Monday, August 14th, 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.
Echo Chambers. They’ve been with us since humans first stood erect. We hear what we want to hear; listen only to those who agree with us. Seek out the likeminded with whom to spend our time. And, when all else fails, people have been known to go beyond the acceptable to prove they are right. But when this happens at work, what’s a manager to do?
Read other Golden Oldies here.
Last week I had a call from a “Rick,” marketing manager, with what he thought was a unique problem—sadly it’s not as uncommon as you might think.
Short version. “Chris” is one of his top producing marketing people and extremely valuable to the team and the company. Recently, the team had a vehement disagreement on a marketing plan, but finally decided to go with an approach different from the one that Chris had championed.
Since then, Chris has made a number of comments and suggestions that undermine the current effort and has privately said that she hopes it fails because the other approach was better.
The team was starting to notice and some were losing confidence—a sure way to guarantee failure.
Rick said he had talked a bit with Chris; she denied that she was sabotaging the campaign and if it failed it would be because the wrong choice was made.
When I asked if Chris was always such an ideologue Rick was startled. He hadn’t thought of her actions in those terms, but after thinking it over he decided that she was a bit, although normally not to this extent.
Rick went on to say that it was ironic, because during the election Chris had been adamant that the “hide-bound ideology on both sides was creating problems for the country” and that she thought Obama was less locked into a specific, narrow ideology than most politicians.
More recently, she had been furious with Rush Limbaugh’s comment “I hope Obama fails,” seeing it as destructive and unpatriotic.
And therein, as I told Rick, lay his solution. Here is what I suggested.
- Arrange a conversation without interruptions, such as an off-site lunch.
- Make a production of turning off your cell phone (if Rick isn’t answering his, Chris is unlikely to interrupt to answer hers).
- Keep the tone conversational; avoid anything that sounds like an accusation or makes the lunch feel like a confrontation.
- Remind Chris’ about her previous thoughts regarding ideologues.
- Once she confirms her thoughts gently draw the parallel between her attitudes and an ideologue.
- Use her own words and feelings to refute whatever defense she raises (again, without attacking her).
- Keep it conversational and take your time leading her to the recognition that her actions are the same as those she dislikes, just in a different arena.
Rick called today to say they’d had lunch that day and the conversation went exactly as predicted. It wasn’t perfectly smooth and there were some dicey moments, but when that happened he backed away and tried another route. He said that it would have been impossible to do in the office with interruptions and turning off their cells created a whole different mood.
He said that when Chris realized that she was doing a highly watered down version of Limbaugh she was openly shocked and very apologetic.
Instead of leaving it there, Rick took extra time to walk through the competing plans and why the team had chosen the one and not the other. He explained that it wasn’t that Chris was wrong, she just held a different opinion and that was OK, but it wasn’t OK do anything to undermine the program—even unconsciously.
With a more open mind Chris grudgingly agreed to the reasoning. She said that in spite of still feeling the other plan was better she would do everything in her power to make the project work. She said that the success of the project was more important than being “right.”
Rick was lucky because a critical member of his team was also a rational thinking person who could see a parallel when it was pointed out and not enough of a hypocrite to claim “that’s different…”
Chris was lucky because she worked for a manager who valued her and was willing to take the time to help her change and grow.
How do you control your inner ideologue?
Or do you?
Last week I wrote Time To Get Off Your Ass And Lead (Yourself) and Ravi Tangri added some very intelligent thoughts in his comment. I hope you’ll take a moment to click over, read it and add your own thoughts to the conversation. It’s an important one for all of us.
Image credit: Gurdonark on flickr
This golden Oldie dates back to 2009 and includes a comment worth a click.
Tuesday, August 8th, 2017
I’m assuming you’ve read the anti-diversity manifesto, or articles about it, from the Google engineer decrying his company’s diversity efforts and harking back to the ancient reasoning that women are biologically incapable of being good coders, cops and firemen, among other incapables.
(It’s always sad to see this level of scientific ignorance in a technical person. Of course, it’s not easier in a (supposedly) educated politician.)
There are dozens of responses, but Yonatan Zunger’s is the best I’ve seen (hat tip to KG for sending it).
Zunger is a 14 year Google veteran, who left last week to join a startup. He not only refutes it, but analyzes why the damage goes well beyond the obvious. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth the few minutes it will take to read.
Ayori Selassie’s is shorter and I’ve reproduced it in full below.
The penis doesn’t write code, the brain does.
Women also have a brain therefore they write code too.
There, I fixed your #GoogleManifesto.
The one thing in the manifesto I do agree with is that freedom of speech should mean that anyone can speak their mind without fear of shaming or harassment.
However, the tactics he describes that are commonly used in liberal bastions on those espousing right and alt-right attitudes are exactly the same tactics used on progressives and liberals in conservative strongholds.
It boils down to the age-old us / them attitude.
Join me tomorrow for a look at the skills that will power your career now and in the future — and have nothing to do with STEM.
Image credit: Yahoo
Tuesday, June 13th, 2017
Walmart loves showing off all they do for their employees and it has a lot of them.
From its website (emphasis mine).
Walmart employs 2.3 million associates around the world. About 75% of our store management teams started as hourly associates, and they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year. Walmart is investing $2.7 billion over two years in higher wages, education and training.
What isn’t mentioned is that around the same time
Walmart lifted wages [to $10/hr], it cut merit raises and introduced a training program that could keep hourly pay at $9 an hour for up to 18 months.
Walmart especially loves to brag about its special efforts, such as those for military workers and defines its culture as “our values in action.”
What kind of values enable the following scenarios?
The report says that Walmart uses a point system to discipline workers, and too many points results in firing. Walmart reportedly gives workers disciplinary points for any absence they consider unauthorized, and working less than half of a scheduled shift is considered an absence.
- ‘I passed out at work. They sent me to the hospital. The next day, they fired me for it.’
- “I got into a car wreck on my way to work and was sent by ambulance to the hospital. I had two fractured ribs and a concussion. I reached a manager from the hospital, who said it would be ok, and I came into work the next day with wrapped ribs and a concussion. The front manager then said that they wouldn’t accept the doctor’s note from the hospital, and they fired me for missing that day.”
- “My appendix ruptured while at work and because I already had eight points, I could not leave work to go to the ER without pointing out and losing my job. I should have been able to leave to go to the ER and not worry about losing my job. I had even said to management, ‘So if I fall out because of my appendix and have to go out in an ambulance…I will get a point and lose my job?’ The response from management was, ‘Yes.'”
- “I was vomiting blood and had to go to the ER. I was there for two days and each day was a point. I then had two days off, and I brought my hospital notes in when I went back. They would not accept them.”
Of course, Walmart’s well-known attitude towards women is front and center
- “My daughter was having seizures, I had to take time off to monitor her. They counted it against me. I passed out at work. They sent me to the hospital. The next day, they fired me for it.
- Katie Orzehowski was forced to return to work still bleeding after a miscarriage or face being fired.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so grim, but apparently Walmart expects events, such as heart attacks and car accidents, to be scheduled.
If an employee does not call in to report an absence at least an hour in advance, they receive four points, the report says.
Most ironic of all is Walmart’s tag line, which reads, “Save money. Live better.”
More accurately, it should read “Save money. Live better — unless you work here.”
All of this proves once again that there is a major difference between words and actions.
Image credit: Duck Lover
Thursday, May 25th, 2017
I was having a conversation this week about Silicon Valley companies. Some of them are doing amazing things.
When I was job hunting I would look at several and imagine myself there changing the world.
There were several though that also had great funding, great people, but I could not understand for the life of me what they did. They had a great list of customers, but I could not understand the value they brought.
There are two possible solutions to that conundrum.
One, I am just not savvy enough to understand (a very real possibility).
Two, they were full of hype and energy, but not substance. I can imagine that both statements are true when you look at the vast array of companies in the valley.
With that said, have we lost the forest for the trees? Have some companies been so hyped that people continue to pour money into them hoping for a huge payday that may never come to fruition?
Uber is in the news for a variety of reasons, some good, some bad. I recently read an article that Uber and Google are working on flying cars. While the concept of flying cars seems cool… I guess, I am more concerned with the participating companies.
Google provides value, products and that elusive quality, profit. They are well established, have multiple streams of income and could fail at this endeavor and live another day. It’s exciting to see them using their money for grand ideas, but it won’t decimate them either.
Uber provides value and services, but zero profit.
In fact, if Uber was run like a traditional company or household, they would have never even gone to market.
They operate more like a country that can print its own money. They take on debt, lose billions every year, yet keep on trucking.
Venture capital and perhaps greed are what allow this to occur. If they fail at the flying car concept what does it mean for the rest of the business?
I know there are very smart folks who are there and who are invested. I often wonder what their long game is. Do they believe they will become profitable at some point if they hang on long enough?
Another thing to consider is the economy. We have easy money right now with very low rates of interest.
For an investor it makes more sense to go with a high risk investment versus storing it in savings, because they essentially lose money due to inflation.
When the markets tighten does that mean Uber cannot seek out another round of funding?
My point is this.
Have we lost sight of the incremental steps it takes for us to achieve greatness by thinking we can accelerate the whole process with enough capital or am I the Luddite here?
I am a believer that debt can be good when there is a viable business model. I am less impressed though when a company has never turned a profit and had no projections to do so at any point soon, but can be valued so highly. What makes Uber so unique?
I say we need to keep dreaming the big dreams, but also look at the foundation.
Is it built on sand or rock?
Image credit: Artur (RUS) Potosi
Monday, September 5th, 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. It’s been four years since I wrote this, but it could have been anytime in the last several decades. The time difference wouldn’t have been that noticeable, except that what I described just keeps getting worse. I find it both sad and disgusting that we humans seem incapable of growing and, instead of moving forward, we move backwards. Read other Golden Oldies here
Anyone reading the news—local, national or global—knows that hate and intolerance are increasing at an alarming rate everywhere.
Also, because there have been/will be so many elections around the world this year ‘leadership’ is in the news even more so than usual.
What responsibility do leaders—business, political, religious, community—bear in fostering hate and intolerance?
Not just the age old race and gender intolerance, but the I’m/we’re-RIGHT-so-you-should-do/think-our-way-or-else.
The ‘we’re right/you’re wrong’ attitude is as old as humanity and probably won’t ever change, but it’s the ‘do-it-our-way-or-else’ that shows the intolerance for what it really is.
And leaders aren’t helping; in fact, they are making it worse.
During my adult life (I missed being a Boomer by a hair) I’ve watched as hate and intolerance spread across the country masked by religion, a façade of political correctness or a mea culpa that is supposed to make everything OK, but doesn’t.
Various business, political, religious and community leaders give passionate, fiery talks to their followers and then express surprise and dismay when some of those same followers steal trade secrets, plant bombs, and kill individuals—whose only error was following their own beliefs.
We are no longer entitled to the pursuit of happiness if our happiness offends someone next door, the other end of the country, or the far side of the globe.
I remember Ann Rand saying in an interview that she believed that she had the right to be totally selfish, where upon the interviewer said that would give her freedom to kill.
Rand said absolutely not, in fact the reverse was true, since her selfishness couldn’t impinge anyone else’s right to be selfish.
Leaders aren’t responsible; we are, because we go along with it—as did the Germans when Hitler led them down the hate and intolerance path.
That about sums up my attitude
Image credit: Street Sign Generator
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
I rarely write about politics, but it’s that time of year; I live on the border between two states and have to listen to political ads from both. So please, if this post offends you accept my apologies and wield your delete key.
My feelings are driven by the smugness I see across the political spectrum irregardless of parties and beliefs.
Smugness regarding the rarity of corruption in the US vs. its prevalence in other countries.
The way I see it, corruption in the US is rare primarily because it’s been legalized in the form of lobbying and PACs.
Lobbying has long influenced legislation, but as of 2010, when the Supreme Court effectively eliminated restrictions on outside groups, elections themselves went up for sale.
If you doubt me look no farther than the Americans for Prosperity, owned and run by the Koch brothers, which will spend at least $125 million this year, and the growth of super PACs overall.
In 2000, outside groups spent $52 million on campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By 2012, that number had increased to $1 billion. (…) In 2014, as of early October, when the campaigns
had yet to do their big final pushes, overall spending was already more than $444 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Roughly $231 million was from the parties and their congressional committees, the rest from outside spending. The biggest chunk of that by far came from super PACs — more than $196 million.
What each of these wealthy individuals have in common is passion, but unbridled passion is the hallmark of the fanatic—and fanaticism paves the road to a closed mind—one that is evidenced by fear, hate and bigotry.
Legal corruption or not, voting is important—if for no other reason than not voting precludes your right to complain.
Or, as my mom used to say when faced with two bad choices, just “hold your nose” and vote against X as opposed to for Y.
And you can avoid the corruption by ignoring ads, whether pro or con, and evaluating candidates and issues in a holistic and pragmatic way that looks at what makes the most long-term sense.
Flickr image credit: DonkeyHotey
Monday, September 15th, 2014
Since it was first announced, iPad commercials have shown kids using them and millions of parents took to them to keep their kids entertained.
One major exception was Steve Jobs, the guru of consumer technology (his kids read hardcopy books).
“They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
Jobs wasn’t alone.
Since then, I’ve met a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists who say similar things: they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends.
Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and now chief executive of 3D Robotics, Alex Constantinople, the chief executive of the OutCast Agency, Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium and Lesley Gold, founder and chief executive of the SutherlandGold Group all limit or say no to technology for their kids.
“That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.” –Chris Anderson
Limited or outright banned, technology is handled differently by those in tech when it comes to their kids.
Although some non-tech parents I know give smartphones to children as young as 8, many who work in tech wait until their child is 14. While these teenagers can make calls and text, they are not given a data plan until 16. But there is one rule that is universal among the tech parents I polled.
“This is rule No. 1: There are no screens in the bedroom. Period. Ever,” Mr. Anderson said.
In the light of new research, barring electronic screens from the bedroom has taken on new urgency and not just for kids.
The blue light from personal electronic devices has also been linked to serious physical and mental health problems.
(My sister’s doctor warned her months ago, but it took the article to make her stop.)
What the tech world sees is no different from what other people see on the news, but they pay more attention.
Not that any of this will change the ads or overall marketing of tech—it will keep targeting kids—hook them early they’re yours for life—and encouraging people of all ages to use their screens when it’s dark.
So much for the vaunted tech values of authenticity and transparency.
Actually, taking a step back, tech’s attitude seems more in tune with politicians’ attitude—more of a do as I say, not as I do approach.
Flickr image credit: Ernest McGray, Jr.
Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
Today’s message is simple and should come as no surprise: people are more attuned to what you do than what you say.
Following is an excerpt from a reader who is a middle manager in the health care industry.
“Things have been going pretty well in my world. But boy the bigger my organization gets the less personal it gets. Twice in the last few months I’ve e-mailed the concerns of my employees to higher ups and gotten back the message almost verbatim – “if they aren’t happy, perhaps this isn’t the best fit for them” – with no actually reference made to the concern I brought up.
Another Radiology Manager in the system is leaving because she kept hearing that at her manager meetings too and got sick of it.
Yet some of our evaluation points are about our “work family” and treating each other with respect, etc. and taking initiative. To me it appears we put the right thing down on paper and have an unspoken different approach all together on how to treat employees.”
The problem isn’t one of bigger = impersonal, nor is it exclusive to healthcare or large organizations.
The problem is either
- bad management, using “we are so busy” as a cover for “don’t bother us;” or
- hypocrisy, as in “do as I say, not as I do.”
Which is it?
Bad attitude or hypocrisy?
Does it matter?
Whatever the reason ignoring the problem yields the same result: increased turnover with associated costs, impaired efficiency as new people hit the learning curve and a likely drop in customer satisfaction.
Flickr image credit: carterse
Sunday, December 18th, 2011
As I promised last week, today is a “tour of Mencken’s irreverent view of politics and democracy that will provide great zingers for holiday get-togethers and leave you chuckling.”
Let’s start with democracy, since everyone seems to agree that it’s a good thing. Of course, definitions vary and Mencken offers some great choices in case you haven’t settled on one.
I’ll start with a basic definition and get more sarcastic from there, Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
Mencken didn’t think much of “the people” and my guess is no county was excepted from this scathing comment, Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
Hand-in-glove with that thought is this one, Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
He also said, Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. Not only worship, but elect; we jackasses keep electing jackals—party be damned.
Of course, you can’t expect a lot more when Democracy is only a dream: it should be put in the same category as Arcadia, Santa Claus, and Heaven.
Finally, Mencken sums up his attitude towards democracy thusly, I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing.
Now on to the politics and politicians.
Again, we’ll start with a definition, A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.
He also said, A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. It’s hard to disagree with that comment, too.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that politicians of all stripes say anything to get elected; it’s nothing new, Mencken noticed it, too, If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.
2012 is a presidential election year and the show has already begun, A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.
Let’s end with one final definition along with the reason for it. Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.
And the reason? Each party steals so many articles of faith from the other, and the candidates spend so much time making each other’s speeches, that by the time election day is past there is nothing much to do save turn the sitting rascals out and let a new gang in.
Image credit: Wikipedia
Friday, December 9th, 2011
A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here
The dichotomy between what founders think/say and what they actually do never ceases to amaze me.
I’m not referring to the ‘malice aforethought’ type hypocrites who know damn well that their actions contradict their words, but
- believe no one will notice, AKA, they won’t be caught;
- provide abundant excuses when they are; or
- offer rationalizations to prove why “this time it’s different.”
I’m referring to the inadvertent ones who are totally clueless.
I see this a lot in founders who are so totally focused on short term product development that they ignore or delegate the stuff that will make or break their company down the road.
Culture and business planning, especially staffing plans, are two items that founders often kick to the side or delegate; and while I’m all for delegation some stuff just shouldn’t be.
Culture is the values of the company made visible for all to see. Can you really delegate that with a few notes on a napkin and instructions to a harried colleague?
Founders know that strong financials are necessary if they want funding, but other planning functions, such as staffing plans, often don’t seem as critical, so they are delegated or, worse, procrastinated.
The toll these inadvertent actions take can be huge and often far enough in the future that their actual origins are lost.
This “stuff” can break your social contract.
Do you make time for this stuff?
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