while those 30-49 increased only 3% a year; research from Pew backs this up.

52% of wired boomers are using social networking sites. 32% of online seniors over 65 are using social networking sites. 57% of boomer Internet users are using Facebook, along with 35% of online seniors.

Those are hefty numbers and growing and their social media use is growing even faster. They also have financial resources that many under-30 don’t have.

Women are the other powerful market force that is often ignored, so those startups run by, and (benefit of the doubt) unconsciously for, men, may want to think again.

A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family…

That’s money, honey.

Not only money, but talent. Yesterday we looked at the legal dangers of not hiring women, but that almost pales in comparison to the lost talent and productivity inherent in not hiring/promoting women.

Warren Buffett stated cause and effect elegantly and effectively.

Cause: But an even greater enemy of change may well be the ingrained attitudes of those who simply can’t imagine a world different from the one they’ve lived in.

Effect: The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be. We’ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. If you visualize what 100% can do…

Flickr image credit: jeff_golden

The Danger of Denial

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

www.flickr.com/photos/livenature/211469544/Ask any working woman (or gay/lesbian or person of color) and they will tell you that discrimination is alive and well.

Ask their executive bosses and they will tell you that’s true, but not at their company.

In other words, “they” discriminate, “we” don’t.

Or, as Jonathan Segal, partner at the law firm Duane Morris LLP so aptly puts it.

We all know there is unconscious bias. It’s just others who have it. We all know there are Boys’ Clubs. It’s at the company next door.

It’s hard for many people to believe that their organization could have a Boys’ Club. That they could be part of a Boys’ Club is inconceivable because it is inconsistent with how they see themselves.

In some ways, such denial is not unlike the denial of addiction. The first step in recovery is acknowledging the problem. The first step toward dismantling a Boys’ Club is to acknowledge it may exist.

Of course, that denial only lasts until you are sued.

Flickr image credit: Franco Folini

Ducks in a Row: Hiring Outside the Box

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

www.flickr.com/photos/33037982@N04/3531601717/If your focus is to foster innovation you are unlikely to do it by hiring in your comfort zone.

Tech managers around the country are whining about the lack of available talent, because they ignore those caught in the 2008 crash and those who don’t fit the typical profile.

Autistic people are so far outside the box that the idea won’t even cross most managers’ minds, but it’s crossing the smartest—including SAP.

“By concentrating on the abilities that every talent brings to the table, we can redefine the way we manage diverse talents. With Specialisterne, we share a common belief that innovation comes from the ‘edges.’ Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st century.” –Luisa Delgado, SAP human resources chief

When hiring you have a choice.

You can chase the same people as everyone else or you can turn your back on the tried and comfortable; there is an enormous amount of talent just lying around for the taking.

At least there is for the good managers who understand that their real job is to build, develop and support their people.

Flickr image credit: wallygrom

Memorial Day 2013

Monday, May 27th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28122162@N04/5777171060/This Memorial Day I thought I’d share links to favorite past posts.

Memorial Day 2012 links you to a look at vets and entrepreneurship.

Memorial Day 2011 shares a poem on who provides the basis of your life, no matter your beliefs or ideology.

Heroes and Memorial Day 2010 looks at fools, with my father as the example.

Memorial Day: Now And Future 2009 takes a graphic look at a future I’m sure I won’t live to see.

And while you’re enjoying yourself today, take a moment and give thought to all those who made it possible to enjoy the sales, food, beer and whatever else you indulge in today.

As a sign near me says, “The home of the free because of the brave.”

Flickr image credit: vladeb

If the Shoe Fits: Servant Leadership

Friday, May 24th, 2013

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mJim Heskett, Baker Foundation Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School is my favorite brain at HBS Working Knowledge (if you don’t already subscribe, you should).

His postings are designed to stimulate discussion from a diverse and intelligent audience.

Most recently he asked why, since “servant leadership” has proved to be highly productive and valuable to both the organization and the person practicing it, it wasn’t seen more frequently.

(Many people like to infuse “servant leadership” with a religious theme, but that isn’t its source.)

Although Heskett was focused on CEOs, the conversation applies to everybody in a so-called leadership position, i.e., bosses.

Reading through some of the 116 comments, number 11, from Phillip Clark, Clark & Associates, caught my eye—probably because it perfectly summed up my own crotchety thoughts; he even ends his comment with one of my favorite lines.

Rather than write my own version, I thought I’d share his in its entirety.

Ego and Stupidity to put it bluntly stands in the way of having more servant leadership in the workplace. Normally, I am not so blunt but after 50 years in the workforce I am becoming old and crotchety about this discussion.

Let’s look at the issue. The “I’m more important than you” leadership usually limits performance and innovation because everything goes through a single control point the leader. The leader has to be always informed, has to give permission, always has “the best ideas” and focuses only on performance goals that make him, not necessarily the company, look good. That creates a huge bottleneck on the performance of the leader’s employees.

A servant leader, focused on getting the most from his or her employees, empowers and trains their employees to do their job, without the “mother may I” albatross hanging around their neck. The servant leader sends the employees working on the project to meetings and links them with resources to do their job. That way the employees can do their job without having to go through the single choke point “the leader”. This type of leader is not loaded with meetings because his or her staff are doing the job. It no longer is about ego but performance. What really is an eye opener is seeing the servant leaders influence explode throughout an organization since they seem to be everywhere. When really it is their influence being expressed by their entire staff at multiple points in the organization at the same time. Bottom line…hire right, support effectively, expect performance….and you will get it.

As a leader…do not become the choke point in your organization. How can you tell? Are you going to too many meetings where you have to follow-up and pass information to others? Are you overworked with too many interruptions from employees? Are you demanding deadlines to meet goals instead of having work appear on your desk completed? Are your employees happy and getting promoted? If not, take a close look in the mirror.

Which kind of leader are you?

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Laughing at Yourself

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/4010986340/Laughing at yourself is often not high on entrepreneurs list of life skills, but it’s an important one to learn.

It used to be called “standing on your dignity;” I’ve written about getting off it before, but these days it seems there are more people standing on theirs.

There is a major difference between being laughed at and doing the laughing.

It’s an age-old dichotomy.

If someone else slips on a banana peel it’s hilarious (think AFV), but if “I” slip it’s harder to see the humor.

This is especially true when the venue moves to the workplace.

“I” may find it pretty funny if a colleague sticks his metaphoric foot in it, but those feelings are different if it’s “my” foot.

Whether you’re afraid of losing respect, like my client in the post referenced above, angry, or just plain embarrassed, learning to laugh is the best solution.

Laughter defuses anger and nullifies embarrassment; as to respect, the ability to laugh at oneself increases it.

If you’re the boss, it makes you more approachable, builds trust and has a strong motivational factor.

Laughter offers major health benefits and being able to laugh at yourself, whether in public or in private, means you will always be entertained.

What it comes down to is that you can’t lose by learning to laugh at yourself.

Flickr image credit: Brett Jordan

Are You an Original or a Copy?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Are you and original or crowdsourced?

I’ve always been an original, much to my family’s consternation when I was growing up and to friends, bosses and colleagues since.

Being an original isn’t the easy way to go. It’s far more comfortable to be a copy; to follow without question the ideology, religion, parents, friends—anyone or anything that takes away the fear of making the wrong choice.

I don’t remember feeling scared as I careened through my early life taking sometimes crazy risks, but never without doing worst case analysis first.

I even adopted Frank Sinatra’s My Way as my personal theme.


For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

Do you have a theme for your life?

YouTube credit: Mukhran

Ducks in a Row: Remedial Orientation

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

I managed over 12,000 people at Groupon, most under the age of 25. One thing that surprised me was that many would arrive at orientation with minimal understanding of basic business wisdom. “Haven’t you read any business books? Good to Great? Winning? The One Minute Manager?” I’d ask. “Business books? Not really our thing,” was the typical response. I came to realize that there was a real need to present business wisdom in a format that is more accessible to the younger generation. Andrew Mason

www.flickr.com/photos/akandbdl/4929956813/While “most under the age of 25. (…) arrive at orientation with minimal understanding of basic business wisdom”  surprised ousted Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, it probably doesn’t surprise most seasoned managers.

Managers have always assumed there was a general business learning curve when hiring new grads, but what has changed is how steep it’s become.

One exasperated manager described it as “remedial orientation”—from showing up on time every day looking presentable, being ready to work and paying attention during meetings to not wearing an iPod/checking Facebook/playing Angry Birds in front of customers—much of what used to come under the heading of ‘common courtesy’ and ‘basic living skills’.

Mason’s solution is recording a “seven-song album of motivational business music.”

Reading business books has never been high on the list of most 22-year-olds, so what has changed?

My own view is that most of the time the need for remedial orientation can be traced back to parents and how they chose to raise their kids.

Flickr image credit: Keith Laverack

Career Risk

Monday, May 20th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/7970510990/There are many ways of taking a career risk besides making over-the-top bets for a financial business or starting a company.

Risk may be easier to spot these days, because decisions are no longer personal; more often they are crowdsourced, whether that means your spouse, close friends or 500 LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook connections.

While spotting risk may be easier, evaluating that risk is much harder, because determining whether a risk is worth taking can’t be crowdsourced.

The best way to decide whether to take a risk or not is through worst case analysis, i.e., think about the absolute worst thing that could happen if you do it. Then think through whether and how you would deal with that result. If you can handle the worst result you go forward; if it’s too much you go back to the planning board.

It used to work every time, but these days fewer and fewer people are willing to think independently, so the input you get is unconsciously based on whether that person could handle the worst case result.

But they aren’t you.

Consider Beth Comstock, currently senior vice president and chief marketing officer at General Electric, who took a major risk that put her on the path to where she is today.

“I was at CBS, and it was rocking,” she said. Then she got a call from NBC, her former boss, offering her a position that involved being responsible for media relations and marketing in the news division. “I think the job had been available for a year. News was not doing well anywhere…. People were saying, ‘Why are you doing this?’ It seemed like career suicide.”

The ability to perform worst case analysis clearly, sans rationalizations, means you need to take time to accurately know yourself—not just the self you project to others.

Only you live inside your head and only you knows what really goes on there.

Flickr image credit: Michael Coghlan

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