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Sheryl Sandberg’s Better Idea

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017


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

Golden Oldies: Leadership’s Future: Cheating Is OK

Monday, February 27th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a Feb decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

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

When I wrote this post in 2009 one of the things I wondered was this. If 95% of students felt it was OK to cheat (not a new attitude) to get what they wanted in school would they see cheating and other similar actions/attitudes as acceptable in the grownup world of work?

While eight years isn’t all that long, we’re already seeing the answer and it’s not pretty. As usual, Silicon Valley is leading the way and, sadly, it will probably get a lot worse before it gets any better

Read other Golden Oldies here.


According to Donald McCabe, a professor of management and global business at Rutgers University, 95 percent of high school students say they’ve cheated during the course of their education, ranging from letting somebody copy their homework to test-cheating. There’s a fair amount of cheating going on, and students aren’t all that concerned about it.”

“The professor has been surveying cheating practices among college kids for 18 years and high school students for six years. He says he’s surveyed 24,000 high school students in 70,000 high schools, grades 9 to 12. His findings? Sixty-four percent of students report one or more instances of serious testing-cheating, which include copying from someone else, helping someone else cheat on a test, or using crib notes or cheat notes.

In 2002 17-year-old Alice Newhall was quoted in a CNN article on cheating, “What’s important is getting ahead. The better grades you have, the better school you get into, the better you’re going to do in life. And if you learn to cut corners to do that, you’re going to be saving yourself time and energy. In the real world, that’s what’s going to be going on. The better you do, that’s what shows. It’s not how moral you were in getting there.“”

Colleges are no different, with MBA students leading the pack. 56 percent of MBA students admitted to cheating…  In 1997, McCabe did a survey in which 84 percent of undergraduate business students admitted cheating versus 72 percent of engineering students and 66 percent of all students. In a 1964 survey by Columbia University, 66 percent of business students surveyed at 99 campuses said they cheated at least once.”

MBAs lead another pack; see if these names sound familiar: Jeff Skilling (MBA, Harvard). Joe Nacchio, (MBA, NYU), Richard Fuld, (MBA, Stern), John Thain, (MBA, Harvard), the list goes on and on.

Do you see a pattern here?

  • It’s OK to cheat in high school to get good grades to gain entrance to a good college;
  • it’s OK to cheat in college to gain entrance to a top grad school; and
  • it’s OK to cheat in grad school to insure access to a good job, especially on Wall Street; so
  • it must be OK once you’re working to cheat to improve your company’s bottom line.

Cheating is good business in its own right directly or in the sub-strata of plagiarism.

Google offers 1,620,000 results for “how to cheat in school,” 605,000 for “how to cheat on a test” and another 562,000 for “how to cheat on tests,” not to mention the more than 3,000 “how to cheat” videos on YouTube.

Meanwhile, on the plagiarism front, “school papers” returns a whopping 22,600,000 results.

Take a good look at the numbers and you’ll see that religion, spirituality and cheating seem to happily co-exist.

“The University of California at Los Angeles’s Higher Education Research Institute reported that 80 percent of students show high degrees of religious commitment and spirituality. The new data comes from a survey conducted this past year involving 112,232 first year students attending 236 various colleges and universities.”

All the ethics courses, integrity lectures and moral preaching that go on aren’t likely to change decades of successful cheating—mainly because it works getting people where they want to go.

Cheating isn’t new, but the casual acceptance of it as a viable life strategy has radically changed.

So what do we do now?

Image credit: Jhayne

Miki’s Rules to Live by: Grow and Let Go

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Do you struggle to remember people and events from the past?

Hazy memories of someone or something that loomed enormous at the time?

The author of this short mantra is unknown. I took the liberty of broadening it to encompass more of life than just people, because, for me, it says something very important about growing and letting go.

There comes a point in your life when you realize
Who/what matters, 
Who/what never did, 
Who/what won’t anymore… 
And who/what always will. 
So, don’t worry about people and events from your past, 
There’s a reason why they didn’t make it to your future.


Flickr image credit: Hryck

Do Not “Lead the Witness” When Interviewing

Friday, February 11th, 2011

3793822775_efd531f37b_mIn my varied reading I keep seeing articles and blogs talking about the importance of assessing cultural fit, understanding management styles and approaches, etc., and they go on to recommend asking direct questions to obtain the information.

However, no matter which side of the desk you are on, direct questions will rarely achieve your goal.

Here’s why.

Direct questions contain the correct answer. In legal terms it’s referred to as “leading the witness.”

The following are examples from real interviews.

  • “We at XYZ believe that teamwork is a major factor in our success and are looking to hire more; are you a team player, Ms. Candidate?” The candidate responded that she believed that being a good team player was of paramount importance for a company’s success.
  • “I’m looking for an opportunity that will challenge me and a manager who will coach me so I can move to the next level; will I find that in the job you have open?” The manager responded that there were many opportunities for promotion and that he relished helping his people grow.

Both interviews continued along these lines, each person assuring the other that they fit the profile indicated by the questions.

In both cases the interviews resulted in offers and hires.

Neither one lasted six months.

What happened?

Did the candidate or manager intentionally lie or did they unconsciously say what the other person wanted to hear?

In most of the cases I’ve seen it’s the latter.

Candidates are encouraged to do what it takes to “get the offer,” while managers want to fill the position as quickly as possible and move forward.

People are smart and both go into the interview wanting it to work. The result is that they give the “right” answer, with little thought to the long term outcome.

The take away for you is to make this axiom part of your MAP, so it will guide your responses automatically, whether you are a manager hiring or a candidate interviewing:

Don’t lead the witness and don’t follow where the witness leads.

For guidance on asking non-leading questions click the appropriate link, RampUp’s CheatSheet for InterviewERS or RampUp’s CheatSheet for InterviewEEs™

Image credit: Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Ducks in a Row: Cultural Fit

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Not every soil can bear all things.


ducks_in_a_rowVirgil’s wise words have deep meaning when it comes to hiring.

Typically, managers interview for skills and experience that are similar to what the person will be doing in their new job.

Yet none of that information really predicts success.

If the culture of past company and the style of the candidate’s direct manager aren’t synergistic at the new company or with that particular hiring manager success may be ephemeral.

Like plants, different people need different growing conditions—soil, acidity, moisture, light—in order to thrive and grow.

It is the responsibility of the hiring manager, not HR or another manager, to determine if the soil is right for a particular candidate and, if not, can it be conditioned to support that person’s success.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Corporate culture is perceptional

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

What reality do you live in?

Not your spouse’s or your kids’; not your parents’ or your friends’. You live in the reality created by your MAP.

The reason is simple—perception is reality.

We filter our mental, emotional and physical surroundings through our MAP and, like snowflakes, no two people have identical MAP, so no two people perceive identically.

Does perception influence corporate culture? Absolutely.

Look at Google, since it’s one of the most discussed corporate cultures it’s easy to compare perceptions. Outsiders usually mention the stock options, food, concierge services and in-house massages first, while insiders hottest buttons are the 20% time to work on their own ideas, how well they are heard, opportunity to make a difference, and respect shown at all levels.

Consider the CEO who describes his company’s culture as open, fair and motivated, while the workers complain of regimented work and spend their time on job sites. Aside from CEOs that don’t walk their talk, the difference is often perception, i.e., what is a tight ship to one is micromanaging to the other.

In spite of perceptions, for culture to work everyone needs to be on the same page. That requires the culture-setters/enablers at the top to listen to perceptions other than their own—even when that’s uncomfortable. And not just listen, but act.

Image credit: woodleywonderworks

Personal energy usage way up

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Image credit: RAWKU5

All kinds of energy prices are rising—not just those that are petroleum or corn-based.

Think about the energy you expend each day dealing with your family culture, company culture and social culture, not to mention your personal culture, AKA your MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™)

And not just one kind of energy, but three

  • physical,
  • mental, and
  • psychic (not used as a synonym for mental)

I’ve already written about the importance of budgeting your energy, which involves saying ‘no’ without guilt, so why am I bringing it up again?

Because the current storm (no, it’s not perfect) of rising gas and food prices and global competitive pressures in a shaky economy has the potential to increase your energy use exponentially.

Just as you’ve changed, your driving patterns to conserve gas you need to revisit your personal energy spending and adjust your usage. You also need to increase your energy production by saying yes more often to those things that generate energy for you.

Take the time to (re)read them. Along with better energy management you may even find more time for creative thinking.

What are you doing to conserve your personal energy?

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