Close your laptop lid

Don’t take out your phone

Either you need to be in this meeting or you don’t.  If you need to attend then be present, if you don’t then DO NOT GO.  Seriously, have the balls to say I should not attend your meeting because it does not effect me, because I do not know anything about the topic, or most importantly because this topic is not a priority for me…  If you do attend then have the respect for the people presenting to give them your full attention.  There is no excuse.  I am tired of hearing well I don’t really need to be there for the whole meeting, tough, show me you have the mental discipline to stay focused on the conversation for the whole meeting.

OK so I understand this is actually hard.  I understand your subconscious is telling you to save time by doing your email in the meeting.  It is saying you can multi-task.  The truth is you can’t.  This is merely the pleasure center of your brain working over time to convince you the activity that will most stimulate that same pleasure center is the best activity for you to engage in during the meeting, that is called addiction.

Just like an addiction your subconscious is saying its OK to do the thing that makes you feel good, email.  It is not.  Everyone in the meeting who has a say in your next raise or promotion thinks you are rude and undisciplined and therefor clearly not ready for the next level.

On top of that, it is expensive for you to attend this meeting and by not paying attention you are reducing the value of everyone else attending the meeting.  How much value are you costing the company?  Take your annual salary, divide by 2000 to get your hourly rate.  Take 80% of that number as the wasted value of your time, in other words you would be 80% more effective if you either focused on the meeting or did not attend.  Now assume you are distracting everyone else by 10% so for every 10 people add one hour of your wages.  In other words when you are in a meeting with 3 other people you are adding negative value to the company.  That means they would be better off firing you than letting you sit in the meeting and do email.  Be present.

Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…

What is really hard to value is how often if you were paying attention would you come up with a really great idea?  Its not that often I will admit but 3 of the 4 greatest ideas I had in my career, the ones that got me big promotions, all came when I was really present in meetings and I came to understand a part of the problem that I was historically blind to because I did not normally talk with these individuals about this topic.  If you want to get promoted, stop being weak, lower your shields, close the lid on your laptop, leave the phone in your pocket, be disciplined and add value to the company.

I was watching my son’s lacrosse game with an old friend, Paul.  We had not seen or talked in years but like old friends, we immediately picked up where we left off and started laughing and sharing ideas.  We were talking about some of the great ideas we had missed in our lives and were still kicking ourselves over our stupidity.  But…  a VC had just drawn Paul a picture that really helped solidify the definition of a good idea so we would never miss one again:

goodideas

All good ideas are at the intersection of seems like a good idea and seems like a bad idea.  Take any really successful company and imagine the pitch they made to the VC.  If everyone in the room said it was a good idea likely there were loads of people trying to execute on the same idea.  If everyone in the room said it was a bad idea then probably it was close to impossible to execute.  But…  if you had people on both sides they you might really have something.  Twitter sounded stupid, we are going to make a phone app that is just like SMS but better, Instagram, we are going to let people publish pictures after applying a short set of canned filters to the pictures, Facebook we are going to create an online way for college students to meet each other…  all of these you can imagine people falling on both sides of the argument, apparently that was a leading indicator.

Here are a couple of other examples in this blog: http://dcurt.is/what-a-stupid-idea

The moral of the story, pick an idea that is not too far fetched for people to believe is possible but is sufficiently unique to make them stop and look.  In other words, not time travel nor business services for food trucks but a new form of insurance that works like a cooperative, like a credit union, wait that has been done already…

//

My first job out of college was Trust Associate for Bank of America.  Why you ask?  3 reasons:

  1. I graduated with a degree in economics
  2. My grades were terrible
  3. It was 1990, no one was hiring

I spent my days explaining to Trustafarian Jane why she could not have more money from the trust set up by her favorite grand dad Henry who thought she would use the money to win the Nobel Peace Prize not to get arrested buying a kilo of heroin in Bangalore.  Eventually every phone call ended with Jane threatening to kill me for stealing her goddamn money and me saying OK Jane, I’ll talk with you next month.

This week I had lunch with my boss from Bank of America, Bill.  Bill kicks ass, unassuming, calm, steady, not adjectives you normally ascribe to an ass kicker, but Bill is also giving, loyal, compassionate, and smart, no I mean SMART.  His emotional IQ is off the charts.  He knows how to get the most out of people and situations.  In short, he has horse power.  I was asking him for thoughts on hiring and developing kick ass employees and we built interesting hypothesis.

I asked Bill why he hired me, I mean I have a folder of 42 cover letters I sent out summer of 1990, the year he hired me, and only 1 interview, it was with Bill.  How could Bill tell I was worth it when everyone else passed me by?  Of course, being Bill, he asked me how I knew a great employee when I found them.

Like we were playing the card game war we flipped over our cards, Bill said Intelligence, Drive, and Personality, I said Opinion, Backing, and Articulation.

Interesting

I would say Bill’s answer is looking for horse power and my answer is looking for leadership.  Probably you have to look for all 6.  I have often said people who have opinions based on real data and can clearly explain why the data leads to the conclusion.  Sadly, in retrospect, I failed to realize candidates had already run the gauntlet of at least 3 other interviews before they got to me, they had been screened for horse power.  This seems correct to me, you have to have raw horsepower to be a valuable employee but you must also have leadership to be a great employee.

So, can you hire someone who is missing one or more of these traits and change the slope of their career, can you make them more successful than had they never worked for you?  Is it possible a manager can change the destiny of one person’s career by teaching them, by mentoring them?  We determined it is not possible to change the progressions of a persons slope by education.  People must change who they are or what they do or where they do it in order to change how they do it so in general a single manager does not change an employees performance. In general, people gravitate to the normal slope of their career regardless of the manager because there performance is based on horse power and leadership.  Generally a manager is merely filling time on the curve either serving as a foil for their growth or their failure.  Its not that leaders are born not made, its that a person choses whether or not to develop skills that grow leadership and horse power.  If a person has not chosen to develop these traits by their early 30s they are not likely to be self-enlightened enough to develop them tomorrow not matter how persuasive you are as a manager and mentor.

So what can you do, the only thing you can do, continue to be the best manager and mentor you can be and provide the coaching and opportunities that give employees the chance to develop on their own.

I build amazing teams, teams that transform opportunities into unexpected success.  That is my brand, building great teams to accomplish great things.  But I suck at hiring, at least until recently.  How can these contradictory facts coexist?  Well I have a whole philosophy on team building but that is a topic for another post, looking back it has been my bets on the unlikely candidate, the potential diamond in the rough, candidates who seem to have all 6 traits but lack experience in the domain or the role, that have always formed the cornerstone of great teams.  Sure not all of the bets pay off but as long as 1 or 2 pay off you will have the foundation of greatness.

I like to think I was one of those candidates.  Bill over looked my 2.2 GPA and hired me because he saw intelligence, drive and the personality required to succeed.  I also suspect I clearly articulated opinions on how I would fulfill the job, make the department a better place and make for happier customers every day and having shown all 6 traits clichéd it for him.  I only stayed with Bill for 15 months.  In that time I developed and documented process for every major activity required by the job and worked through a backlog that was literally 2 feet high the day I started.  In fact working through the backlog only took 3 months of ass kicking.

At lunch I learned Bill has cancer and listening to Bill I realized how a lifetime of looking for the best in those around him prepared Bill to look for the best within him.  And I remembered, Bill kicks ass, that cancer better look the fuck out…

//

Sorry I have been away for a while, I have been overseas.  Spending a week time phased 8 hours causes you to loose your mind.  Not as in going insane, as in lost with your luggage and it takes a while to find you again.

Today I was helping my cousin look for a job.  She wanted me to take a look at her resume and see what I thought.  Hmm, well, its long… and boring… that seems a bad combination.  And really, it has none of what makes you unique.  My cousin is bold, daring, creative, fierce, intelligent, artistic…  Her resume was vanilla.  It was the type of resume a recruiter tells you to produce which will be perfectly camouflaged in the pile of other resumes which are tailored to avoid upsetting a single recruiter.  You have to be true to yourself:

Are you this

Or this

Which ever it is, be that.  Finding a really great job is counter intuitive, its not about casting your net wide and making sure you will be considered for anything that might fit, its about narrowing your focus and targeting exactly what you want, the exact company, they exact position, a boss that loves you.  A great boss wants you because of who you are not in spite of who you are.  If they are not actively seeking out your unique traits then when you do start the job you are screwed because over time the real you will come out.  And if they don’t appreciate the real you then you will be unhappy, raises will suck, and eventually you will quit or be fired and you will wish it had happened earlier.

My advice to my cousin, go back, and get yourself in the perfect state of mind to let your personality out.  That state of mind you have on the first, second and third dates where you are trying to impress.  The state of mind where you are cracking great jokes and telling stories, you know the stories about the most interesting parts of your life.  That’s the person who has to shine through on your resume.  So go back, drink a glass of wine and be yourself as opposed to “ugh, I hate writing my resume, this sucks”.  What an epiphany!  Exactly.  Your mind state when you write your resume will come through loud and clear to the reader whether that is fear, loathing, Las Vegas, whatever, you may as well have screamed it at the recruiter so get in the right state of mind!

Your state of mind always comes out in your writing, even something structured like your resume.  For me, I have been writing my blog at night after leaving every ounce of creativity I have at the office.  It makes my writing far less conversational and no where near as funny as I would like because I get into the state of mind, just get it done as fast as possible.  That defeats the purpose of my writing.  I am writing because I like it not because its a chore.  If I want to write great blogs I have to get in that state of mind that lets out the real me and that is not generally at 10pm after a day of BS.

So, you want that great job?  Go back and rewrite your resume, do something completely you.  If you are applying for a marketing position then format your resume as a GTM strategy where you are the product.  If you area developer build an app that serves as your resume complete with architecture diagrams and code samples right in the app.  If you are bold then be bold and if you are introverted then let that shine through and be introverted.  As Ty Webb says, be the ball Danny, have the mental state of mind you want reflected in what you are about to do, because if you hate the task then your output is going to suck.

Todd Haugen:

A great discussion on how simply tracking your time will drive your success. These guys have a few really good blogs on how data can help reduce stress…

Originally posted on RescueTime Blog:

The Quantified Self movement, in all it’s various shapes and sizes, is giving us the opportunity for an unprecedented view of ourselves. Examining ourselves through a lens of data holds the promise for better health, increased productivity, even greater happiness.

But what does self-tracking do to your creativity?

Now, it could be argued that all this careful measurement and instrumentation is really just a misguided way to optimize all spontaneity out of life. Albert Einstein said “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” There’s absolutely truth to that. Today’s knowledge workers need to be creative. It’s probably the most important skill to have, especially as more process-oriented work is increasingly automated. The problem, from a self-tracking standpoint, is that creativity is subjective, and damn near impossible to express in a structured way. Some people are certainly trying, but I think it will…

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I was in a meeting on Friday and one of the people in the meeting looked at me and said pointblank, “you just don’t get it”.

They were right.

When you hear “you don’t get it”, it’s a sure sign they do not understand your position AND you do not understand theirs.  They are saying, “you don’t understand my argument or you would know I am right”.  Which is of course non-sensical, of course they are wrong!  No seriously, if you really did get it then you would understand their position well enough that you could make arguments they could hear and you would both get it.  Either that or you are just being a jerk but that is a different blog.  Until you understand their position so well you can argue it yourself you will never win the other person over.  So next time you hear “you just don’t get it” respond with, “You are right, I must not get it, will you try and explain it to me again?”  And when you commit to understanding their position the path out opens they will subconsciously start to understand your position.

For me, its actually easier to catch times when people think I am the idiot, its far more difficult for me to catch when I am the one calling them a dumbass.  It’s so easy to get righteous and not hear my close-mindedness which blocks positive action.  Once you decide to take positive action, start listening for yourself or someone in your group saying idiot, or what a dumbass, or man that guy is narrow minded, any of these variants of the  infamous, “Oh look at our superior intellect” statements.  The truth is your intellect is not superior.

In my life I have talked with something like 1000 people at work in my life, an average of 1 new person a week for 20 years.  Of those I can say not a single one had an IQ of less than 100, probably not less than 115, which is to say, not a single stupid one in the lot.  Of course in the first 10 years of my career I thought most everyone had a lesser intellect than me.  Sad.  Think about it, given I worked at premier companies, odds are, even if my IQ was 150, it was unlikely 80-90% of the people at work had lesser intellect than me.  When you start doing the math, you quickly realize the % of people who actually have a lesser intellect than you vs the number of people you think have a lesser intellect is way out of whack.  Mon dieu, how can this be, you say?  Well, either I am not as smart as I think and therefor people actually are a match for my intellect or I am not as smart as I think because I do not recognize how many people actually are a match for my intellect.  Either way I am not as smart as I think.

What to do?

The basis of thinking someone is an idiot is hubris, you simply have a fat head.  In reality, the majority of folks are quite smart and they are experts in their domain or at least as much of an expert as you.  When you think their position is dumb it is because you do not understand all of the inputs that devised their position.  This is most often the case, we assume we have a complete view of the situation and therefor we have THE resolution when in reality we have an incomplete view and can only contribute by seeking to understand the person’s view and bring new information to the table to help drive the quality of the resolution.

Seriously, everytime you find yourself saying they just don’t get it you have to recognize that always means you don’t get it.  Yep.  Its that simple, when you find yourself thinking someone else’s position is idiotic its a sure sign you do not understand their position.  And when you do not understand their position what should you do?  Seek to understand.

So regardless of who says who is a moron the path out is the same, recognize you don’t get it and then seek to understand the other persons position.   Before you know it a better solution encompassing both perspectives will emerge.

“Let us fight to free the world” -Charlie Chaplin.

I was turned on to this video by http://www.everydaypowerblog.com and it is pretty cool.  I am not sure what radio show it is from but it is worth the couple of minutes to watch.  It will remind you that 99% or the world, or more like 999.9999% of the world all want the same.

Oh yeah, this is from a silent movie star, that is f’in cool!

We have all heard the definition of insanity, doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.  That’s how I know you don’t want to be promoted.  Because, after receiving clear advice on the steps that will get you promoted, you are not taking those steps.  You continue to drag yourself out of bed, eat your captain crunch, dog your commute, spend the day in email and meetings, dog the commute home, hit the gym, go out to dinner, hit the bar, play Xbox, watch sports center…  or if you prefer: drag yourself out of bed, primp, drink your power shake, dog your commute, spend the day in email and meetings, dog the commute home, go for a run, make yourself a salad, watch arrested development, read Laini Tailor…These things did not get you promoted yesterday, is there any reason you think they will get you promoted today?  How about tomorrow, is there any logic in that expectation?  Not Next month.  Nor Next year.  You are not going to get promoted.

Truth is exactly what all those light and airy self help books tell you, what got you here will not get you there…  If what you’ve been doing WAS going to get you there, you would already be there, because no matter where you go there you are!

What are you going to change to increase your impact, your value, your visibility?  In the absence of change, things are not going to work out for you, even if they worked out in the past.  That’s the pisser, if you do not change you remain static, remaining static means no promotion as that would be change.  But what should you change?

The change that matters most, more focus on strategic impact.  Today you are spending a huge % of your time on busy work that adds little value, you must stop.  Lets look at those bad behaviors:

  • Email dawn to dusk, what would happen if you didn’t answer a single email?
  • Back to back meetings dawn to dusk, how many of those meetings should you have declined?
  • Late arrival, seriously, you cannot show up on time, every time, even if it would get you a promotion?
  • Early departure, better than arriving late but still…  be known for working your fair share.
  • Inconsistency, make the effort and take the time to be predictable.  Inconsistency is like half runny pudding, dude, gross.
  • Lack of follow up, we all have that friend, don’t be that guy.
  • Self-centeredness – this manifests itself as a lack of curiosity for the world around you so you miss seeing where you might have impact.

Given we exhibit bad behavior AND feel we should be promoted we  sound like a Monty Python skit:

  • Michael Palin: I would like a raise
  • John Cleese: But you have not been to work in over a week?
  • Michael: That is because you are not paying me enough
  • John: But when you were hear all you did was stand around and stare at women?
  • Michael: Hard work that, having to see all those lovelies and not being able to touch any.
  • John: Touch them?  Are you daft man?

What are all the ridiculous bad habits to which we feel entitled?

After years of mentoring and coaching I have found employees who start their day taking the following actions add more strategic value and receive more promotions than those who don’t.  I know I am far more effective when I am following this religiously…

  • Clear out collection points, email, sticky notes, voice mail scheduling them as action items in your calendar
  • Triage action items from yesterday’s meetings and schedule them as action items on your calendar
  • Review yesterdays incomplete tasks and either kill them or reschedule them on your calendar
  • Review status report for items needing attention this week and schedule them as action items on your calendar
  • Review tomorrows calendar and schedule time to prep for meetings as action items on your calendar
  • Send summaries from yesterday’s meetings
  • Block out time two days out for deliverables
  • Block out time two days out for lunch/email
  • Work on 10%, this will be the topic of another blog
  • Then, complete the action items at the scheduled time

If you come to me and say you want to work towards a promotion, and you don’t do these things daily then I say bull shit, you don’t want a promotion you simply want a raise without the responsibility.  Hmm, sounds like you want to be in great shape but you don’t want to work out.  You want the benefits with out the costs.  Kind of obvious, if you are not willing to pay the costs then you must not want the benefits because they come as a single unit.

Todd Haugen:

I met Lisa in 2004. This was a low spot in my life, recently divorced, struggling in my career, and financially strained. Despite life being at such a low point, Lisa and I fell in love and later married. As a wedding gift Lisa gave me a present that helped me understand, it was a framed magazine article, literally torn from a magazine called Wellness or some such BS. The title of the article was “Irrepressible”. The card said, “To the most irrepressible person I have ever met, thank you for being the love of my life.” Irrepressibility is the source of awesomeness in everyone Neil is talking about in this video, watch it, you will feel awesome!

Originally posted on What's Nathan Doing?:

I love it when some shows themselves to be truly awesome and makes others around them awesome as a result.  This talk made me feel awesome.

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We all know the most difficult achievement in baseball or work is the homerun right?  In the early days of baseball, homeruns were the rarest of hits.  In the early 1900s homeruns constituted only 2.7% of all hits, 76.9 percent for singles, 15.2 percent for doubles, and 5.3 percent for triples.  This is as the world should be, you should have to be Joe DiMaggio to hit a homerun like this.

Now days, in baseball the triple is the rarest of all hits at 2.3% of hits.  It seems we have brought this stat to work with us and we are all trying to hit home runs now.  Not RBIs.  Not Singles, Doubles, or Triples, just home runs.  Everyone is trying to out do everyone else and deliver the most amazing results largely by themselves.  The result, in most companies, the single lowest aspect of job satisfaction is employees feeling they are not recognized for helping others succeed. The whole world is running around trying to “DO” something they can lay credit to and get promoted or become famous, or some such…  Of course, to take the baseball analogy one step further, homeruns do not win games, manufacturing runs wins games, in other words using bunts, steals, and singles to get runners to home plate.  So why have we stopped manufacturing runs at the office?  What we have here is a failure to understand how credit works.

How credit works:

Single – If you do something yourself you get credit for a job well done.  Excellent work they say and then give you your next assignment which looks disturbingly like the one you just delivered.

Double – I call this the Tom Sawyer.  If you get someone else to do the work then you can spend that time doing something else for which you will also get credit!

Triple – Many people call this plagiarizing to which I say, “ah, you must have just graduated from college.  Everyone in college learns using someone else’s hard work is cheating.”  In the working world, reusing someone else’s hard work is just smart business.  When you use someone else’s completed work you get credit, then you get the person to do something else for you, and you get to do something else yourself there by getting 3 things done in the time you could complete one.

Homerun – the Joe DiMaggio, the unicorn, OK so they are not that rare, you are more likely to hit a homerun at work than you are to find yourself on a date with Marilyn, but at the office we seem to think homeruns are so achievable, so common place, as to be our bread and butter sustenance and yet our careers are starving.

How credit works for a manager: This equation is even better for a manger because, as a manager the reality is you get all the credit.  Yes you also get all the blame.  This is completely unavoidable.  If you say, “aw shucks, thanks for the credit but really little Tommy on my team did all the work”, you still get credit.  Of course blame works the same, “Seriously, I had nothing to do with that, it was all little Tommy’s fault”, you still get the blame.

It’s amazing!  For the exact same amount of work, by passing on credit or blame to your individual team members now 2 people get credit or blame.  How did we magically double the amount of credit to go around?  It’s just human nature, people observing a particular success or failure give credit or blame to everyone they know was involved.

As a manager, you can use this to your advantage.  Every time someone on your team delivers something great, tell everyone what a great job they did.  Your employees career advances and you are seen as an accomplished manager who must be ready for more responsibility.  As for the blame, never breath a word of who was at fault because if no one knows who is at fault then only you are at fault and your employees career advances and you are seen as an accomplished manager who must be ready for more responsibility.

True homeruns are the most difficult to achieve, they are few and far between, so balance the number of times you swing for the fence at the office with the number of runs you manufacture.  And remember, in business, its almost as easy to hit a triple as it is a single so reuse people’s work wherever possible and it will lead to the most successful career possible however you define success.  Just remember, give credit where credit is due or expect what comes around goes around…

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