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Ryan’s Journal: How To Establish Culture With Asymmetrical Information

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecorey/14292160302/Public image for both companies and people has always been important and even more so with the availability of information at our disposal. But even with these tools we are still dealing with asymmetrical information when making decisions and establishing culture.

I spoke to a friend over dinner the other night who travels overseas for work quite a bit. As a result he is not up to speed on current US events and was unaware of the string of crisis that have impacted Uber.

He was shocked to learn that they were involved in lawsuits, scandals and more. It was actually a bit like hearing it for the first time myself as I had a chance to see his emotions as he learned the news.

His opinion of Uber was shaped on asymmetrical information.

I had mentioned in a previous post that some local companies that tout their high employee reviews are not as shiny from the inside. Again, asymmetrical information.

The director of the FBI has been fired, we as the public are dealing with asymmetrical information for the reasons behind it.

I state all of this to say that we must constantly strive to learn, ingest and understand as much as we can when making decisions about the companies we deal with and people we hire.

I recently took part in a process where a new employee was terminated. It was unfortunate but they were not a good fit for the role, exaggerated a bit during the interview process and then didn’t make up for it after being hired.

This person is someone that I wouldn’t mind being friends with, but they were not suited for the role they were in. The hire was a result of asymmetrical information.

I have looked back on my own life at times when I made foolish mistakes due to my lack of information. Rash decisions that cost me time and money. How do we learn from them?

Here are a few ways I have dealt with this moving forward.

  • Have trusted friends or mentors to bounce ideas off of.
  • Take a day or two when making big decisions.
  • Try to remove emotion from the decisions to ensure you’re not swayed.

These all may be basic (I am not as lofty as I would like), but they can make an impact for the positive.

Image credit: Steve Corey

Entrepreneurs: Hiring Consistency

Thursday, September 11th, 2014


Startups, and those who love to work in them, operate on the same premise—what you see is what you get—from the beginning.

The beginning starts not on the first day of work, but from the moment they first connect.

Candidates expect the company to reflect its products and its reputation, as well as the hiring manager’s.

Those hiring expect candidates to reflect their resume and reputation.

In practice, that means the person who reports to work is the same person who interviewed, i.e., the same attitude and interests they had when interviewed and hired.

If a different attitude walks through the door on start day it must be addressed immediately.

If the start-day attitude turns out to be the candidate’s true colors, but doesn’t match the company’s culture it is best to face the hiring error sooner, rather than later when the damage is already done.

By the same token, if those hiring presented a scenario of fairness, a strong team, intolerance for politics and the opportunity to make a difference, then that is what the candidate expects.

If the founder or manager presented herself as a motivator, innovator, team-builder, mentor-type during the interview that is what the candidate expects.

If the company’s or managers’ true colors are different from those presented during the interviews then, not matter how hot your startup, don’t be surprised when your new hires walk.

Flickr image credit: Marc Lane

What is Ex-employee BCS?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_mistress/3723274800/It’s well known that what goes up comes down; programmers know that ‘garbage in/garbage out’ always holds true (and applies to more than programming, but that’s another post) and bosses (should) know that at some point current employees become former employees.

While people leave because of layoffs, it’s often by choice; either way it’s bad news and, like all bad news, requires clear communications to avoid repercussions.

However, there’s one repercussion that even the best communications can’t avoid and that’s what I call boss/company stupidity or BCS.

Granted, there’s a lot of BCS floating around the workplace, but this particular BCS ranks in the top three.

It’s the attitude that no matter how great employees are when they leave they are suddenly no good, their time with the company had no value and the resources invested in their growth were wasted.

The traditional way of looking at the “return on investment” on the training and coaching of employees is that it is truncated the moment they walk out of that door.

Which is really, really stupid.

Stupid because both companies and bosses have street reputations and while current employees contribute to them, those who leave have an outsize impact that lives everywhere forever in our social, wired world.

Flickr image credit: library_mistress   

Ducks in a Row: Rudeness

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

440623582_77c0d5a0d3_mI have little tolerance for what I perceive as rudeness.

However, a jam-packed, always-on, socially-enabled lifestyle combined to varying degrees with a me-centric view of the world appears to be driving a rising tide of rudeness in people of all ages.

Is there anything else going on beyond the obvious?

Perhaps part of what comes across as rudeness is merely misunderstanding.

Perhaps the difference between such actions as “acknowledgment” and “feedback,” which is a different animal altogether, have blurred to the point of merger—for the record, feedback requires thought, while acknowledgement doesn’t.

Ask anybody in resume limbo how much they would appreciate some form of acknowledgement that their resume had been received.

There was a time when companies sent form letters acknowledging receipt, as well as thanks/no thanks rejections on hard copy and actually paid postage to do it.

These days they can’t even bother with programming an auto-response that costs them nothing, but gains good will.

Many (most?) individuals are even worse; screening their responses to calls and email through a what’s-in-it-for-me filter or are so busy checking Facebook and playing Angry Birds that they don’t have time for the niceties.

Yet, as with most things, the rudeness is not one-sided.

Resumes sent and contacts initiated based on the premise that if you throw enough something will stick also deserve the rudeness label.

Then, of course, there is always the possibility that my definition is archaic and what I see as rude has become acceptable.

Flickr image credit: Ronald Saunders

Ducks in a Row: Make Everyone an Entrepreneur

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Lynn Blodgett, president and C.E.O. of ACS, a Xerox company, believes that all 85,000 ACS employees should think entrepreneurs. He sees a direct correlation between accountability and great the performance—increase the former and the latter goes up. This includes pushing P&L deeply into the organization, which encourages people to spend as if it was their own money.

“So you give people control, hold them accountable, give them control of their resources, and then monitor what they do.”

He also believes the right kind of incentives fuel motivation and engagement.

“I believe that a really important management principle is that if you get the incentives aligned, people will motivate themselves far better than you’ll ever motivate them. But, again, you have to get the incentives right.

It’s not only financial.  It’s being able to feel like they have a level of control over their destiny, that they are valued in what they do, that they’re being successful, that they’re contributing.  Those things are actually probably more important than the money.  But you’ve got to get the money right, too.”

An additional benefit of this approach is that people will “self-select,” i.e., if they can’t/don’t achieve the incentives they will realize much faster that they’re in the wrong type of work.

I especially like this because it is a better career development tool. Being terminated for non-performance allows people to rationalize, whereas missing incentives tied to viable goals offers the insight that they may need to find more fulfilling work and not keep making the same mistake over and over and that’s not a bad thing

Notice I said “viable goals,” which mean feasible, possible, doable; not goals that only one in a hundred can achieve them.

Goals that set people up for failure have a boomerang effect; they’ll return to their place of origin and smash a large hole in that manager’s reputation.

This is also not a bad thing, since “holey” managers seem to align with “holey” companies making it easier to avoid them.

Flickr image credit: zedbee

Quotable Quotes: Hodgepodge

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Today is a bit of a hodgepodge.

Richard Branson is one of my favorite people; I like reading about him and he’s played a part in several posts I’ve written. Branson was focused on business opportunities, but this comment applies just as well to other areas, such as hiring.

“A good idea for a new business tends not to occur in isolation, and often the window of opportunity is very small. So speed is of the essence.”

Back in the day word that Microsoft had turned its attention to a product or service sent waves of trepidation through founders and investors alike, much as Google does today. I was reminded of that when I read an old comment by Ralph Nader. Funny thing is that Microsoft is still making the same noises.

“John D. Rockefeller wanted to dominate oil, but Microsoft wants it all, you name it: cable, media, banking, car dealerships.”

Nader was referring to Rockefeller senior; I prefer John junior, probably because his thinking so perfectly sums up what I keep saying, ‘people perform up (or down) based on the quality and skill of their management.’

“Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”

Several centuries ago John Mason pointed out the difference between a fool and a wise man.

“The wise man has his foibles, as well as the fool. But the difference between them is, that the foibles of the one are known to himself and concealed from the world; and the foibles of the other are known to the world and concealed from himself.”

Add social media to that mix and the number of fools increases exponentially.

Warren Buffet understands the fragility of reputation.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only five Minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.”

The problem is that for too many people social precludes thinking.

I hope you enjoyed my hodgepodge. Have a wonderful rest of the weekend.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/grigoriprime/4902494653/

Who are You?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” –Dr. Seuss

2870888435_cd9f7ed4eb_mMany years ago when I was a recruiter a third-level manager I was good friends with was laid off. One day, over lunch, Roy said that another recruiter had called him about a position, but said that he would have a better chance if he shaved his beard and he wanted to know what I thought.

Roy’s wife didn’t like the idea; he’d had a beard since college days. When I asked him if he thought he would regrow it after getting hired he said definitely.

In that case, there was no question that Roy should keep the beard for the interview. If the company didn’t hire him because of the beard they would feel conned when it came out that he only shaved for the interview.

There are many ways to break trust, but one of the fastest is to be someone other than your real self at the interview and the real Roy had a beard. (He didn’t shave and still got the job.)

This is just as true for a hiring manger. If something is done a certain way and you present a different scenario in order to land the candidate don’t be surprised when your new hire walks after getting a taste of the actual reality.

Whether manager, company or candidate, trust starts before the first conversation.

It starts with a street rep. Not what they say about themselves, but with what others say about them.

Remember “what goes around comes around?” These days it not only comes around with a vengeance, but thanks to social media it never goes away.

Being yourself makes you authentic; being authentic makes you trustworthy; being trustworthy makes your street rep great.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/a6u571n/2870888435/

The Problem With Perceptions

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Tuesday, in Barrett’s Briefing, Pat Lynch, Ph.D., CEO of Business Alignment Strategies, said “employees’ perceptions of how their employer treats them on a daily basis” and Richard reminded us that how a remark is interpreted depends heavily upon the context you bring to it.

In other words, everything you hear, see or do is filtered through your MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and you’ll act on it according to your perceptions, whether they reflect the actual intent or not.

And we all know that what one person says and the other guy hears may have nothing to do with each other.

In a new article from the strategy practice at McKinsey discusses the need to change the public’s perception of business.

“Senior executives are acutely aware of how serious today’s reputational challenge is. Most recognize the perception that some companies in certain sectors (particularly financial services) have violated their social contract with consumers, shareholders, regulators, and taxpayers. They also know that this perception seems to have spilled over to business more broadly.”

But don’t hold your breath. In spite of all the talk executive pay is still going up, so, no matter how much spin, perceptions aren’t likely to change any time soon.

I’ve written in the past about the fragility of a company’s street rep, especially in the brave new internet world of instant, global, anonymous communication.

Perceptions are a constantly moving target that are distorted by a variety of circumstances—from as minor as feeling out of sorts to the global economic meltdown; as a result the communications that were understood today may not work tomorrow.

Whether company or individual you need to actively manage perceptions.

Experts constantly bandy such words as ‘authentic’, ‘honest’, ‘sincere’ and similar terms in talking about how to change perceptions, when, in fact, there are only two things working together that actually accomplish perceptional change.

Those two things are actions and time.

If over time actions don’t back up whatever is said, then perceptions won’t change.

This is especially true regarding employee perceptions of company culture.

If a CEO wants to institute a cultural change then every manager at every level needs to support that cultural change or employee perceptions won’t change—but don’t expect it to happen overnight.

The greater the change the greater the cynicism as to how real and how sustainable it actually is, so don’t expect instant buy-in.

Communicate what you’re going to do and then do it consistently over and over forever—and watch perceptions change.

Image credit: Image Editor on flickr

Readers On Reputation

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

“Take care of your reputation. It’s your most valuable asset.”

That advice has been around for decades, but a lot of big names forgot it somewhere on their road to riches.

Not that it seems to matter; first they get a buyout, then a new job.

That said, I have a question and I hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts by clicking ‘comments’ at the end of this post.

What comprises a good reputation in today’s business world? Does it apply to everyone equally?

Image credit: flickr

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