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Archive for November, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Reality Check

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Do you remember Wordless Wednesday?

It was a thing on many blogs from around 2008 to 2011.

I’m feeling nostalgic, so I thought I’d bring it back — occasionally.

http://www.boredpanda.com/funny-signs-wallingford-chevron-gas-station-seattle-propane/Image credit: Bored Panda

Ducks in a Row: Amazon Finally Kills Its Forced Ranking.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/44412176@N05/4197328040/

Yesterday’s Golden Oldie referenced Jack Welch’s responsibility for the atrocious forced ranking system followed by so many large, and even not-so-large, companies.

… a review process known as “stack ranking” or “rank and yank” in which employees are rated against each other as opposed to how well they meet their job requirements. (…) Using it long-term tends to create a dog-eat-dog kind of culture.

That changed drastically under Jeff Immelt, GE’s current CEO, as described last year.

According to Raghu Krishnamoorthy, the head of GE’s in-house management school,

“Command and control is what Jack was famous for. Now it’s about connection and inspiration.

But not at Amazon, because Jeff Bezos walked in Welch’s shoes on many levels, including reviews.

… the review process was described like “choosing sacrificial lambs to protect more essential players.” (…) Bezos believed managers needed to raise the performance bar with every new hire so that the only employees that rise through the company would be the ones considered exceptional.

Until last year.

There is nothing like public embarrassment (humiliation?) via the New York Times to encourage rethinking one’s actions.

It took a more than a year, but Amazon is finally changing its review process.

Bezos is slow; Microsoft ditched it in 2015 and Marissa Mayer never managed to implement it, although she did try.

Amazing how it’s only taken 30+ years for management to figure out that setting employee against employee does not foster teamwork.

All I can say is, “Duh.”

Image credit: gorfor

Golden Oldies: Mr. Welch, I respectfully disagree…

Monday, November 28th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I’ve changed a lot since I wrote this in 2006, as has the world. For one thing, if I was writing it today I wouldn’t say “respectfully.” I don’t respect Welch or consider him a sterling example of either management or leadership. Under his watch, GE profits soared — generated by the financial engineering employed by GE Financial.

Welch instigated a review system based on forced rankings resulting in a culture of fear and mistrust, which spread through major corporations like the flu, damaging moral and trashing talent. And he believes that careers take precedence over family, marriage and life in general. If you are a boss in the 21st Century he is definitely not a role model.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Today I take my (professional) life in my hands and disagree with an icon. Jack and Suzy Welch write a column in Business Week called, “Ideas The Welch Way” that I’ve been ambivalent about since its inception. Jack Welch is one of the gods of the business Parthenon and for a “nobody” to publicly disagree with him—well, fools rush in and all that.

The July 17 column is about what HR is and should be. My disagreement is that they seem to feel that HR should orchestrate, and even do, line management’s job. In the second paragraph they say, “Look, HR should be every company’s killer app. What could possibly be more important than who gets hired, developed, promoted, or moved out the door?”

Agreed, nothing is more important; those four actions are critical, but there is no way that the most brilliant HR person can make the call on any of them. They are neither close enough to the day-to-day actions of each department or knowledgeable enough of the work and its technical requirements to determine

  • what skills should be strengthened or what skills-hole needs to be plugged most urgently based on upcoming projects;
  • the subtle competence, latent leadership or intuitive flashes of brilliance that would bloom with effort—or what efforts would produce the best growth;
  • the level and quality of leadership and interpersonal skills in action;
  • whether/when to terminate (unless the company uses some variety of forced ranking, a practice I really detest!)

These are not only the responsibility and decisions of line managers—it’s what they’re paid for!

I’m not saying that top flight HR can’t play a real role in a company’s success. I am saying that it can’t substitute for excellent managers and that the smaller the company the less need for HR talent or, in many cases, any HR beyond benefits administration.

Look, without people there is no such entity as a company (Welch and I agree on that). In my headhunting years I saw stars at all levels change companies and dim under different management; by the same token, I’ve seen people who were terminated for poor performance become internally (and externally) recognized stars under different management.

It’s great line managers at all levels that attract and retain talent.

Managers are the reason that

  • within the same company (or division) one department has high turnover while another doesn’t;
  • within a department one manager promotes from within and fills her openings while another doesn’t.

It’s managers that raise productivity, promote innovation, and set the company on the road to success.

And it’s the CEO, supported by his senior staff, which, as Welch says, should include HR, that is the font of the culture that allows and encourages all this to happen.

Happy Turkey Day!

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Today’s the day and I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!
I hope you enjoy every minute of it with people you adore and, since holiday calories don’t count, feel free to gobble ‘til you wobble. And…

FB TurkeyMay your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have never a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

That said, Christmas is just around the corner, so the more you farctate today the less you can in December.

An Oldie for the Day Before: Life, Kindness And Thanksgiving Wishes

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

From 2008…

I’m a bit ambivalent about Thanksgiving along with many other holidays, such as Mother’s Day. While I understand and even agree with the idea of honoring a certain attitude, it seems hypocritical when it’s done only on that day.

Sadly, many of the people most vocal about a holiday are the same people whose actions during the rest of the year belie their holiday attitudes.

That said, here are my suggestions regarding Thanksgiving.

No matter how bad things are in your corner of the world give thanks that you are alive to read this. As long as you’re breathing you have a shot at changing your circumstances or improving someone else’s.

Several years ago I had a terminally ill friend. Her final Thanksgiving act was to sign papers consigning all her useable body parts to an organ donor program; she died just a few days later.

Her action infuriated her family, but she had made sure they couldn’t stop her choice.

Which brings us to my second suggestion.

Remember the words of Plato, “Always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle,” and follow the advice of Anne Herbert, “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” daily.

Get in the habit of doing one small, unplanned thing every day—drop a quarter in an about-to-expire meter; pick up a piece of litter; help someone across the street. Just think of the difference if everyone did just one random act every day.

Have a wonderful day tomorrow and remember this special request from your turkey friends.

turkey-ham

My First Thanksgiving Post

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

From 2006. Food for thought this holiday (AKA Miki’s Rules to Live by 8)

Don’t judge who you were and what you did in the past based on who you are and what you know now.

Think about it.

Everybody knows that hindsight’s 20/20, but that doesn’t stop people from laying a coulda//shoulda/woulda trip on themselves.

Each of us is composed of multiple, past “me-s,” each a different, stand-alone version from the current one.

When you look at past actions (Why did I…) you need to first ask yourself if you made the best decision/action possible based on the information you had at the time in conjunction with the person you were at that time.

If, in fact, you did, then the you you-are-now has no right to judge, i.e., beat up on, the previous you for that decision.

This doesn’t mean that you need to condone everything—today’s you may decide that in the future you should do more research or whatever—but it does preclude you from taking your former self to task.

*******************************************

Thanksgiving is a time when we’re supposed to be thankful, but exactly what you give thanks for is a very private matter—I have one friend who gives thanks for her family, another who gives thanks that her family is far, far away.

So, no matter your age, when giving thanks be sure to include all the past you-s, whether you love ’em or hate ’em, since their very existence guarantees that there will be many more in the future as you continue growing.

Golden Oldies: All Week Long

Monday, November 21st, 2016

That’s right; all week. I’m taking the week off to get stuff done — some of which should have been done months ago.

Rather than leaving you with nothing to do (that’s a joke), I thought I’d provide a week of past Thanksgiving posts. Some are for fun, but, hopefully, others will prove thought-provoking.

Today’s is called Getting through an F Day.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

forkDid you know Thanksgiving is an F day?

There are five Fs that come immediately to mind, they are fun, family, friends, food and football.

Of those five only one comes close to being guaranteed good and that’s food, but even food isn’t a given. There was the year that my host’s two Siamese cats stole the turkey—dragged it off the platter, dropped it to the floor, dragged it across an Aubusson carpet and were on the way out one door when I entered another.

Football often depends on whether your team wins, although a good game, as opposed to a romp, can make the difference.

Friends are often a better bet than family since you can pick and choose, but that only works if you’re the host. One friend always invited two people he knew would ignite—one year it was an Arab and an Israeli just after the Six Day War. Talk about fireworks, more like bombs.

Then, of course, there is family. Family is family and blood may be thicker than water, but that doesn’t mean putting the family together in one room will always generate sweetness and light—too often there is a large dose of vinegar and sour grapes. It’s said that leopards don’t change their spots and neither do family members. If they are difficult or you can’t stand them 364 days of the years, they won’t change for the 365th day.

Fun depends either on the first four or your ability to take a step back and laugh—at the food, the game, your friends, your family and, most of all, yourself.

Laughter is the balm that soothes a holiday rash; apply liberally and often.

Image credit: auntjojo on flickr

If the Shoe Fits: Lessons From 178 Failed Startups

Friday, November 18th, 2016

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mYesterday we looked at how dangerous it is to substitute what-we-wish for what-really-is and I promised you a look at startups that died as a result.

Which is what I’m going to do, but not by reinventing the wheel (there’s enough of that without a contribution from me,)

CB Insights put together a great list of 178 failed startups — why they failed as told by their founders or, occasionally, an investor — including links to the full articles.

I hope you take the time to read through, especially those that parallel your own markets, circumstances, etc.

Save the list as a reference; the lessons learned could keep you from stepping in the poo now or somewhere down the road.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Reality vs. Wishful thinking

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ky_olsen/3133347219/

For years I’ve interacted with entrepreneurs from the US and other countries. And while they have many traits in common, there is one that never ceases to amaze me — their approach to their users.

Maybe ‘approach’ is the wrong word; perhaps attitude or interpretation or wishful thinking is closer.

Your users are who they are, not who you want them to be.

That means it doesn’t matter if you/your friends/peers think it’s cool.

Or that you/your friends/peers like the style/fashion/etc.

That’s why Lean Methodology says to get out of your office, your comfort zone, and talk to your market.

Actually, rather than talking, you should listen to your market.

Truly listen.

Hear what they are really saying, instead of hearing what you want to hear.

Doing the latter has sunk many a startup.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for a look at some of them.

Image credit: Ky

Miki’s rules to Live By: Mastering Your Spoken Word

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottchene/7330424504/Words are incredibly powerful.

If you’ve ever doubted that the recent election is absolute proof.

Words reflect who you are.

Words can bring people together or drive them apart.

Words can wound or empathize; they can build or destroy.

You are the only person responsible for your words, there is no way to pass the blame for things you say — or don’t say.

Knowing that, I kept these Anon quotes foremost in my mind, until they became unconscious habit.

The first

Be quicker of mind than of tongue.

leads directly to the second

I am the master of my unspoken words and a slave to those that should have remained unspoken.

There is a third, that is far less eloquent, but sums things up nicely.

Be sure to start brain before putting mouth in gear.

Image credit: TRF_Mr_Hyde

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