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Social Media Fame Stupidity Knows No Bounds

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

I write posts one day in advance, so this one was written yesterday (Tuesday) and is not the one I planned to write.

I live in Washougal, a small town on the Washington State side of the Columbia River about 20 miles from Portland, Oregon; a town that calls itself “the gateway to the Gorge.”

In spite of its proximity to both Portland and Vancouver, WA, it’s a very rural area.

I woke today to a gray sky, the smell of smoke and everything covered with a mix of fine wood particles and ash.

Apparently, some teens thought it was the height of entertainment to film throwing fireworks into Eagle Creek Canyon on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.

“Even though that kid threw the firecracker, all of those kids he was with are complicit. All of them watched, all of them did nothing. They all were a part of it. One filmed it,” she said. “When I came upon them, and the guy threw the firecracker, I’m pretty sure I heard a couple of them giggle. The guy was filming it like it was another thing to film, no big deal. The whole complacency of that group, I find it so disturbing.”  

They did this in an area that has seen no real rain in months; an area under fire prohibitions.

That was the start of the Eagle Creek Fire.

Then, for the first time since 1902, the fire jumped the Columbia, caught and started the Archer Mountain Fire.

As I write this, that fire is less than six miles from my friend’s house and only 15 miles from mine.

The air, inside and out, is smokey.

Hopefully, the winds won’t start up and neither of us will have to evacuate.

There is so much I don’t like about today’s world that it’s hard to choose the worst.

However, I reserve a top spot for people, no matter their age, who don’t think about / don’t care how much damage they do so long as they get their 5 seconds of social media fame, along with those who stand by and watch.

Image credit: Brent/KOIN TV

Golden Oldies: Incentive Doubleheader

Monday, July 24th, 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.

Companies constantly talk about what they are doing to incentivize productivity and innovation. Incentives are supposed to help drive performance. Recognition is very important as are financial rewards — as long as they are seen as fair. If not, they act more as disincentives, as seen in the first post.

The second focuses on sales incentives.Maximizing revenue generation, AKA, sales, is a top priority for every business, from micro startups through the Fortune 10. Commissions have always played a significant role incentivizing salespeople  — until they don’t.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

The Reward Should Fit the Act

1095615_success_wayAre you familiar with the saying “let the punishment fit the crime?”

It’s a valid approach, but it’s just as true that the reward should fit the action.

A friend of mine works for a Fortune 1000 company in a tech support role. He’s well respected lead tech in his group.

Last year he developed an idea on his own time and gave it to his company.

As a result, he was flown to annual dinner and presented with an award and a $5000 bonus.

Sound impressive?

His idea will save his company $5 million or more each year.

Still impressed?

My friend isn’t.

He has a friend who is very impressed, but that’s because his company doe nothing; no recognition whatsoever.

My friend feels that a $5K reward for saving the company $5M or more every year, while being better than nothing, is still just short of an insult.

Other than being disappointed what’s the fallout?

He likes his job and his boss, so he’s not planning on leaving, but…

He has another idea that he’s not going to bother developing.

He’s still one of the most productive people they have, but that extra edge is gone.

What do you think his employer should have done?

Join me tomorrow for another look at how, to quote another old saying, companies keep cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

Image credit: dinny

 

Ducks in a Row: Incentive Stupidity Knows No Bounds

http://www.flickr.com/photos/finsec/354260437/Yesterday I told you how a company squashed my friend’s initiative by giving him a bonus that had no relationship to the value he provided them in annual savings.

This reminded me of something that happened back in the early 1980s when sales was truly dependent on the skill, relationships and reputations of salespeople.

Another guy friend, another incredibly stupid company.

In a nutshell,

  • Guy outsold every salesperson both internally and at the competition. He had years of experience; relationships with customers that didn’t quit and unmatched skill at understanding customers and convincing them that his company (whichever it was) had the best solution available.
  • One day guy was called into the CFOs office and told that his commission was being capped.
  • He was on track to earn more than the president and that was unacceptable; he asked if they were sure that was the only solution and told yes.
  • Guy proceeded to write a resignation letter on a sheet of paper he borrowed from the CFO.
  • He left the offices without speaking to anyone.
  • By the time he reached home there were three name-your-own-terms offers from competitors on his voicemail.
  • He started with his new company the next day.

Over the years I’ve found that actions like these usually come from the company’s bean counters. (In this instance, ‘bean counters’ is definitely a derogatory term.)

Apparently, some bean counters involved never learned to do the math.

In both cases the actual cost was zero, since they were funded from direct actions well beyond anything expected of the employees involved.

The lesson here is that you never cap a commission and the reward for saving $5 million annually should be at least 1% of one year ($50,000) as opposed to .001% ($5,000).

I realize it’s difficult for some financial types, executives and managers to understand, but that is why bonuses and commissions are called incentives—not disincentives.

Image credit: Finsec

If The Shoe Fits: The Stupidity Of Always On

Friday, June 30th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mBack in the distant 1980s, when startups were valued for what they did, as opposed to the cash they raised, a founder made a casual comment that has stuck with me all these years.

He said, “There will be times when my team has to pull all-nighters, but if it happens often it is a failure of management to correctly schedule the work and set viable deadlines, as opposed to an unexpected emergency.”

Boy, has that changed. These days founders brag about their 80-120-always-on-hour-weeks and expect their team to do the same.

And they do.

It’s the new techie status symbol.

And not just in tech land.

The gig economy not only brags about it, they base their recruiting on it.

 “You eat a coffee for lunch,” the [Fiverr] ad proclaims. “You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”

Doer? Or exploitee?

Or, more accurately, stupid, with a capital S.

“A culture of overwork is damaging because it turns brief binges of hard work into a long-term strategy, and, worse still, an expectation. When managers start measuring the worth of their employees according to how quickly they return emails at 3 a.m., that particular work culture is broken,” Adam Alter, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, told Business Insider in an email. (He wrote a book about how technology keeps us “always on.”)

Stupid because 80-100+ hour weeks lowers creativity and productivity, while increasing coding and other errors. Not to mention lost sales and misunderstandings.

Founders take note. Not of me, but of the research, crunch the numbers, and analyze the data.

Then think twice, send your team home and go yourself and get some sleep.

Even Uber is planning on that.

“Uber is a data-driven company, and the data shows unequivocally that when you work longer, you are not working smarter,” Uber board member Arianna Huffington told the company’s employees during an all-hands meeting last week, according to leaked audio obtained by Yahoo.
Huffington also added that employees won’t have to be “always on” and responsive to whatever is going on at the office, no matter where they are. Because “when you’re always on you’re depleted, you are distracted,” and “not as creative” as you are when you’re well-rested, Huffington also said, channeling the thesis of her new pro-sleep startup Thrive.

Image credit: HikingArtist

More Thoughts on Leadership

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

kg_charles-harris

I’ve seen many definitions of leadership in the course of my career, but none so accurate as the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th US president.

Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.

Simple, right?

But harder to implement.

Years ago, in a personal setting, I was acting like a prima donna when someone I respected turned a mirror to my behavior.

Not only did I think my behavior was despicable, but I also learned of the destructive power of ego.

My ego.

It was a wake-up call for me.

To counteract it in the future, I created a little mantra that I repeat to myself relatively often.

“Ego is the enemy that confuses what I want, and destroys what I create.”

Ego is THE enemy.

More dangerous than laziness, ignorance or stupidity.

More perfidious than cowardice or fear.

And, sadly, more common across society with every passing year.

 

If the Shoe Fits: How Old is an Entrepreneur?

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_m

Age is more a mental state than a physical one.

I’ve always said that smart people say/do stupid things and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla is proof of that.

“People under 35 are the people who make change happen,” said, “People over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas.”

The problem is that the data the tech world is so enamored with doesn’t back that up.

Vivek Wadhwa, a Duke University researcher, worked with the Kauffman Foundation in 2009 to explore the anatomy of a successful startup founder. That survey of more than 500 startups in high-growth industries showed that the average founder of a successful company had launched his or her venture at the surprisingly high age of 40. The study also found that people over 55 are almost twice as likely to launch high-growth startups than those aged 20 to 34.

The term “high growth” is key. 2010′s top two fastest-growing tech startups, according to Forbes, were First Solar, founded by a 68-year old, followed by Riverbed Technology, co-founded by entrepreneurs who were 51 and 33 at the time.

He should also inform the Merage Institute, which awards $100K to the top startup by a 45+-year-old founder (more runner-ups at the link).

  • In 2016 it was iSilla – Movement for people with disabilities
  • 2nd Prize –  SonicBone – Bone Age – Ultrasound Device for Bone Age assessment
  • 3rd Prize – Inensto – Aluminum Air Battery

In 2015 they were:

  • 1st Prize – NiNiSpeech
  • 2nd Prize – A new Hydrogen Energy Storage
  • 3rd Prize – Glasses for AMD Macular Degeneration

Brian Acton was 37 when he founded WhatsApp.

Notice that all of them solve a real problem — a problem of which they wouldn’t be aware if they hadn’t faced it directly or indirectly themselves.

Which meant they had real world experience.

Even Mark Zukerberg had real world experience; he wanted an easy way to engage and keep up with his friends. Remember, Facebook was originally started for college kids.

The reason Khosla is so far off base, is that an entrepreneur can only disrupt that with which she is familiar enough to figure out a better way or see a hole and fill it.

Hence young males created Tinder and its clones to hookup and Match and its clones for something more permanent.

If you look at socially oriented startups, many of their founders, both young and old, saw the need first hand, while volunteering and/or traveling, came home and created a solution that answered that need.

It’s not a matter of age.

It’s a matter of three things

  1. See the need/experience the want/desire what isn’t
  2. Think of a way to solve/provide it
  3. Possess the drive, tenaciousness, guts and slight insanity required to turn an idea into a reality and a reality into a company

And those three things can happen to anyone at any age.

My thanks to KG for reminding me of how important it is to help smash these myths.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: the Stupidity of Stereotyping

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaibara/4195647026/

Stereotyping is stupid.

It’s stupid because you can’t generalize out the traits of a few to an entire group.

And the larger the group, the stupider the results of stereotyping.

However, the lure of lumping together a large, demographic group for selling purposes is catnip to marketers and also the media.

The problem was well illustrated over the last few years in the depiction of Generation Y — those worthless, entitled Millennials.

80 million of them.

That thinking will go a long way to screwing up your efforts to sell to, hire and manage them.

So think about it.

Don’t you find it a bit ridiculous that 80 million people all think and act identically?

People who come from totally different backgrounds.

Not to mention totally different states; what are the chances of people from California/Maine/Texas/Florida raising their kids so identically that they would think alike?

All 80 million, if you listen to the media.

Jessica Kriegel provides great insight and an in-depth look at the stupidity in her new book, Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes.

The more you look at generational stereotypes the stupider they become.

The more you buy into them the more money it costs you and your company.

Flickr image credit: Umberto Salvagnin

Words to Balance Unbalanced Times

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

albert_einstein.jpgThese are heady times for politicians, pundits and strutting egos.

Which makes it a very good time to recall the words of a truly brilliant and insightful man.

“The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits.” – Albert Einstein

I’d add that true genius knows them.

Entrepreneurs: Who to Interview

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonphillips/3540693888/

I try to be polite, but sometimes it’s difficult.

Sometimes I just need to shut up in order to avoid telling my host that I think he is the stupidest person I’ve been around lately.

“Clay” was talking to a group of new entrepreneurs; going on at length about how brilliant he is at hiring talent for his company.

He said that knew when he should interview someone just by hearing a few basic facts, like education and general experience; no need for detailed specifics.

When he finally stopped bragging and patting himself on the back just one guy had the temerity to disagree, saying that wasn’t enough information to make such company success-critical decisions.

Clay turned and asked me to do four thumbnail sketches of candidates I knew and he would prove it was enough.

Here are the four profiles I provided.

  1. BSBA, some programming in college; started in customer service and worked his way up through the executive ranks.
  2. Some college; 12 years of programming and management experience.
  3. Harvard MBA w/ 25 years progressively more responsible positions in consulting, sales and management.
  4. MIT BS; more than 40 years programming experience in a broad array of technologies. Strong entrepreneurial bent; excellent manager.

Clay laughed and said he wasn’t surprised I included mostly “oldies,” since I was one of them.

He went on to say that he would pass on 1,3 and 4, because they probably wouldn’t fit into the fast pace of a startup. The second was a possibility, although he didn’t sound particularly aggressive.

Poor Clay, his investors won’t be pleased; he just passed on

  1. Marc Benioff (52)
  2. Sheryl Sandberg (47), and
  3. Ray Kurzweil (68)

He did think number 2 was a possibility, although not a strong one.

But Mark Zukerberg (32) probably wouldn’t fit in.

Flickr image credit: Jon Phillips

Why NOT to Trust Your Apps

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

When I in college, I remember discussing a newspaper story with my aunts. I remember saying that I didn’t believe something and my aunts saying that if something wasn’t true it would not be in the paper.

They really believed that, because in the world they grew up and lived in it was mostly was true.

Fast forward to today and you find the same attitude being applied to the information supplied by the tech they use.

They don’t question the stuff supplied by various apps, especially if it’s from known vendors.

Vendors such as MaxMind.

Maxmind identifies IP addresses, matches them to a map and sells that data to advertisers.

Trouble is, accuracy isn’t their strong point.

Back in 2002, when it started in this business, Fusion reports, MaxMind made a decision. If its tech couldn’t tell where, exactly, in the US, an IP address was located, it would instead return a default set of coordinates very near the geographic center of the country — coordinates that happen to coincide with Taylor’s front yard.

Taylor is the unfortunate owner of a farm that sits on one of those catch-all co-ordinates.

And although the info isn’t supposed to be used to identify specific addresses, surprise, surprise, that’s exactly how people do use it, law enforcement included.

The farm’s 82-year-old owner, Joyce Taylor, and her tenants have been subject to FBI visits, IRS collectors, ambulances, threats, and the release of private information online, she told Fusion.

As bad as that is, at least the Taylor’s still have their home, unlike the two families who are homeless because a contractor assumed Google maps was correct, so he didn’t check the demolition addresses.

Unbelievable.
Unbelievable that they accepted the tech without checking.
Unbelievable that they first called it a minor mistake.
Unbelievable that the owners aren’t suing.

Video credit: Business Insider

United Airlines: Unbelievably Stupid

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

It’s amazing to me how just plain stupid some companies are and, worse, maintain that stupidity for years.

United Airlines is a good example.

In 2009 it damaged the Dave Carroll’s guitar. Carroll spent 9 months trying to get United to fix it, which they refused to do.

So Carroll, whose band is Sons of Maxwell, posted “United Breaks Guitars,” a musical video on YouTube.

The video went viral and UAL’s stock dropped 5%.

Six years later the video has garnered 15 million views, 83 thousand Likes, 21 thousand comments and is still being passed around.

You would think they would learn something from that experience.

You would be wrong.

Last month, United personnel once again stuck their foot in it when they first refused to provide hot food to an autistic teen, although they finally relented.

The girl was fine, but the idiot pilot called for an emergency landing, called the paramedics and the cops.

When the officers started to leave, the captain stepped out of the cockpit and said something to them, Beegle said. They then asked her family to leave, she said.

“He said, ‘The captain has asked us to ask you to step off the plane.'” Beegle said. “I said, ‘She didn’t do anything’ … But the captain said he’s not comfortable flying on to Portland with [Juliette] on the plane.”

All of this with the full support of management.

United said its “crew made the best decision for the safety and comfort of all of our customers and elected to divert to Salt Lake City after the situation became disruptive.”

Passengers who witnessed the whole thing and posted videos said it was total bunk.

Of course, what UAL did to this child was far worse than breaking a guitar, but it goes to show their motto is still “the customer is always wrong, no matter what.”

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