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Golden Oldies: Staff R (not) Me

Monday, September 26th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over 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.

Last Tuesday, We considered the bottom line value of gratitude, which reminded me of a post from 2009 when I wrote a leadership blog for B5 Media. Good morning. Thanks. I appreciate X. So few words, so little effort and such enormous returns.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

different_1Back when I wrote for B5 media, Phil Gerbyshak over at Slacker Manager quoted an interesting statistic. He said that “7% of employees leave their managers because they didn’t say good morning.”

In the conversation that follows, Roger says, “I have always been of the ilk that I don’t always say “Good morning” to people in the office. I have felt that once a week is good enough… However, this is probably just a reflection of what feedback I personally need. As a manager I have to think that others are different and have different needs.” (Current links unavailable.)

Phil Gerbyshak over at Slacker Manager quoted an interesting statistic. He said that “7% of employees leave their managers because they didn’t say good morning.”

In the conversation that follows, Roger says, “I have always been of the ilk that I don’t always say “Good morning” to people in the office. I have felt that once a week is good enough… However, this is probably just a reflection of what feedback I personally need. As a manager I have to think that others are different and have different needs.”

I worked for a guy like this. Oh, he said good morning and was a really nice guy, but he didn’t understand that our needs differed from his.

Most of us are like that to some extent. We see the world through our own MAP and unconsciously make the assumption that others see it the same way.

This is especially true with regards to people we’re close to, such as family, or with whom we’re friendly, such as team members, peers, colleagues, even bosses.

Think about it. How many times have you recommended a book or movie only to have the person ask you why in the world you suggested it; or introduced two people you really liked only to find that they can’t stand each other.

My old boss didn’t care about pats on the back, positive feedback or congratulations when he accomplished a critical piece of the sales process. It’s not that he wouldn’t do it, but he just didn’t think of it on his own.

I still remember one time that I closed a really big deal. He was out of the office, so I put the paperwork dead center on his desk where he couldn’t miss seeing it. He came back mid-morning, but it wasn’t until I went to his office, asked and he congratulated me—but when you have to ask, it has no value.

And even when he did say the right thing it was obvious that he didn’t know why he was saying it. It wasn’t that he didn’t mean it, he did, but he never really understood why it needed to be said.

So more important than saying the right thing; saying it at the right time; or honestly meaning it; is taking the time to learn and understand why you’re saying it.

Image credit: flickr

Golden Oldies: Ducks In A Row: Do You Have People Or Persons?

Monday, September 12th, 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.

Companies are fond of calling those who toil for them by different names. ‘Human resources’, which morphed to just ‘resources’ was one of the first. Then came ‘talent’. Next, the pendulum swung back to ‘people’. Managers, on the other hand, have always talked about their ‘people’. But no matter what the company or manager called them, they were individuals; each with different skills, goals and passions — and need to be managed as such.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

ducks_in_a_rowDo you work for a company or a manger?

If you ask most people who they work for they’ll name a company, but if you ask them why they love or hate it, stay or leave, they’ll usually mention a manager, the people or the culture, which is a projection of the manager and the people.

People quitting is expensive and bad for team morale, but having them quit and not leave is the worst thing that can happen.

Think about it, who do you manage? And How?

Adequate managers manage employees.

Good managers manage people.

Great managers manage persons.

Yes, persons.

Individuals, because you can’t manage (or lead) everyone the same way.

The same words often mean something different to different people, so you need to say what’s necessary in whatever words will ensure that each individual hears and understands your message.

I’m not saying that it’s easy, but you aren’t paid for easy—you’re paid for results.

And knowing how to manage persons is the best way to ensure that your people won’t quit.

Image credit: ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

When More (Hours) Equals Less (Everything)

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/suckamc/7047683/

Short post today, because the links are more important than anything I can say.

These days too many people brag about working excessive hours and too many managers rate their people based on their willingness to work those hours.

As Labor Day approaches, and a single day of rest from all the hours we Americans spend on the job is upon us, people can’t seem to stop talking about the crazy hours they work.
One of the most-read articles on the Wall Street Journal’s web site last week was a piece about how 4 a.m. — a time so ungodly there’s even a TED Talk about how surreal it is — has become the most productive hour for go-getters.

That’s in spite of research that excessive hours quell innovation and creativity, reduce productivity, increase errors and can cause serious health problems.

Yet research, time and time again, shows the problems with overwork — on people’s health, on turnover, on absenteeism, on productivity. Studies have shown that after about 50 hours a week, productivity actually decreases, and it plummets after 55 hours, leaving no detectable difference between those who work 56 hours and those who work 70 — or 130, as Mayer suggested may be needed for successful startups.

Many years ago a smart senior manager, who became a serial entrepreneur, commented that the need for 50+ hour weeks was a sign of bad management.

I can already hear the arguments, because I’ve been hearing them for years (decades, actually).

So here’s proof from someone who’s not an academic or researcher who doesn’t understand, because they don’t work in the real world.

Jeff Bezos.

Last Wednesday, Amazon announced it was preparing to launch a pilot program in which a few dozen employees would log only 30 hours each week. In return they would receive 75% of their normal salary and retain full benefits.  (…) By offering employees more flexibility, Amazon sends the message that life outside the workplace matters. The new policy also indicates that the world’s second-largest retailer is acknowledging the limits of human cognition, whether or not that was the Amazon’s intent.

That’s it. Now read the links.

Image credit: Martin Cathrae/Flickr

Ducks in a Row: Make a Difference — in the US

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bonniesducks/4395202521

Is making a difference important to you?

It should be, since most workers are happier and more productive in companies that give back.

That holds true no matter the age of the worker or the size of the company.

Companies, departments, teams or individuals can choose to make a difference.

Some go far afield and seek to mitigate the problems and tragedies of less fortunate countries.

Others focus on local problems, which makes sense since companies are usually urban.

That said, you don’t have to go overseas to third-world countries to find third-world problems to solve.

Tech could start less than 200 miles from San Francisco in Fresno, CA.

While Facebook wanted to wire India, it isn’t interested in doing the same in the US.

Though Central Valley harvests most of the country’s crops, tech workers often forget their neighboring region exists. In the Bay Area map according to Urban Dictionary, the Central Valley is jokingly referred to as “unknown parts.”

And consider this.

According to a recent Pew survey, approximately five million students still lack access to high-speed Internet. Experts have taken to calling it the “homework gap.”

Or turn your gaze to the other coast and some of the most beautiful countryside in America — Appalachia — home to some of the most grinding poverty and third-world living conditions to be found in the US.

And while you’re gazing, check out what’s being done to change that.

Crunching all the data imaginable won’t always yield a solution, since anomalies do happen (for an in-depth understanding of that read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, still brilliant/viable after 60+ years).

Back when I lived in San Francisco, it was often termed “49 square miles surrounded by reality.”

That’s expanded to 7,000 square miles (contained in the nine-county Bay Area) surrounded by the reality of places like Fresno.

Tech needs to understand that technology in and of itself is not a solution.

Tech is digital, while the world and the humans who inhabit it are, and always will be, analog.

So while technology itself isn’t a solution, the ways it can be applied may be.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One more request.

School is starting soon and most kids are shopping, whether at Nordstrom or Walmart, while thousands of foster kids are facing school without even a backpack.

There are dozens of ways you can help them.

Skip a few Starbucks or Peets visits, choose a charity, check it out and donate the coffee money you saved.

Flickr image credit: Duck Lover

Ducks in a Row: Perks that Work

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/allenthepostman/2223927152/

Free food. Free in-office massages. On-site dry cleaning. Concierge services. The list goes on…

These perks are so easily copied, not to mention prevalent in certain industries, that they hardly qualify as retention policy, AKA, people holders.

Are these really the perks on which to spend your money?

Think about it and consider far more dynamic policies that others are doing.

After every seven years of service, employees become eligible for a six-to-eight week paid sabbatical, which they can use to spend time with their families, travel, and accomplish longstanding personal goals — no strings attached.

Aarstol believes that a shortened workday could motivate employees to work more efficiently. And he is proving to be right through his own company, Tower Paddle Boards, which continues to expand, even after a year of rolling out the five-hour workday. Last year, it was named the fastest-growing private company in San Diego. Aarstol even published a book titled “The Five Hour Workday” this month.

REI, for example, gives its employees two paid days off a year, called “Yay Days,” to enjoy their favorite outside activity. The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) takes every other Friday off, coining those “Panda Fridays.” We also give our employees every other Friday off — and we pay them for it. We call it the “18-Day Work Month,” and we truly believe it’s the key to a more productive workforce.

Gusto, a startup with 300 employees in San Francisco and Denver, just became the first midsize company in the US to cover fertility treatments in a way that will help single women and same-sex couples, according to Cigna.

However, some of the best perks cost the company nothing.

SEI made Forbes’ 2016 Best Small Companies list earlier this year, in part because of its unusual employee goal-setting policy. Twice a year managers meet with reports who lay out goals, including compensation, and SEI pledges to support employees’ wishes.

The main point: this is not a high-profile kind of job at Facebook, not a developer building a feature that will be used by millions, nor an engineer working on some of Facebook’s moonshot projects like its solar-powered drone or Internet.org.
“At Facebook we believe that ‘Nothing at Facebook is somebody else’s problem’ — it’s yours,” she writes. “I’m tasked with finding creative, innovative and realistic solutions for my clients, even if it has never been done before.”
In other words, she feels a sense of empowerment.
In fact, academic research shows that there’s a strong correlation between job satisfaction and employee empowerment. People who are given the freedom to solve problems in their own creative ways simply like their jobs and their companies better.

In fact, it’s the willingness of management to help their people function at their highest level, grow and succeed, i.e., a manager who cares, that is worth more than most tangible perks.

Flickr image credit: allen watkin

Golden Oldies: Insanely Smart Retention and Stars

Monday, June 27th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over 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 never been a fan of so-called stars. Bosses constantly waste their time, not to mention their budgets, looking for stars. As with everything, stars are often a product of a specific ecosystem and set of circumstances which are rarely duplicated in the new environment.You have only to take a hard look at Marissa Mayer’s history to see the problem in action. Read other Golden Oldies here.

3937284735_35e9f47fb3_mAre you already a devotee of insanely smart hiring, in the process of changing after reading insanely stupid hiring or somewhere in-between?

Wherever your MAP is on the subject there is one thing about hiring that you need to wrap your head around if you want your career to flourish.

You can not hire stars, but you can create and maintain them.

This is as true of executives and management as it is of workers at all levels.

Think of hiring in terms of planting a garden—only these plants have feet.

You’re at the nursery and find a magnificent rose. It’s large, because it’s several years old, has dozens of blooms and buds and is exactly what you wanted for a particular space in your yard.

The directions say that the rose needs full sun to thrive, while the space in your yard only gets four to five hours of morning sun. But the rose is so gorgeous you can’t resist, convincing yourself that those hours from sunrise to 11 will be enough, so you take it home and plant it.

It seems to do OK at first, but as time goes by it gets more straggly and has fewer and fewer blooms.

Finally, you give it to your friend who plants it in a place that gets sun from early morning to sunset.

By the end of the next summer the rose is enormous, covered in blooms and has sprouted three new canes.

One of the things that insanely smart hiring does is ensure that people are planted where they will flourish, whether they are already thriving or are leaving an inhospitable environment.

I said earlier that people are like plants with feet. Abuse a plant, whether intentionally or through neglect, and it will wither and eventually die; abuse your people and sooner or later they will walk.

Insanely smart hiring also gives you a giant edge whether the people market is hot or cold.

By knowing exactly what you need, your culture, management style and the environment you have to offer you are in a position to find hidden and unpolished jewels, as well as those that have lost their luster by being in the wrong place. (Pardon the mixed metaphors. Ed)

These are often candidates that other managers pass on, but who will become your stars—stars with no interest in seeking out something else.

They recognize insanely smart opportunities when they see them.

Flickr image credit: Ryan Somma

Golden Oldies: Real Email Can Be as Bad for Your Company’s Health as Spam

Monday, June 6th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over 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.

Although the focus was elsewhere, Friday’s post mentioned that Zirtual CEO Maren Kate Donovan chose to notify her 400 employees that they were and laid off by email. Definitely not good management. Way back in 2002 I wrote that you can’t mange by email; in 2016 I’d add text, Twitter and all social media to that list. Some things you just need to do face-to-face.  Read other Golden Oldies here.

Hooray, I’m vindicated! And in Business Week, no less.

The article, about the importance of reducing email reliance and encouraging face-to-face meetings, is a must read for every manager who is looking to boost productivity, spark innovation, and improve retention of both employees and customers.

Recognition of the problems and misunderstandings email causes is finally gaining a higher profile and being researched and documented by top academics and consultants.

My November 27th post contains a link to an article on the dangers inherent in how one choose to sign-off at the end of an email.

Google “dangers of email” and you’ll get back nearly five million results.

As to my vindication? Here’s an article I wrote for a client’s company newsletter in 2002.

You Can’t Manage By Email

Email. Some people can’t live without it and others refuse to live with it. The debate as to whether it’s a blessing or a curse may rage on, but one thing is for sure: You can not manage by email.

As a manager it is your responsibility to encourage, motivate, challenge, and develop every person on your team. No matter your style, you must be teacher, mentor, coach, cheer leader, and fan for each individual for whom you are responsible! (Hey, you wanted to be a manager, remember?) That said, it should be obvious that these functions aren’t particularly email friendly, any more than they were memo friendly in the dark ages before email. Further, even those that seem as if they should work are dependent on writing skills that are beyond most people’s ability.

Now, don’t get defensive. Look back at email you’ve received from just one person with whom you are close and count how many times

  • you asked for clarification;
  • you found that actions predicated on your interpretation were either awkward, or downright incorrect; or
  • your understanding of what was written left you questioning/confused/annoyed/angered/ hurt/etc., which was not the intended effect.

If that’s the batting average of someone you know well, how much more likely are misunderstandings to happen between two people who not only aren’t peers, but where one possesses substantial leverage over the other? (By definition, managers have leverage, whether or not they use it.)

Email is good for such things as

  • quick alerts (The meeting starts in 10 minutes.);
  • a public thank you (Thanks, Lucy, you gave a terrific presentation today!); and
  • simple, clearly worded instructions (Please collect everybody’s project notes and be prepared to discuss them with me at 10 AM tomorrow in conference room A.)

Although there are rare occasions where it works, in most instances using email to manage (encourage, motivate, challenge, and develop) is similar to driving blindfolded—you’re going to have an accident. Lower productivity and higher turnover are the results of management accidents, and neither is likely to give your career a boost!

To succeed at management you need to recognize some basic facts:

  • You are managing people (AKA, wetware), not androids (software) so you must lead, not program, them.
  • Living entities respond best to personal interaction, so spend the time willingly.

Your people do not interfere with doing your job, they are your job, so nurture them and they, in turn, will guarantee your success!

Golden Oldies: “Or Else” Management

Monday, May 23rd, 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.

Have you noticed the threats flying around this political season? Not in-your-face threats, but the subtle kind; the kind that end with an implied ‘or else’. And some not so subtle, with the ‘or else’ loud and clear. ‘Or else’ may be common, and even acceptable, in  politics, but when used as a management tactic the results are always negative. Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/4334589129/How often do you (or your boss) add “or else” or words to that effect when assigning a project or discussing a deadline?

It happens more than you would think.

The threats are rarely direct—Do it or start looking.

More often, they are subtle, unstated—I expect employees who work here to be team players.

Have no doubt, the threat is there: Do X if you want to keep your job.

Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of a threat will tell you that they aren’t exactly motivational.

What they are is atrocious management.

Threats are costly not only to the threatEE, who loses confidence and the threatenER, who loses credibility, but also to the organization itself for allowing it to happen.

Far worse is the ripple effect that the sows seeds of a self-propagating culture of intimidation.

Threats kill creativity, innovation, motivation, caring, ownership, in fact, everything that it takes to compete in today’s economy.

Managers who choose to use ultimatums as a motivational tool should not be surprised when employees respond with their feet.

Flickr image credit: James Cridland

Yelp Follows in Walmart’s Footsteps

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/javmorcas/8528220016/

Have you read yet the story of Talia Jane?

She is a customer service rep at Yelp, whose pay puts her right down there with Walmart and bank tellers.

“I got paid yesterday ($733.24, bi-weekly) but I have to save as much of that as possible to pay my rent ($1245) for my apartment that’s 40 miles away from work because it was the cheapest place I could find that had access to the train, which costs me $5.65 one way to get to work. That’s $11.30 a day, by the way. I make $8.15 an hour after taxes.” (Minimum wage in San Francisco is $12.25 an hour.)

She was fired two hours after writing an open letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman on Medium.

Yelp, of course, says the letter had nothing to do with her termination.

Stoppleman has a solution.

“The reality of such a high Bay Area cost of living is entry level jobs migrate to where costs of living are lower. Have already announced we are growing EAT24 support in AZ for this reason.”

Stoppleman’s solution seems to be to kick out everyone who doesn’t earn a fat salary — how dare “them” have the temerity to want to enjoy the pleasures and opportunities of life in San Francisco/Silicon Valley.

That said, I’ve never understood why Walmart, banks, Yelp or all those who follow in their footsteps, pay their front-line people—the actual “face of the company”— what can amount to starvation wages in urban areas and then are surprised when those same people lie, cheat, steal or speak out publicly.

Tony Hsieh, of Zappos fame, Costco and Trader Joe’s are a different story.

What it comes down to is that the further away from contact with customers the greater the money, perks and benefits.

Crazy.

Flickr image credit: Javier Morales

Golden Oldies: Ducks In A Row: Who Cares?

Monday, February 15th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly 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.

Unengaged workers was a growing problem long before I wrote Who Cares in 2011and it has escalated since then. The results of a January Gallup poll show 67.5% of US workers are unengaged and the reason at the end of this post still holds true. Read other Golden Oldies here.

mirrorI’m hearing the same lament from a lot of managers these days; the words and circumstances are different, but it boils down to the same thing—s/he has the knowledge, but doesn’t do anything.

It’s not just younger workers, but all ages.

The current term is “unengaged” and the problem is rampant.

Most managers who call don’t use that term, they complain that people just don’t care. They don’t care about doing more than the minimum; they don’t care about doing great work, instead of just adequate; they don’t care how the company is doing; the list of ‘they don’t care’ goes on and on.

They all see this as a problem with the people they hire.

They ask me where to source good candidates; how to better interview, so they can hire “people who give a damn.”

Some complain that the so-called entitled attitude of Millennials has spread to all ages.

These managers are a disparate group; they come from different industries and range from management newbies to senior executives, but they all have one thing in common.

None of them sees “not giving a damn” as a result of the way they manage, but 98% of the time it is.

So the next time someone you know (or you) complains about people not caring, suggest they ask the only person who really knows the answer—the one they will find in the mirror.

The old adage “you reap what you sow” holds just as true for bosses and companies as in any other circumstances.

Flickr image credit: antkriz

 

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