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Knowing Why/When To Quit

Monday, March 20th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/botter/70228/

Occasionally I share stuff I receive from clients and sometimes from readers, as I’m doing today. I ask if I can share it and usually the response is ‘yes’, with the caveat that I change enough to ensure that nobody will recognize the writer.

I think “Caz’s” situation and its outcome are very applicable right now. I hear from a lot of you, all asking how to know when to “pull the plug.”

As always, I’m available by phone or email if you want/need to hash things out; contact info in the right-hand frame.

Hi Miki,

It’s been awhile and a lot has happened, with both family — the adoption went through and I’m a new dad! — and I’ve got a new job.

As you know, I’ve been getting more and more concerned about my future at “Locus Systems.”

You also know I’m extremely culture sensitive and the culture has been changing quite a bit, moving more and more towards a fear-based approach.

In addition, we launched a new product about 2 years ago and landed a total of maybe 20 customers.

While the product itself worked and there is a real need, the market just didn’t respond.

This in turn led to our CEO, who owns the company, to push the sales teams harder. In the end he said the failure was on the individual sales teams, not the product.

I have a strong business background and know that for no discernible reason good products sometimes just don’t find the market demand expected.

This whole ordeal has led to a lot of resentment on the part of the sales teams and management.

Some of our best team members started leaving; I’m talking about people who sell $4MM plus a year, so great salespeople.

Each time someone left the CEO would make it a point to remind everyone that that person lacked the vision and we were better off without them.

Give me a break!

On a personal level commissions started being delayed. We always waited 2 months or so for our commission, but it was creeping into a 3-4 month time frame, sometimes longer.

All this led me to a realization that I was probably on a sinking ship. I don’t mind struggling, and you know I’m a fighter, but when the CEO and management are essentially belittling employees and putting all failures on them it’s time to go. 

So I started looking.

I found a great opportunity with “Jasper, Inc.,” another young software company that’s growing organically and has what seems like a terrific culture — all the good stuff you’ve written about (why I started reading you in the first place).

I found the opportunity locally, but the company doesn’t care where I live. That means we aren’t restricted to one town. I always wanted to be able to choose where I live and not have my job dictate that to me.

Although I just started, I’m really enjoying it. The opportunity came as a bit by surprise, but quite frankly, the conditions, benefits and pay are all superior to what I had. 

I’d like to stay in touch. This role will give me more financial freedom then I have had in the past and that may come in handy down the road ;-)

Caz

Image credit j. botter

Ryan’s Journal: When Culture Betrays

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/roryfinneren/2791004393/in/photostream/

Most of my writing is based on what is going on in my life right now. I have found it’s easier to write about what I know and tap into the emotion of it all. One thing I learned recently is culture can be a double-edged sword and should be respected as such.

If any of you are reading more than Entertainment Weekly I am sure you have seen the meltdowns that are occurring at Uber, the falling stock prices at Valeant Pharmaceuticals and maybe the second bankruptcy of Radio Shack.  All of these are a result of a culture that betrayed the very members it was meant to protect.

How do we watch out for that in our personal lives?

One way I do it is by seeking constant feedback. I have found I have a significant blind spot when it comes to measuring myself, so I suck up my pride and go to those I know will give me a real answer. Perhaps these companies could have done the same?

When looking at these three cases I have found one commonality, pride. Let’s examine each and see what you think.

Uber is pretty public at this point. The CEO had a history of being bold, in your face and decisive. This has its place but can also become unbalanced. Additionally, somewhere from the top down the idea that women should not be treated equal came out and as a result you have cases of sexual misconduct and favoritism playing out.

Valeant was a darling of Wall Street for many years. Its former CEO was incentivized to get his stock to a certain price point. If he did that he was rewarded with stock options that were incredible. Harvard did a study on it and thought the scheme was amazing. What people didn’t know though was the CEO was utilizing accounting methods that favored the stock price. He also utilized a private pharmacy that was undisclosed to the public to deliver his prescriptions. This had an added benefit to the stock. Both methods were found to be unethical, the stock crashed and shareholders lost billions.

Radio Shack recently filed for a second bankruptcy. They have been unable to turn around their stores to get to a profitable point. I am not too old to remember going into these stores as a child and enjoying them. They offered some great products, were knowledgeable and if you were a radio geek you could find just the part you needed. Unfortunately they didn’t expect a rise in cell phones, online ordering and other buying trends. These have all contributed to its losses. They are still around but I wonder for how much longer.

I bring all of these up as examples where the culture of each led to misses and failures.

Culture in my mind is the mentality of a company — its thought processes.

On an individual basis are you allowing your culture to betray you?

Image credit: Rory Finneren

If the Shoe Fits: 22 Real-Life Ways Not To Succeed

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mToday is my last post of 2016.

That gives me nine whole days (I don’t do holidays) to power through the things on my to-do list that I never seem to get around to doing — like the windows.

I’m a world-class procrastinator, which is why it’s a very long list, so nine days isn’t all that much. But I do plan to make the most of them.

Wednesday I offered you 56 words with the power to change your life.

Today you get 22 real life examples of how not to succeed as a boss to keep you busy while I’m gone.

So lift a glass and accept my warmest wishes for a wonderful, joy-filled Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/whatever-makes-you-happy surrounded by those who care.

And indulge yourself in the three Fs — family, friends and food.

I’ll see you next year and share the changes that are coming to MAPping Company Success. I think you’ll be pleased.

Take care.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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: Ducks in a Row: The Seeds You Plant

Monday, July 18th, 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.

This one reminds us that there are as many cultures as there are bosses/managers/supervisors/team leaders in the company. All existing, for better or worse, under the umbrella of the company’s official culture. Read other Golden Oldies here

“That culture is like the air we breathe or the water that fish swim in. It has the potential, for better or worse, to affect everybody in the same way.” –Dr. Linda H. Pololi, a senior scientist at Brandeis University

http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/2544951056/Dr. Pololi was talking about the culture in academic medicine negatively affecting men as well as women, although the women’s situation has a higher profile.

While the information in the article is interesting, as well as unexpected in part, it’s her comment at the end on which I want to focus.

As a manager you set the culture of your own group; it may closely resemble your company’s culture or may be wildly divergent.

The divergence is not always a bad thing—many managers have created great cultures in the midst of toxic ones.

By the same token, toxic mini cultures have been propagated within good company cultures by managers who believe that approach is the best way to manage.

Companies are much like gardens and the cultures within its main culture are what grow therein.

If you equate good culture to flowers and bad culture to weeds the problem becomes obvious.

Flowers are fragile and require more thought, attention and cultivation for them to spread.

However, with no effort on the part of the gardener, weeds spread quickly and if ignored will take over the garden.

There is an anonymous poem that I do my best to emulate throughout my life,

Your mind is a garden,
Your thoughts are the seeds,
You can grow flowers or
You can grow weeds.

With a bit of tweaking you can use it for your company,

Your company is a garden,
Your cultures are seeds,
You can grow flowers or
You can grow weeds.

It’s always a choice, but this choice will affect your employees, customers, vendors and investors.

Be sure to choose consciously, wisely and well.

Flickr image credit: William Murphy

Entrepreneurs: The Value of Gratitude

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wagner-machado-carlos-lemes/2987599021/

The only people who aren’t aware of the importance of culture in today’s working world must have been living off planet for the last few decades.

“…a toxic culture can trigger actions that ultimately lead to business failure. When money is viewed as the singular motivator, leaders will not be able to engage the hearts and minds and to get the best out of their people.”

Further, they are aware of what research shows people feel is most important.

For most people what really counts (apart from fair compensation) is respect, recognition, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of purpose.

Manfred Kets De Vries, the Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development & Organizational Change at INSEAD has an simple, one-word solution.

Gratitude.

The first and most basic thing is to respect people who work in the organisation. As gratitude evokes cooperative responses, so too it creates mutually supportive relationships, helps neutralise conflict, generates positive energy and fosters a collective “we’re in this together” mentality. It gives people due recognition, fair treatment, a sense of belonging, and a voice.

If gratitude, as displayed in authentic thanks from bosses at whatever levels works, why are there still so many toxic cultures around?

The answer to that is also found in one simple word.

Ego.

Your take-away is also simple.

If you have trouble walking gratitude, as opposed to just talking it, the it’s time to have a real heart-to-heart with the person in your mirror.

Flickr image credit: Wagner Machado Carlos Lemes

Ducks in a Row: More Bad Uber Culture

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rob_moments/8667400783

Uber’s culture is on view in the news and it hasn’t been pretty.

Current news is focused on the privacy scandal, the compensation and pricing rage of a few weeks ago has fallen off the front page as have the overly-aggressive driver recruiting and efforts to sabotage a competitor’s fundraising while Uber’s pushing subprime loans to its drivers seems to be totally eclipsed.

Many users are deleting their accounts

To Imran Malek, an engineer at DataXu in Boston, it signals a winner-takes-all culture that justifies any behavior so long as everyone is getting rich. “If investors choose to value you for billions, you are untouchable.

VC Mark Suster wrote a spirited defense of Uber, although I don’t consider it as unbiased as he claims.

He claims that most of Uber’s actions fall in the category of ‘business as usual’, with the exception of employees accessing the so-called god view that tracks users’ movements.

I will tell you that if I were Uber this is the one thing I would plug up immediately and enforcing swift punishment for violations. If the public doesn’t trust you with basic confidentiality as a service you’re toast.

All of the articles offer multiple source links for those of you who want an in-depth picture.

A company’s culture provides an insider’s look at it’s values; a quote from Lisa Abeyta, founder of a tech company in Albuquerque, sums it up nicely,

“There is a difference between being competitive and being dirty. It is bad-boy, jerk culture. And I can’t celebrate that.”

Flickr image credit: Robert Payne

Ducks in a Row: Culture and Moods

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/31176607@N05/12038089044

Good mood; weird mood; bad mood; silly mood.

We all have moods and those moods affect everything we do.

Moods are affected by all kinds of stuff, such as the weather.

Good weather = good mood; bad weather = bad mood.

In turn, our actions reflect our mood, rather than reflecting the real world; take online restaurant reviews

“The best reviews are written on sunny days between 70 and 100 degrees,” researcher Saeideh Bakhshi concluded. “A nice day can lead to a nice review. A rainy day can mean a miserable one.”

Likewise, the culture created by each boss actively effects moods, thus having a profound effect on workers creativity, productivity and a slew of other attitudes.

Bad cultures create negative moods.

Negative moods can lead to a procrastination doom loop, in which an individual perpetually delays important tasks while waiting for an angel of inspiration to visit.

When you’re the boss, no matter what you say or how you squirm, the culture that exists in your own organization is a direct result of you.

Flickr image credit: kuhnmi

Ducks in a Row: Stupidity Kills

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

In 2012 we looked at how a bad judgment and a toxic, dysfunctional culture killed off the 113-year-old premier law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf.

But having read the latest I have to revise what I said.

In addition to bad judgment, think gross stupidity.

I suppose I should say “alleged,” but the evidence leaves little doubt regarding just how stupid these bosses were.

Consider the smoking emails between Steven Davis, Dewey’s former chairman; Stephen DiCarmine, the firm’s former executive director; Joel Sanders, the former chief financial officer; and Zachary Warren, a former client relations manager.

Four men, who were charged by New York prosecutors on Thursday with orchestrating a nearly four-year scheme to manipulate the firm’s books to keep it afloat during the financial crisis, talked openly in emails about “fake income,” “accounting tricks” and their ability to fool the firm’s “clueless auditor,” the prosecutors said.  (…) One of the men even used the phrase “cooking the books” to describe what they were doing to mislead the firm’s lenders and creditors in setting the stage for a $150 million debt offering…  

And ignorance isn’t a viable excuse for lawyers by any stretch of the imagination.

The global number one rule in our post-Enron world is that you do not write anything in emails that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of your newspaper.

In case you aren’t familiar with them, the Darwin Awards “are cautionary tales about people who kill themselves in really stupid ways, and in doing so, significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race.”

Perhaps there should be a special award for people who kill companies through acts of excessive stupidity.

stupidity-kills

Image credit: Tombstone Generator

Ducks in a Row: Does Your Culture Quack?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/8409186334/How do you describe your culture?

Most bosses describe theirs as more positive and in more glowing terms than their people do.

Which makes sense, given that most people see their own actions in the best light and culture is a reflection-made-real of the boss’s own MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™).

Is it really a cause for concern if your team describes it differently, more negatively or as downright horrible, especially if their complaints seem nit-picking or sound more like whining to you?

Even if you see nothing wrong with it; even if it reflects most/all your previous managers, you had better pay attention to other opinions if you want to have a strong, productive, high retention/low turnover organization—whether team or the entire company.

Or, in the shortened version of what Douglas Adams so famously said, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it most likely is a duck.

Flickr image credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie

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