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Sheryl Sandberg’s Better Idea

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheryl_Sandberg

Everywhere you turn today you hear a reference to a person as a brand, with dozens of pundits telling you how to use social media to “build your personal brand.”

Four years ago, in another post, I said “In an oracular vision of the Twenty-first century Henry Ford said, “A bore is a person who opens his mouth and puts his feats in it.” These days it’s more accurate to say, “A bore is a person who opens their social media and puts their feats in it.””

The result is still a bore, but on a wider stage.

Branding yourself supposedly makes you more valuable, which is laughable, as is the current idea that being busy increases your value.

Sheryl Sandberg has a different take; she believes brands are for things and voices are for people.

The idea of developing your personal brand is a bad one, according to Sandberg. “People aren’t brands,” she says. “That’s what products need. They need to be packaged cleanly, neatly, concretely. People aren’t like that.”

“Who am I?” asks Sandberg. “I am the COO of Facebook, a company I deeply believe in. I’m an author. I’m a mom. I’m a widow. At some level, I’m still deeply heartbroken. I am a friend and I am a sister. I am a lot of very messy, complicated things. I don’t have a brand, but I have a voice.”

Focus on developing your voice, she says. Figuring out what’s important to you and being willing to use your voice for that purpose is incredibly valuable. “If you are doing it to develop your personal brand, it’s empty and self-serving and not about what you’re talking about,” she says. “If you’re doing it because there is something you want to see changed in the world, that’s where it will have value and depth and integrity.”

Sandberg’s comments on building a voice are just part of her thoughts on how to have a career that is successful and meaningful.

Additional thoughts from Emily Esfahani Smith, an editor at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the author of “The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness” contribute to that goal.

Most young adults won’t achieve the idealistic goals they’ve set for themselves. They won’t become the next Mark Zuckerberg. They won’t have obituaries that run in newspapers like this one. But that doesn’t mean their lives will lack significance and worth. We all have a circle of people whose lives we can touch and improve — and we can find our meaning in that.

It’s worth your time to read both articles no matter your age or situation.

Hopefully you’ll agree and send them on to colleagues, friends and the young people in your life.

Find your voice; live the wisdom that’s been shared, and help change the world for the better.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Ducks in a Row: Good Boss Culture

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewwippler/4556732144

There’s no question that tech, just like every other industry, is highly biased. It’s become a major issue not because it’s new, but because tech drives much of the economy, which puts it in the spotlight. Added to that, more women and people of color are and speaking out publically about what they have to deal with.

Tech’s main excuse for its lousy diversity numbers is a lack of talent, so they focus on kids to fill the pipeline — but all that really does is provide 5-20 years of avoidance in dealing with the real problem

Consider the hard data.

Among young computer science and engineering graduates with bachelor’s or advanced degrees, 57 percent are white, 26 percent are Asian, 8 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent are black (…)  technical workers at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, according to the companies’ diversity reports, are on average 56 percent white, 37 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic and 1 percent black.

Those numbers certainly don’t add up.

The real problem is culture (duh!) — why spend eight-or-more (usually more) hours where you’re actively not wanted?

Yolanda Mangolini, Google’s director of global diversity, recognizes this problem.

“We know that it’s not just about recruiting a diverse workforce. It’s about creating an environment where they want to stay.”

True, but, in fact, the greatest company culture possible won’t cut it.

Even more important than company culture is the boss’ individual culture.

For hard proof there is Mekka Okereke, the black engineering manager who runs Google Play and seems to be missing (or controls) both conscious and unconscious bias.

That team is 10% black, 10% Latino, 25% women and 50% female managers, and has become a role model for other managers,

Obviously, Okereke doesn’t just hire strong talent; he provides an environment in which they can learn, grow and excel.

That’s what a good boss is supposed to do.

But it’s the great ones who actually do it.

Image credit: Andrew Wippler  

The Importance Of Soft Skills

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/11984559914/

I said yesterday that we would take a look at the skills needed to succeed in today’s workplace and, more importantly, in the future.

You probably read Yonatan Zunger’s response to James Damore’s manifesto.

One of Damore’s arguments focused on the worthlessness of so-called “soft skills” in a tech company.

Zunger was emphatic in his disagreement.

Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers.

If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I’m very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to. Solitary work is something that only happens at the most junior levels…

Long ago tech more or less mastered the continued iterating of software and hardware, but when it comes to wetware not so much.

It’s soft skills that are crucial to when dealing with wetware, AKA, people.

Business Insider listed 16 skills that would pay off forever; the list was drawn from the responses to a question posted on Quora.

Empathy topped the list.

Empathy is the most important skill for understanding, relating, leading/managing and innovating.

These days, tech is enamored with life hacks and athleticism is all the rage.

Too bad more time isn’t spent developing and exercising what David Kelley, one of the founders of Stanford’s D School, calls the empathy muscle.

Image credit: Sean MacEntee

Ryan’s Journal: What Motivates Us?

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hypophyse/4019712420/

I touched on this a bit last week with regards to what motivates people. It’s different for all of us of course, but there is something that drives us.

Whenever I am particularly candid with myself, I find that fear of disappointing others is always high on my list. But I also have a drive to be unique.

Sometimes I look at lists that show how only a few people have achieved something and I make it my goal to join that group.

A bucket list item of mine is to climb the seven summits. These are the highest peaks on each continent. Very few have done it as it requires an immense amount of time and money. I figure if I can accomplish that then I have done something right in other areas if my life. Enough about me though.

What motivates others?

I had a conversation today with a fellow sales rep. She has been successful in the past couple of years and has accomplished some life goals. One was paying off debt. That’s a big one. She also had her eye on a few personal objects, one being a Rolex.

Last year she said she had the ability to finally buy one and not feel guilty. I realize most out there probably have other priorities, but this was hers.

As she began her search for a Rolex that would fit her tastes she was surprised to learn that her company had went ahead and purchased one for her as a gift.

Her boss had overheard her saying how she wanted one and decided to reward her hard work by giving the Rolex as a gift. My friend said this was the most meaningful item she had ever received in her career.

When I asked why she said it wasn’t because of the watch. It was the fact that someone took the time to listen to her, remember what she said and care.

Her boss didn’t have to give the gift, but they understood that we are all motivated in different ways. For my friend that motivation was to feel validated.

As I go about my week I am going to take the time to see what motivates those around me.

What motivates you?

Image credit: hypo-physe

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

Ryan’s Journal: Veteran Culture

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Folks, I thought it fitting to have something veteran related as America just celebrated Independence Day. While the holiday itself is about the founding of the country, I think we can all agree that the actions of the men and women who fought helped secure the independence. 

My goal here is to not make this a political blog, but sometimes folks who I respect speak out and I like to highlight them. 

I had the privilege to read “Tribe” recently and found the book to share a perspective on PTSD and culture that I had not heard before.

I may have shared in the past, but when I was a younger man I served in The United States Marine Corps. In that capacity I lost several Marines while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq and it’s still something I keep with me.

With that said, I am fortunate not to suffer any serious effects, physical or mental, but I found the book to be a breath of fresh air.

I say all of this to say that Junger is well respected in the community and a voice of reason.

Below my post Junger is quoted as stating the current divisive political environment is causing moral injury on the troops. Moral injury could be very true. In the current conflicts young men and women are thrust into confusing situations that have no clear objective.

 For us, we had to contend with the so called enemy, but also the locals; all while trying to explain that we were there to provide peace (while holding them to the gun).

It was confusing and as an introspective guy I had a hard time rationalizing what I was doing. My response was to just not consider the socio-political ramifications and focus on the day at hand. 

What Junger says though is true in my opinion. As politics have become more divisive, it is tough for the folks in harm’s way to truly believe in the cause. The homeland is secure and we fight most wars now for no clear reason. 

One takeaway from Junger’s book about PTSD I found can be applied by anyone.

He says we should embrace veterans, but not in such a way that you isolate them. Most veterans do not want adulation and praise, they just want mutual respect and the ability to remember, but not dwell. 

I have included the full text of his interview below

An award-winning journalist says people who claim Trump isn’t their president hurt US troops

Sebastian Junger has a message for lawmakers: the partisan warring of politicians in Washington DC is hurting the American military more than they realize.

“Unity is all soldiers have when they face the enemy, and you must do everything in your power to make sure that it is not taken away from them,” the noted war journalist and author, who has written and directed extensively on war, told members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on post-traumatic stress disorder on June 7.

Junger used the opportunity to rail against the toxic influence of partisan politics among the armed forces.

“When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was not their president, they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury,” he told lawmakers. “In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause. And that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity.”

The issue isn’t just about the unusual nature of the Trump presidency, or Democrats’ resistance to it. “When Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama [ …] was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House,” he said.

Junger, whose career as a war reporter began covering the Kosovo genocide in the 1990s, most recently penned a book called         “Tribe” in which he wrote about the fractionalized America that troops face when they return home.

“For the sake of our military personnel, if not for the sake of our democracy, such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party,” Junger said.

“If that is not realistic, at least this committee — which is charged with overseeing the welfare of our servicemen and women — should issue a bipartisan statement rejecting such rhetorical attacks on our national unity.”

The military, which serves the president as its commander-in-chief, has become increasingly politicized in recent years.

The Center for New American Security reported a trend of more politicization of the military’s ranks by observing speeches given by retired generals at both Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2016.

What’s more, a study by the National Defense University found that more military personnel are sharing their political views on social media.

After surveying 500 West Point cadets and active duty officers, the report found that 75% of respondent said that they had seen their contemporaries shared political links on their personal social media accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In “Tribe,” Junger writes, “Soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion and politics within their platoon.”

Read the original article on Task & Purpose.

Image credit: Sebastian Junger

Ryan’s Journal: A Tale of Two Cultures

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anthonyalbright/4650310001/

I had an opportunity to witness two distinct cultures in action in my personal life this past week. I am in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. Like most mid-market cities there are several startups and rising companies throughout. I have friends at two that have had events transpire as of late that had two completely different outcomes and I wanted to share my observations.

One company that is located here is backed by VC’s and has been growing rapidly. They have a great culture from how I understand it. Very laid back, treat you like a friend and encourage all team members to go beyond their own role to take on more responsibility.

My friends who work there always talk about the company with pride and enjoy working there. The CEO is a thought leader in the community and can cut to the core of what is needed to accomplish the job.

In my current role, I also use this company as a customer. They provide data on prospects from several databases. It is not unique as there are many in this space, but they provide an excellent customer experience and the data is usually accurate.

Last week we were told that we would no longer be able to access the application. I reached out to my friends and it was the worst news you could hear.

The company was not able to secure another round of funding and they had to close their doors.

This happened basically overnight. They were brought in on a Tuesday told the bad news and sent on their way.

My first reaction is that the folks who worked there would be bitter about the company and the way they were let go. That could not be further from the truth.

Are they out of jobs? Yes. Do they need to scramble to pay bills? Yes. However, they also felt like they were a part of something bigger than themselves.

President Theodore Roosevelt famously spoke about the man in the arena, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming….”

These folks were in the arena and were honored to have strived. They spoke positively of the company and its CEO, realized sometimes you lose and looked at the opportunity to learn as a valuable experience.

In my opinion life is about balance. In the same week as the above news broke I had some friends at another company I am familiar with share some news.

This company is no longer a startup; I would call them a rising company. No VC backing, the CEO started with his own money and they have been profitable through customer acquisition for some time. (I realize if you are in Silicon Valley you may find the concept foreign, but it does still happen.) This company started out with a great culture. Awesome offices, snacks and coffee, smart folks to work with. From the outside looking in it is very desirable.

This company has been on the decline with sales in recent years. It could be the industry it serves or that the products haven’t adapted to the needs of the marketplace.

Speculation from my friends has ranged as they truly believe in the company and its founder. He is a thought leader as well, spends a lot of time with Richard Branson and other luminaries, and is extraordinarily intelligent.

However, sales have been down and it has caused strain on the company.

They recently released the new comp plan for the sales team.

We could discuss how releasing a comp plan in month five and making it retroactive to January is a problem, but that’s not the point of this post.

The team was excited to hear what the new plan would be as some of the teams hit and surpassed their goals last year and figured they would be honored for that.

This could not be further from the truth. The new comp plan essentially cut their income by as much as 30%.

Now the average income for these folks was between $100,000-$150,000 annually. 30% is a huge cut and most may not be able to absorb that. Six figure deals that would bring in commissions of five figures dropped in some cases to the hundreds in commission earned on that deal. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. What’s the incentive to work!

The reaction from my friends there was as expected. They felt betrayed.

This company strives in being inclusive, expecting hard work from the team and tries to create a fun atmosphere.

These folks are invested, they love the company and the friends.

However, when you sign on and are told that you will make X amount and the company flips that on you halfway through the year it causes issues.

I cannot imagine how you would expect a great effort out of team members who feel betrayed and are now worried about paying bills.

Two different companies, two different outcomes.

How would you do it differently?

Flickr image credit: Anthony Albright

Golden Oldies: The Perfect Attitude

Monday, June 12th, 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.

Attitude. That illusive quality with the giant impact. It’s the ‘A’ in MAP — mindset, attitude, philosophy — and a large part of the reason you land the job or ‘the one’.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Have you ever wondered what the perfect attitude is? Not just a top dog or the person out front, but for any entrepreneur who aspires to succeed and, for that matter, every person who lives and breathes.

I recognize it when I see it, know when I’m doing it, and can explain it when I’m coaching, but I’ve never seen it so perfectly boiled down to ten short words—all self-explanatory, nothing to look-up or study or requiring training.

I found those words in a friend’s description of how his daughter lives.

Like 3 year olds, be passionate, humble, impatient, grateful…daily.

Do it and change your life—and your world—guaranteed!

Image credit: LizMarie on flickr

Ryan’s Journal: Fear As A Culture

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bullgator0892/11370960706/This week has been an interesting confluence of events across the world stage.

Uber continues to be in the news, this time they decided to fire the head engineer, Anthony Levandowski, who is at the heart of the lawsuit with Google.

The US is on the verge of leaving the Paris Accord, something that could quite possibly have a generational effect.

Suicide bombs continue to tear apart lives across the globe.

What is at the root of these three things?

I believe it is fear.

They say the coward dies a thousand tiny deaths, but a brave person dies one glorious death.

I can tell you right now these are cowardly acts.

To begin, Uber is in the fight for its life. They are losing money every day with their current model. They are betting big on automation and have come up against Google over perceived theft of proprietary documents.

If they lose this they could be done. When you step back and look at the ride sharing model, it’s needed but it’s not unique. The barriers to entry are low and there is no differentiation of product from one company to the next.

They need to lead the space in automation because it’s the future and is inevitable. Fear has led them to both hire and fire the engineer at the center of it all. Perhaps they believe this will help their case, time will tell.

The US leaving the Paris Accord is monumental. I am not a scientist, but I can say this: I inherently know that pumping carbon emissions into the air is bad. Add to that the science that supports it and you begin to see the need to somehow influence climate change for the better.

Why would a president risk the lives of future generations so that a few energy companies can prosper?

Fear. Fear has gripped the voters in the first place who chose not to better their lives through education, which would enable them to better their lives.

Fear is in the president’s heart as well to think that climate change is not real.

Finally it brings us to terror.

These plots are designed to disrupt and bring fear to the masses. It is sometimes effective and can have lasting implications.

How do we combat fear?

One way is by seizing the courage to move one step forward at a time. Embrace the fear and look st how destructive it can be and then make a move against it.

That could be helping someone that isn’t like yourself. Learning about a new culture. Perhaps even sitting down to talk with someone on a different political aisle then yourself to learn why they believe the way they do.

It starts with believing people have value regardless of position and then embracing them.

Perhaps that’s too simplistic, but I know in my own life it has worked and is scalable.

Image credit: Pati Morris

Ducks in a Row: Say Hello To Generation Z

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kathryn-wright/27567185716/Companies and bosses have struggled over the last decade or so learning how to attract, manage and retain millennial workers.

Long before that they had to learn to manage Boomers — the original me generation.

This is a generation, after all, that thinks of itself as “forever young,” even as some near 70. Most of all, what came across onscreen as well as in Greenfield-Sanders’ portraits was an unapologetic affirmation of the essential Boomer mantra—yes, it is still all about ME.

Then came Gen X, the supposed slackers who are now running things.

For a small, and supposedly lost, generation, Gen X’ers have found their way to positions of power. (…)Gen X’ers, incidentally, are among the most highly educated generation in the U.S.: 35% have college degrees vs. 19% of Millennials.

We all know that everything moves faster these days — whether products, attitudes — or generations.

So, without more ado, meet Generation Z, which encompasses those born between 1995 and the early 2000s.

They present a new challenge to bosses, especially since they bear little resemblance to Millennials.

The question for most bosses and bosses-to-be is this: having finally wrapped their heads around Millennial dos and don’ts is it worth the effort to add Gen Z to the repertoire?

Unequivocally yes.

Actually, you don’t have much choice, since there are 79 million (and counting) of them.

Image credit: Kathryn Yengel

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