Category Archives: Hiring and Management

Years of Experience, Not All are Equal

When read a job ad, 99% of the time I see a listing that says “must have X years in ABC.” This is often done to weed out the field, but it really is showing that the people that create these ads don’t really understand the dynamics of career progression. Not all experience is created equal.

Now I know I’m going to offend a number of people with this comment. Not all business experience is the same. Take for example marketing. A person with 5 years in a corporate marketing role has about the same hands on experience as a person in a start up with 2 years experience. I know that is not a popular opinion but hear me out.

Large corporations often have you in a rotation or locked into a role. You are in channel marketing or branding or product marketing or marketing communications and that is what you do for that time. So you spend 5 years doing product marketing. That’s really all you know, but marketing is a sum of its parts, you are not truly able to be a marketing leader unless you have done all the pieces of marketing. In a start up, you do them all because you have to. So you get a better understanding (assuming you did it correctly) how it all comes together, how channel and branding work together and product and communications. So in a short amount of time you have a broader background and often with more hands on experience.

If you have been in both, you understand what I’m talking about, if you have only been in corporate, you really have no idea what you are missing. I think we should all start out in small companies in our careers, it’s the best way to really learn business because you have to do everything and often and get good at it. In corporations, a lot of people can coast or stay in one area for years. I know people who have been in the same job for 10 years, just plugging away and they have little idea what distribution is doing or sales or finance. In a start up, you can’t afford not to know.

So really, we should not judge experience as the same, as a company, it would be good for you to rediscover the art of the conversation and talk to candidates again and learn who they are. The ROI is there.

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Man Fired over Dilbert Cartoon

This is one of those things that can only happen in a politically correct work environment.  A man gets fired for posting a Dilbert cartoon which makes fun of management.  Then the company tries to stop him from getting unemployment benefits too!

 

Seriously, some people need to lighten up big time.  It’s a cartoon!  Was it professional, probably not but I doubt it was done with the kind of hate and desire to inflict harm towards management as the company claims.  Plus if management is that thin skinned, they probably shouldn’t be in management.  I can just see the conversation where they guy gets fired and they talk about how they have “zero tolerance for intolerance,” which I always find amusing because that in itself is intolerant and insensitive. 

 

Management would have been far better off to just talk to the guy, say “hey, we are under a lot of stress, this just isn’t helping now, can you not put it up?”  Instead, they made a mountain out of an ant hill and are now the true butt of the Dilbert cartoon jokes as the writer of the cartoon is now using the situation in the actual strip.

 

Another great example of what happens when you stop acting human and put PCism first; you look stupid to everyone else.  Seriously, chill out people.  It would be nice if humanism were the way to be professional, act human, treat others decent, stop punishing people who say things you don’t like and realize it’s you not them that has the issue.  This company would have been better off if they had; this probably never would have gone beyond their own doors.  I wonder who much business they lost as a result of this, I’m sure the number isn’t zero.

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Political Correctness Equals Poor Performance

I’ve never been accused of being politically correct, so I’m sure this will offend all the PCer’s out there who love the idea.  For all my working life, I have been told to be politically correct and sometimes I was lucky to find work situations where I could just be myself.  The fun thing is, in those situations, I out performed the politically correct groups, hands down.  This really doesn’t come as any surprise to me, because political correctness really is a self imposed limiting influence on performance.

 

Political correctness has its roots in Stalin’s communist era.  He wasn’t a big fan of business, or the fundamentals of capitalism.  So it is rather curious why we today choose to self impose this outdated idea upon us on such a wide scale.  It is actually quite funny when you think about the logic behind it, yet on another level, really disturbing. 

 

The root of political correctness is that you don’t want to offend anyone.  Well I can honestly tell you that I have never offended a single person in my entire life.  No I’m serious, not one person on this Earth has ever been offended by me.  Now there are a lot of people walking around who will claim I have offended them, yet I assure you, I never have.  And on the opposite side, no one has ever offended me, despite my many accusations that they did, at the time.  No one really can offend you, unless you let them. 

 

Where does an offense come from?  Does the speaker create it?  No, if I call someone an illegal, they may feel offended, yet did I really offend them?  No, I did not impose on them how to react to that word, I did not impose on them how to define that word, I did not impose on them the emotions they tied to that word.  So I can’t really offend anyone because I am not the decider of the offense.  We offend ourselves; the true root of an offense is in the listener, not the speaker.  It is childish and irresponsible of us to blame someone else for our own reaction to something, yet we all do it.  This very backwards logic of being offended is what drives political correctness.  Yet truly the root of it is flawed and as a result, we censor our words and thoughts and this is truly what hurts business and people. 

 

I’m always saying, “people drive the numbers,” and they do and to get them to drive the numbers in a positive direction, it helps to have an environment where people can feel ok to express themselves without fear of some backlash for saying what they really think.  It is in the listener to be mature enough to take a time out and examine what belief is driving them to feel offended, this helps a lot more than trying to get people to censor themselves.  Why do we punish someone for saying something our 3rd grade teacher told us was offensive, that teacher is probably retired in Florida and doesn’t even remember what he or she said, so why do people hold other accountable for that believe of an offense decades later?  Who really is offending whom in this situation?  It would be a lot more just and humane to really examine what in your past triggered your feeling of offense, often it has nothing to do with the speaker. But it is a lot harder to do that and frankly, some people in power don’t want you speaking up, some organizations don’t want you to say what you really think of their new product or project and use political correctness to squash dialogue which then reduces productivity as well.  But some organizations do it because they were told that being politically correct was the “compassionate” way to lead.

 

I honestly don’t see the compassion in censoring people from expressing who they are, nor is it compassionate to allow people to act on emotions of hurt and lash out at others instead of telling them they should deal with the root issues, it’s probably better on their health to be frank and tell them they shouldn’t be so offended by what people say, think how many times you’ve seen someone get tensed up and worked up over something someone said, can’t be good for the nerves. 

 

In teams where we let people be who they are and say what they want, things got done and issues were dealt with fast and more accurately than teams that were more concerned with what they said and how.  You take the politics out and people just get real and you realize how much of all that stuff really doesn’t matter when you take it out of the equation.  Those who can’t handle it will move on, those who can will stay and thrive and that’s what happens.  Things get done and they get done faster, which is the whole idea of business, you make more money that way!

 

At the end of the day, political correctness is a flawed idea whose time should be relegated to the history books.  If you feel someone has offended you, they haven’t.  Sure, there are a lot of people who say things with the intent to offend, but really, they can’t hurt you unless you give them that option.  So if you don’t give them the option and own your thoughts and emotions, nobody can truly harm you in that fashion. 

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The Wisdom Lost in the Numbers

I spent the weekend reading as I had a lot of reading to catch up on.  That happens in the summer since I spend more time doing outdoor and active activities than in the winter when I’m snowed in with little to do.  But I felt guilty having those books just sit there collecting dust so I had a crack at a few of them.  “The Sum of Our Discontent” by David Boyle was one of those books I reached for.  A wonderful book on how the use of numbers and wanting to quantify everything, has shaped society as we know it.

 

The book read much like a history book, going over many events that took place and how those events build upon each other to get where we are today.  One such event was the birth of the modern efficiency movement that is so ingrained in our daily work life that few think twice about it.  Yet back in the 1880’s when it was first coming to light, many thought it was a bad idea and frankly I see their point. 

 

The chapter that covers this time period talks about Fredrick Taylor, a young sub foreman at a steel mill that decides he knows how to make things better.  He wanted to make workers more efficient so they could get more work done faster and thus have more money and free time.  He truly believed he was helping the workers, not the bosses, that some how, using stop watches and analyzing every taste and movement to make them better and faster, was going to help all these workers.  The 1880’s in America was a recession; jobs were hard to come by.  Taylor believed in efficiency and that man should be as efficient as a machine.  So that’s what he set out to do, make men like machines.

 

His boss at the time thought he was a fool and told him so.  But let him do his experiment just to prove he was a fool and that would be the end of it, so he though.  Taylor ran out or fired most of the workers, again, during a recession.  He didn’t take any back talk or questioning by the workers, he believed a worker should only ask two questions.  Who is the person they work for?  What does that person want me to do right now?  Not, what will make my customers happy and come back for more business?  Not, what is in the best interest of the company?  No, Taylor felt that was not their job to think, only to jump when said boss said jump.  This was Taylor’s big flaw, he wanted men to be machines, not taking into account that they get colds, sore backs, need breaks, water and food, not to mention rest. 

 

Taylor went on to become a business guru; helping companies like Ford go from producing a Model T every 12 hours to every 90 minutes.  Then those same ideas entered the office, the restaurant, every sector where there is a manager and an employee.  Taylor is said to be more important that Darwin or Freud in the 20th centuries development.  The Nazi’s used his methods in the death camps.  Lenin was a fan of Taylor and wanted to create a Taylorism like factory state, Drucker called Taylor the first knowledge guru.  We still live with the evolved ideas of his.

 

Taylor really believed he was helping the workers, but he didn’t want smart workers, he really didn’t feel workers had the right to think or speak that was their rights off the clock.  It’s rather shocking really to realize that a guy, who wanted us all to be little robots, is pretty much the father of modern management.  His ideas lead to management consulting, the rise of the middle manager and endless command and control structures.

 

When I think of Taylor and his contributions to how we live today, I’m reminded of T.S. Eliot, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge, and the knowledge we have lost in information?”  Taylor’s ideas have morphed our society into one where workers don’t really have a say, much as Taylor liked it.  And the quest to quantify every little thing has taken on a life of its own and to what purpose?  If you get an MBA what do you really learn?  You learn to analyze the daylights out of anything!  Really, that’s what you learn.  But to what end?  What understanding does all this information produce?  Don’t get me wrong, analysis is good, but we have reached a point of over analysis in some areas and really what we get are junk numbers as a result that just add information but little understanding and almost no true knowledge.  Many companies analyze every little detail of customer interaction and know everything about their customer, except what they really are like and truly want.  See they analyze instead of engaging customers and developing a real relationship, that’s what is lost.

 

So when I think of Taylor’s contribution, yes, his heart may have been in the right place, but I don’t think he really thought out the impact he was creating.  We work more now, nobody really goes on vacation anymore, it’s more like telecommuting at Disneyland checking emails and reading spread sheets on your PDA while in line for the next ride.  In the end, it made work a less humane place to be, with repetitive stress syndrome.  I don’t blame Taylor, he was just a product of his time, so he did what actually anyone with his sense at that time probably would have done.  But we don’t live in that time, so what’s our excuse?  We don’t have one other than being lazy.  There are ways to get the efficiency and bring back the passion into work that has been missing since Taylor pulled out his stop watch and tried to make men into machines.  There are ways to stop producing information and start truly creating real wisdom again.

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New Guidelines for Treating Employees

The US government created the first guidelines in discrimination against workers who care for children or other relatives. 

 

http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/caregiving.html

 It has the legal speak in some areas but gives actual case examples of what each guideline is referring to, for those of us who don’t speak legal speak. 

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Edward’s Employer Handbook Rules

Rule #1  Reward life skills and personal growth.

 

 

Doesn’t matter what field you are in, too few companies do this.  It’s all about the technical skills.  You know what, here’s a little hint, technical skills don’t mean a whole lot if the person is not a developed person all around.  Bad people do bad work, and good people do good work, regardless of degrees or career pedigree.

 

 

Life skills and personal growth are very under rated skills in the world of business.  Few people put any value on the skills someone learns through personal growth.  Frankly those are the skills that really matter at the end of the day.  Personal growth means facing oneself, warts and all and really learning what it means to be who they are and develop their unique abilities.  Those are skills you just can’t teach in school or in a company management program.  They are learned by getting kicked, or thrown to the wall a few times by life.  The kind of soul searching a person is forced to do in such situations is priceless and if they come out a better person, you would be very wise to snatch them up.

 

 

There is a value to this kind of personal growth and the lessons found in them that you just can’t get from books, courses or work experience.  The value you can gain from those life skills will pay off.  I remember a guy I hired, didn’t have the degrees or work experience but he had some really tough life lessons and he used to develop really well as a person and I saw that in him.  He ended up being the top sales guy.  He didn’t have any industry experience or sales experience, but he knew himself better than any degree or experience in a career could have taught him.  That’s real value that produced real results.

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Deficit and Asset Based Thinking

Opportunities or problems?  Strengths or weakness?  Can or cant?  Polar opposites of what can make a huge difference in the performance of a team.  Deficit thinking vs. Asset thinking, comes down to how you view what you think about and how that influences how you see the world and your ability to work with in it.  The two are very similar, the words used in both are very similar and very small changes from one to the other can make a world of difference in team performance. 

 

 

Deficit thinking is all about can’t, problems, weakness, obstacles.  In a SWOT analysis, this kind of thinking leads to rather large weakness and threat sections.  Or it leads to a company culture where change is very hard to create because there is a general feeling of, nothing can be done.  Deficit thinking is more wide spread in the corporate world than most would like to admit.  It is everywhere.  You can’t trust candidates they may steal or be serial killers, so we have these fun background checks (deficit thinking).  Corporate politics resisting change agents is another example; the old guard fears change and only see problems (deficit thinking).  Employees steal search their bags before they can leave the building (deficit thinking). You can’t trust the entrepreneur, ring them dry of all control and reward, this is how a lot of venture capitalist operate today (deficit thinking). 

 

 

At the end of the day, deficit thinking creates more problems.  It creates a mentality of fear, of failure of never being able to rise above the situation.  Have you ever experienced a corporate culture as such?  I’ve seen many and it makes most sane people want to run in fear.  I’ll never forget this one guy I had dinner with from a large telecom who was in such a department of deficit thinking.  His only goal in life was to have his side business make enough money so he could get out of his full time job.  He hated his job so much; he saw no reason to go to work other than to get the pay check.  The real curse of the deficit thinking is that it creates a culture where change, even life saving change, takes an enormous amount of effort and energy that it leaves the organization exhausted.  Moral is constantly low and management spends a fortune on the latest behavioral test and motivational consulting package.  It’s like stuffing yourself with junk food and never working out; eventually you get sluggish, tired and lacking motivation.

 

 

Asset thinking is focusing on what works, on opportunities and building strength through positive efforts that move a business forward.  Having worked in an environment with asset based thinking; I know the positive benefits that drive companies to the next level.  It is not the rose tinted glasses view of the world or wishing away the bad.  Case in point:

 

 

Once we had a really bad program experience with a client.  Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  Some of the team was rather gloom and doom; they knew heads could really roll for that one.  I didn’t see it that way, I saw it as the opportunity we needed to really get management to let us fix some of the areas they had been dragging their feet on.  We analyzed every aspect we could and presented our findings and showed how we can improve.  This energized the team because we were focusing on solutions and creating new opportunities.  And we were able to really break through some areas where approval had been bogged down in committee, with the urgency produced by that bad project, we were able to get things done.  That’s asset thinking.

 

 

This ties in with the theme of the year here, beliefs.  How you see the world (beliefs) makes all the difference in how you interact with the world and approach situations.  Do you believe you have problems or do you seek the opportunity?  It’s not positive thinking, it’s not pretending bad things don’t happen; it’s searching for the route to better use of your assets. 

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