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Golden Oldies: Incentive Doubleheader

Monday, July 24th, 2017

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 are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Companies constantly talk about what they are doing to incentivize productivity and innovation. Incentives are supposed to help drive performance. Recognition is very important as are financial rewards — as long as they are seen as fair. If not, they act more as disincentives, as seen in the first post.

The second focuses on sales incentives.Maximizing revenue generation, AKA, sales, is a top priority for every business, from micro startups through the Fortune 10. Commissions have always played a significant role incentivizing salespeople  — until they don’t.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

The Reward Should Fit the Act

1095615_success_wayAre you familiar with the saying “let the punishment fit the crime?”

It’s a valid approach, but it’s just as true that the reward should fit the action.

A friend of mine works for a Fortune 1000 company in a tech support role. He’s well respected lead tech in his group.

Last year he developed an idea on his own time and gave it to his company.

As a result, he was flown to annual dinner and presented with an award and a $5000 bonus.

Sound impressive?

His idea will save his company $5 million or more each year.

Still impressed?

My friend isn’t.

He has a friend who is very impressed, but that’s because his company doe nothing; no recognition whatsoever.

My friend feels that a $5K reward for saving the company $5M or more every year, while being better than nothing, is still just short of an insult.

Other than being disappointed what’s the fallout?

He likes his job and his boss, so he’s not planning on leaving, but…

He has another idea that he’s not going to bother developing.

He’s still one of the most productive people they have, but that extra edge is gone.

What do you think his employer should have done?

Join me tomorrow for another look at how, to quote another old saying, companies keep cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

Image credit: dinny

 

Ducks in a Row: Incentive Stupidity Knows No Bounds

http://www.flickr.com/photos/finsec/354260437/Yesterday I told you how a company squashed my friend’s initiative by giving him a bonus that had no relationship to the value he provided them in annual savings.

This reminded me of something that happened back in the early 1980s when sales was truly dependent on the skill, relationships and reputations of salespeople.

Another guy friend, another incredibly stupid company.

In a nutshell,

  • Guy outsold every salesperson both internally and at the competition. He had years of experience; relationships with customers that didn’t quit and unmatched skill at understanding customers and convincing them that his company (whichever it was) had the best solution available.
  • One day guy was called into the CFOs office and told that his commission was being capped.
  • He was on track to earn more than the president and that was unacceptable; he asked if they were sure that was the only solution and told yes.
  • Guy proceeded to write a resignation letter on a sheet of paper he borrowed from the CFO.
  • He left the offices without speaking to anyone.
  • By the time he reached home there were three name-your-own-terms offers from competitors on his voicemail.
  • He started with his new company the next day.

Over the years I’ve found that actions like these usually come from the company’s bean counters. (In this instance, ‘bean counters’ is definitely a derogatory term.)

Apparently, some bean counters involved never learned to do the math.

In both cases the actual cost was zero, since they were funded from direct actions well beyond anything expected of the employees involved.

The lesson here is that you never cap a commission and the reward for saving $5 million annually should be at least 1% of one year ($50,000) as opposed to .001% ($5,000).

I realize it’s difficult for some financial types, executives and managers to understand, but that is why bonuses and commissions are called incentives—not disincentives.

Image credit: Finsec

Golden Oldies: Leaders, Leaders Everywhere, But Which Ones Should You Follow?

Monday, July 17th, 2017

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 are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Considering the accusations/confessions, resignations, terminations, mea culpas, etc., I thought this post from 2009 and its supporting links should be front and center once again, since nothing has changed in the intervening eight years.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Oh goody. Another CEO study. I haven’t seen the study, but David Brooks (NY Times) gives an overview (whatever you do, don’t miss the comments), while Dan McCarthy (Great Leadership laments the fascination with such studies.

I pretty much ignore them, except for their amusement value—sort of like all the food studies that tell us which food that was recommended last year will kill us this year.

Speaking of which, I wish someone would do a study like that on CEOs.

A ranking of CEOs who were lauded for x amount of time before they crashed and burned for the same traits that were their supposed strengths.

And a corollary ranking of all the pundits, gurus and executive coaches who did the lauding and how many have come forward to apologize for mistaking hubris for competence.

Of course, that would be a very long list.

Image credit: Beeeeezzz on flickr

Golden Oldies: Hiring Newbies

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

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 are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I wrote this post four years ago; the problem wasn’t new then and its gotten progressively worse since.

People today, not just Millennials and not all Millenials, don’t communicate well. People at all ages and levels, including CEOs are poor commicators — and if you doubt that, take a look at Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s speech at the town hall meeting after the Amazon acquisition. Written communications aren’t much of an improvement, even ignoring grammar and spelling errors, they often have little clarity, flow, or even coherence.

Texting has resulted in still worse writing, especially as people disperse with details like capital letters that can totally change the meaning.

“Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.”

And thanks to the overall focus on STEM education you can expect it to get even worse.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/evoo73/9140462500/Do you groan at the thought of having to hire and manage new-to-the-workforce people?

Do you wonder what’s wrong with today’s college graduates?

If so, remember two things.

  1. The problems are not a product of your imagination.
  2. You are not alone.

Multiple studies find the same problems I hear first-hand from managers.

“When it comes to the skills most needed by employers, job candidates are lacking most in written and oral communication skills, adaptability and managing multiple priorities, and making decisions and problem solving.”  –special report by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace

“Problems with collaboration, interpersonal skills, the ability to deal with ambiguity, flexibility and professionalism.” –Mara Swan, the executive vice president of global strategy and talent at Manpower Group

What’s changed?

Helicopter parents, crowdsourced decisions, me/my world focus, and the constant noise that prevents thinking.

The result is that many new hires require remedial actions from already overloaded mangers that go well beyond the professional growth coaching that typifies the best managers.

Flickr image credit: evoo73

Golden Oldies: Does Education = Thinking?

Monday, June 26th, 2017

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 are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

With the rise of tech and AI, there’s a big question on what education will give kids a leg up in the future. Pundits and media focus almost exclusively on STEM to boost career opportunities, but is STEM really the answer? What should Gen Z and the following generations study now to assure themselves of a career path in the future? And what is the downside of continuing our current approach?

Join me tomorrow for a look at the kind of education that solves the future, while assuring the continuation of our democracy.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeanlouis_zimmermann/3042615083/Today I have a question for you, what is the real point of education?

Bill Gates emphasizes “work-related learning, arguing that education investment should be aimed at academic disciplines and departments that are “well-correlated to areas that actually produce jobs.””

Steve Jobs says, “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing…”

So is the end goal of education to provide the knowledge, skills and tools to work or to teach critical thinking.

The choice is likely to be described as pragmatic and based on available funding.

Years ago a successful business executive I know commented that if people had full bellies, a job and a bit left over to see a movie now and then at the time of the election, then the party in power would be reelected, but if the reverse was happening they would “throw the bums out.”

There are more sinister reasons to find a positive way to avoid graduating legions of critical thinkers.

  • Non-thinkers don’t make waves.
  • Non-thinkers follow the pack.
  • Non-thinkers are easier to control.
  • Thinkers are more creative and innovative.
  • Thinkers are more likely to reject ideology.
  • Thinkers are more willing to take risks.

You have only to look at what is going on in the world to see the effects of an empty belly and education, formal or not, grounded in questions, not answers.

What do you think?

Flickr image credit: jean-louis Zimmermann

Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Wave Deafness

Monday, June 19th, 2017

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 are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

When I wrote this originally it was aimed directly at entrepreneurs, especially the ones who don’t seem to hear their people very often — if at all.

Coming across it five years later I decided it’s so apropos across the board that it definitely qualified as a golden oldie.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mLast year I wrote about Tony Hsieh’s approach to employee empowerment, featuring some great quotes from him.

As I said then, the thing that sets Hsieh apart is security.

Hsieh is comfortable in his own skin; secure in his own competency and limitations, so he doesn’t need to be the font from which all else flows.

Entrepreneurs can learn from this.

Startup hiring usually comes in waves as the company progresses.

While most founders will listen to their initial team and first few hires, those hired later often find it difficult to get their ideas heard.

Unfortunately, this behavior often sets a pattern, with the ideas and comments of each successive wave becoming fainter and fainter and those employees less and less engaged—and that translates to them caring less and less about your company’s success—call it wave deafness.

Wave deafness is costly.

Costly in productivity and passion, but even more costly in lost opportunities.

As Hsieh points out, there is no way he can think of as many good ideas as are produced if each employee has just one good idea in a year.

And not just from certain positions. I never heard of a manager, let alone a founder, admit to hiring dummies for any position, no matter the level.

So if you hire smart people and don’t listen to them, who is the dummy?

Image credit: HikingArtist

Golden Oldies: Quotable Quotes: Memorial Day Mondegreens

Monday, May 29th, 2017

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.

Even more amazing, the funny ones are still funny. I lived for 25 years in San Francisco and read the SF Chronicle and Jon Carroll regularly, which is where I learned about Mondegreens. My own personal Mondegreen is the “pickled bass” (i.e., fickele past) in the chorus of Cross Over The Bridge,

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

Read other Golden Oldies here.

I thought I’d share some Memorial Day appropriate fun with you today and get serious tomorrow. I’ve written about palindromes (no relation to Sarah) and I’m sure I will again, but today I have three patriotic mondegreens courtesy of Jon Carroll.

In a nutshell, a mondegreen is a mishearing of song lyrics—as you might guess, kids are a great source of them.

The term was coined by Sylvia Wright in 1954 when she wrote about a song she heard as “Ye highlands and ye lowlands/Oh where hae you been/They hae slay the Earl of Murray/And Lady Mondegreen,” only to learn years later that it was actually, “They hae slay the Earl of Murray/And laid him on the green.”

So here are three to help launch your Memorial Day celebration.

I love this first one, it could be the start of a new oath for people who take jobs on Wall Street.“I led the pigeons to the flag” (for “I pledge allegiance…)

Next, is a possible opening line for a song about Congress, “Oh, beautiful, for spaceship guys,” only it might be more accurate if it was ‘oh, beautiul, for spacy guys…’

This final offering has to be the product of a hungry five-year-old, “America, America, God is Chef Boyardee.”

For more mondegreens be sure to use the link above.

Image credit: Visa Kopu

Please share your own Mondegreens below.

Golden Oldies: ­­­Pssst, Want A Leadership Silver Bullet?

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

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 some of the best posts during that time.

I always find it strange that a post this old (2006) doesn’t need updating to be relevant — but it doesn’t. Nothing has changed. You are still the closest thing to a silver bullet that you’re going to find and it’s still all in your mind.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

These days (especially these days) managers spend time, energy and money (their company’s and their own) in an effort to move from manager to ‘leader’. They study examples and best practices, read books, attend seminars and classes, take advanced degrees, check out software, turn to the spiritual (if so inclined)—you name it, someone’s tried it.

Everywhere you turn you hear/read about how you need to be a ‘leader’ to get ahead, otherwise you’ll end up a <gasp> follower.

You probably won’t believe me if I say that the basic premise is bunk.

The dream is to find a silver bullet—all you need to do is say/do THIS—but it ain’t gonna happen.

But here’s the well kept secret—you already possess the closest thing to a silver bullet that exists and it’s all in your mind.

That’s right, it’s your MAP and, like a snowflake, it’s totally unique—yours, and yours alone.

And the magic that turns the bullet from lead to silver is your ability to consciously choose to change your MAP through your own awareness.

How cool is that? The very thing that frees you to soar and it’s not only yours, but also within your control.

Who could ask for anything more?

So never forget!

You are the silver bullet!

Image credit: ijm2007

Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Making Your Company Socially Responsible

Monday, May 15th, 2017

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 some of the best posts during that time.

I wrote this in 2012 with high hopes that more bosses would move in Chris’ direction, with an eye to making their workplaces more socially responsible and individuals more aware of the world outside their little corner of it. Sadly, the importance of ‘me’ has grown considerably, dwarfing, at least in the media, those who strive to move beyond that narrow focus.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mI met an interesting guy over the holiday.

“Chris” has a small startup in the financial services sector and is starting to gain traction.

He said it’s been an uphill battle and that he wishes he had spent the same energy doing something “socially responsible,” because it would be a lot more satisfying.

I’ve heard similar comments from other entrepreneurs and small biz owners.

Happily, this is one of those times it is possible to “have it all,” because all it takes is changing the way you look at the world.

Having a socially responsible business doesn’t require a focus on solving social ills and it certainly doesn’t mean forgoing profit—without profit your business won’t be around.

It does mean running your business in a responsible manner

  • pricing fairly, passing on savings whenever possible and never gouging
  • fair wages and other compensation
  • fair employee treatment (not playing favorites, etc.)
  • reducing your carbon footprint
  • community involvement and contributing whenever possible; and
  • believing that it’s not all about you.

None of this is rocket science and all of it makes good, profitable, business sense.

In fact, Chris and others who feel the pull to help fix the world would do well to read Richard Branson’s Screw Business As Usual to see how others are ‘doing well by doing good’.

Note: the unseen pause is between ‘screw’ and ‘business’, not between ‘business’ and ‘as’,

Image credit: HikingArtist

Golden Oldies: Discriminating Leadership and Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Monday, May 8th, 2017

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 some of the best posts during that time.

This week is a two-fer, the first post was written in 2009, while the second is from 2015. Both contain links to other relevant posts. And both address a pet peeve of mine involving words — what else — their use, misuse and baggage.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Discriminating Leadership

The ability to influence is not the sign of a leader; nor are visions, forceful opinions, board seats, titles or popularity. After all, if a high media profile was a sign of leadership then Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are leaders.

Millions of people are influenced and even inspired by writers and actors, but does that make them leaders? Angelina Jolie is considered a leader for her tireless charitable efforts as opposed to her screen credits; Rush Limbaugh may influence thousands, but I’ve never heard him called a leader.

It is the singular accomplishments; the unique actions that deserve the term, not the position you hold or just doing your job.

I knew a manager who thought his major accomplishment was managing his 100 person organization, but that wasn’t an accomplishment—that was his job. The accomplishment, and what qualified him as a leader, was doing it for four years with 3% turnover and every project finished on time and in budget.

Jim Stroup over at Managing Leadership (no longer available) wrote, “There is a strong and general instinct to ascribe positive values to what we have determined to be examples of leadership. In a world that so often confuses forcefulness with leadership, this can be – and frequently is, in fact, revealed to be – an exceedingly dangerous habit… There is a particularly frustrating – and increasing – tendency to characterize any practice or trait deemed “good” as “leadership.” When an executive exhibits behavior that is highly valued – or even expresses a perfectly ordinary one especially well – he or she is declared to be a “leader,” or to have demonstrated “leadership.”

Dozens of corporate chieftains who were held up for years as exemplifying visionary leadership now stand in line for bailout money—or dinner in jail.

There is no way to stop the word being used and abused, but you have the option to hear it for what it really is—a word with no baggage, no assumed meaning.

A word on which you focus your critical thinking instead of accepting it blindly, assuming that all its traits are positive or rejecting it based on nothing more than ideology.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aafromaa/4476152633Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Last week I had lunch with four managers, “Larry,” “Mandy,” “Paul” and “Ashish.” At one point the conversation turned to how the ability to influence people affected the ability to lead.

It was a lively conversation, but I stayed on the sidelines; noticing my silence, Ashish asked me what I thought.

Instead of responding I asked all of them what the difference was between influence, persuasion and manipulation.

This provoked another active discussion, with the upshot that while it was acceptable to influence people it was wrong to manipulate them. This time it was Mandy who asked what I thought.

I responded that I didn’t see a lot of difference between the three.

That shocked them all, but really upset Larry.

So I explained my thinking, which formed the basis of this post in 2011.

Influence = Manipulation

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

leaders are not by definition “good;”

they aren’t always positive role models; and

one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do [whatever] who are you to say that both the short and long-term outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

In spite of the heated disagreement I saw no reason to change my thinking.

I was surprised at the end of the discussion when even Larry commented that while it made sense that the words didn’t actually signal intent he still didn’t like it and wasn’t about to use them interchangeably, which made sense to me, because language carries the meaning (and the baggage) of the time and place in which it’s used.

Image credit: Anne Adrian

Golden Oldie: When Execution is an Anagram of the Act

Monday, May 1st, 2017

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 some of the best posts during that time.

Often the most important stuff we need to learn doesn’t require multiple videos, books, and coaching. Sometimes a simple memory aid that’s easy to remember will do it, although execution still requires effort and self discipline, as in this case.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebeccabarray/8985496669/An executive once asked me what the single most import thing he should do and how best to do it.
I told him the answer was simple and the key to execution was found in an anagram of the act.
Can you guess the action and anagram?
The action is to LISTEN.
The anagram is SILENT.
The first is impossible without doing the second.
Flickr image credit: RebeccaBarray

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