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From my drive time this week, I got two very different takes on a public figure in the business world - a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk.  Here's a description of Gary that I pulled from Inc.com so I didn't have to think about how to describe him:

If you’re an Inc reader, you’re probably familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s the entrepreneur who grew his father’s business from a humble liquor store into a wine empire through a combination of social media and content marketing. Today he’s a media mogul, bestselling author, and aspiring New York Jets owner.

The man is a massive success, and he’s certainly no dummy.

That said, unless you’re a certain type of person in a very specific set of circumstances, following his "Jab, Jab, Crush It" model could likely sabotage your shot at success. Before you call me crazy, let me tell you why.

He relies on brute force.

Gary V. talks a lot about how hard he works. He regularly stays up until three in the morning, sending and responding to emails to cement connections. He tweets in every spare minute he has--in cabs, in-between meetings, during commercials. And when he’s not doing all that, he’s creating content and running his company.

Believe me when I say I admire the guy. But the fact remains that his approach to building a following is all about brute force. It relies on huge sacrifices of rest, free time, and deep concentration.

If you want a taste of Gary V, go here and here.

He's a polarizing figure.  One great friend of mine saw him speak recently and is all in. Another great friend of mine wouldn't slow down if Gary crossed the road in front of her SUV - she'd actually speed up.

But even if you hate Gary V, one thing you can't deny in his message is the power of doing the work.  It's something all of us forget as we move into leadership roles and start managing others.  Are you still doing the work on a daily basis?

Are you sure?  Or are you managing others doing the work?  Not the same thing.

Gary V has a new theme in his act - it's called "Clouds and Dirt".  The meaning of that theme is pretty simple -the clouds—the high-end philosophy of what you believe and also you being a dictator of strategy—and the dirt—the low-down subject matter expertise that allows you to execute against it. Gary V thinks you should forget about everything else.

He believes in Clouds and Dirt so much that he has a new Kswiss shoe - I'm not making this shit up - coming out in a few months.  That shoe is called "Clouds and Dirt."  Blue stripes for clouds, brown stripes for dirt.  Really. Kswiss shoes have 5 stripes for the uninitiated.

Behind the hype, Gary V is right about one thing:

Your strength as a leader comes from never losing your roots as a practitioner. Can you do the stuff you talk about?  The longer you and I are in leadership positions, the less we do the work.

Even if you do one thing a day that is actually "the work", do that one thing.

Be a practitioner.  Get grimy with some stuff in your shop.  It will make you a better leader and build empathy for your team and industry at the same time.

 

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I know, I know.  The cliche is that it's better to be feared, right?  Would you believe that an expert along the lines of Machiavelli disagrees at times?  Here's what Machiavelli has to say about protection against conspiracies in the Prince, which are plots to hurt someone on some level and reduce their power.

Being feared, Machiavelli says, is an important protection against a conspiracy.  But the ultimate protection, he says, is to be well liked.  Not simply because people who love you are less likely to take you down, but because they are less likely to tolerate anyone else trying to take you down. If a prince guards himself against that hatred, Machiavelli writes, "simple particular offenses will make trouble for him...because if they were even of spirit and had the power to do it, they are held back by the universal benevolence that they see the prince has."

The problem with power on any level in an organization is that you have to make tough decisions.  Tough decisions ultimately hurt someone and cause enemies to be made.  In that circumstance, having the vast majority love you does seem to offer some protection against those who would want to harm you career-wise.

But Machiavelli is a bit of a thick read and contradicts himself from time to time, including this additional passage on the being feared vs being hated:

Here a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved. . . . Love endures by a bond which men, being scoundrels, may break whenever it serves their advantage to do so; but fear is supported by the dread of pain, which is ever present.

I'd add to this and say that if it's power you want to hold in an organization - it's better to be in the extremes - you either want to be feared or loved.  The middle isn't going to do you much good.

Which brings us to who you are behaviorally, right?  If it is power you have and it's easier for you to be hated than loved, than you should go with it.   Nice guy or gal? Let your benevolence shine through like the flashlight on your iPhone.

Do you want to be loved or hated?  Do you and don't be someone you're not.

 

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Here's some deep thoughts for today.

If you're a professional sports fan, you know all about the concept of a salary cap, which is defined by Wikipedia as follows in sports:

In professional sports, a salary cap (or wage cap) is an agreement or rule that places a limit on the amount of money that a team can spend on players' salaries. It exists as a per-player limit or a total limit for the team's roster, or both. Several sports leagues have implemented salary caps, using it to keep overall costs down, and also to maintain a competitive balance by restricting richer clubs from entrenching dominance by signing many more top players than their rivals. Salary caps can be a major issue in negotiations between league management and players' unions, and have been the focal point of several strikes by players and lockouts by owners and administrators.

So what? The concept of a salary cap can be transferred to the business world in a couple of different ways:

1--Your company has a salary cap.  It's called the headcount budget, and the cap is all the budgeted money in that headcount budget.

2--Countries across the world don't have a salary cap, but they have something close - it's called Labor's Share of GDP.

What is Labor's Share of GDP?  It's defined as the following:

The wage share can be defined in various ways, but empirically it is usually defined as total labor compensation or labor costs over nominal GDP or gross value added.

The wage share is countercyclical; that is, it tends to fall when output increases and rise when output decreases. Despite fluctuating over the business cycle, the wage share was once thought to be stable, which Keynes described as "one of the most surprising, yet best-established facts in the whole range of economic statistics." However, the wage share has declined in most developed countries since the 1980s.

So add up all the compensation to labor, compare it to Gross Domestic Product (a measure of a country's economy), and you've got Wage Share/Labor's Share of GDP.  Which also serves as a floating salary cap of sorts for your country.

It's interesting to note that Wage Share/Labor's Share of GDP goes up and down and has been falling since the 80's in developed countries.  Take a look at these graphs from France, the UK and the USA from a paper on Labor Share in the G20:

If you look at those graphs, you'll see the history of Labor share in those 3 countries, which also gives you some history to which national economies have endured the most change, which economies have a bigger safety net for labor in the midst of global change, etc.  France started at an 80% labor share of GDP and after a brief dip, is right back there.  The UK and the USA started a similar places, but safety nets in the UK have held the line lately at a 70%+ labor share, while the USA is in a bit of a free fall towards a 60% labor share.

Is that healthy for the USA?  Gordon Gekko would say yes, but rational, normal people would have to say no.  Thinking about all the changes that have occurred in our economy - global outsourcing, offshoring, tech deployment in place of human capital - and it's clear that we've been one of the most aggressive developed countries in those areas, and that's left our labor force with a much smaller share of our GDP, and likely has widened the gap between the "haves" and "have nots".

Note - I'm a moderate republican.  I'm not hating on the fact that America has less regulation than other countries - but - this type of change related to Labor Share of GDP has consequences for any economy/society over time.  You can't ignore that and it's worth being educated about the differences.

So America has a salary cap of sorts - call Labor's Share of GDP.  It's not a hard cap, it's been falling for a time and when you think about it from a sports perspective, it basically means this - in America, a higher percentage of the money in the economy goes to owners of capital rather than employees.

By the way, if you're wondering what labor's share of revenue (salary cap) is for American professional sports, a quick scan shows 47% in the NFL and 53% in the NBA.  Major League Baseball doesn't have a salary cap.

Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys - or unskilled labor.

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Let's face it - Some of you suck at PowerPoint.  Heck, I've come to realize that being a good presenter and being good at PowerPoint at times are related and at times are not.

Case in point - you can be a great presenter and use PowerPoint in a very minimalistic way.  Great presenters tell stories, and the best way to use PP in that regard is often slides that have nothing but pictures.  

In that arena, you can be an artist.  But 99% of the population struggles to do PowerPoint in that way - because they can't READ the slides as a presenter.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your presentations have to serve as leave-behinds or informational/educational vehicles within your company after you present on the topic of choice, pictures suck in that regard.  The leave-behind means nothing. You gave a great presentation and dazzled some people with your art, but nobody knows what the #### you are talking about if they fire up your deck without you there.

Not doing what's expected is a quick way to get beheaded in the corporate world.  So you need some words - but how many words?

A blast from the past - Guy Kawasaki - had a 10/20/30 rule. A presentation should be no longer than 10 slides, should last no more than 20 minutes, and the font size should be at least 30.  He's covering a lot of ground there, including deck size, presentation length and how big the font is.  Feels right for presentations in your company where people already have directional ideas and understanding of the business issues at hand.

Kawasaki also has another formula for the optimal font size: The age of the oldest person in the room, divided by 2. Which means you can go smaller than a 30 font - and put more on the slides - if you don't have a 55-60 year old in the room.

Is that right?  I'm not sure.  It's clever, but in this case clever doesn't mean right.

For best results, I recommend the following:

1--If you're presenting outside your company, do more slides with pictures only and tell a story.  If you can't go all pictures, make every second slide "picture only" - which means in between you'll have some word slides to lean on.

2 -Beware of your culture if you're doing an internal presentation.  We know you saw a Ted Talk.  You're not a Harvard PhD talking about a cute topic to support your book.  You're here to tell us about the new accounting software.  We don't need the picture from the Matrix (even though I would love that), just put your implementation plan on some slides (no less than 30 font!) and let's slog through this.

For every presentation, there's a reality.  Let your strategy follow that.  Let your freak flag fly when appropriate and most importantly, don't get fired.  Or have someone make a mental note to fire you down the road if they have a chance.

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The problem with tech, machine learning and A.I. is that we can at times do things too fast.

This seems like a good problem to have in a world where most candidates for jobs go into black holes and never get feedback, right?

Never getting action on something important to you is a HUMAN problem.

Getting action within 1-5 minutes on something important to you is a TECH/A.I problem.

Need some examples? Here you go:

1--I wrote a review on Amazon for Tim Sackett's book last week.  It may have been the first review I ever completed on Amazon.  What was interesting about what happened when I clicked "submit" was the speed at which approval moved.  I was surprised to get a landing page and a follow up email from Amazon telling me that my review was pending approval.  After all, this is Amazon - can't they figure out that I'm not a evil-doer by a systems/computer/IP scan of my review?  My surprise was soon muted when 5-7 minutes after I submitted the review, it was approved.  Think about that for a second.

2--I was speaking at a Jobvite function in Atlanta last week to a room full of recruiters, and I asked the following question - "how do candidates judge you as a recruiter?"  One quick answer that was provided was "speed".  My audience said what you already know - that candidates expect speed from recruiters.  But one voice was quick to point out that in the art of rejection, too much speed could be harsher than never hearing your status at all.  Example - recruiter has manageable workload and is committed to keep her ATS workflow clean.  Candidate comes in that is obviously under-qualified and not right for the job.  You see the application 4 minutes after the candidate pushed send.  Do you reject them that soon?  My audience said no, you needed to wait to spare the candidate's feeling. I agree.

In both circumstances, world-class speed to the next action was available.  Amazon's tech obviously approved my review - there's too many reviews flowing through the system for it to be handled any other way.  But someone decided that auto-approving my review didn't show the proper level of consideration.  Same thing with the recruiter - rejection within 5 minutes was too harsh.

Someday soon, your ATS will scan a resume and tell you whether it's good or not, much like Amazon did to my review.  You won't have to decide on whether to reject each candidate individually, but you will have to decide on how much time passes before rejection feels like you gave a resume proper consideration.

What's proper consideration mean time-wise before you reject a candidate?  I'm thinking 4 hours minimum.

What do you think?

 

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My best friend Tim Sackett is an expert on workplace hugging. 

Tim even incorporates hugging into his speaking appearances.  When you go to watch him speak, get ready for what I like to call the “Tim Sackett package”.  He starts by announcing himself as the world’s leading authority on workplace hugging, shows a picture of him and his dog Scout (with Scout licking his face), then invites an audience member up to show what a warm workplace hug looks like with with a willing partner (which is usually a woman, because guys don't want to hug).

As an expert in workplace hugging, Tim's next chapter should be to save the world from bad guy-to-guy hugs.  If he agreed to do this, he would be the hero we need in a broken world.

When you greet a guy professionally - as a guy - you've got two choices:

--Standard handshake.  Hard to go wrong there.

--Man to Man business hug.  Hold up.  This ###* is broken in today's workplace.  How many disjointed attempts at this have you seen in the workplace?  I've seen a lot.  The worst usually involves white guys.  But regardless of the Title 7 combos you throw into a man-to-man hug, the most important thing is that both parties know how it's going to go down.

If both parties don't know the rules of a man-to-man hug, one of the those parties is going to get awkward - like they're trying to get down to the latest Migos (shoutout to the ATL) cut at CPA convention.  Which begs the question about how Migos ever ended up on a playlist involving CPAs.  But I digress.

THERE ARE RULES TO PARTICIPATING AND EXECUTING A MAN-HUG IN A PROFESSIONAL SETTING. 

It's OK.  Here we go:

1--Start with a Soul Shake.

2--Move Soul Shake in and up to your front right shoulder.  (Note - your right shoulder should be across from your target's right shoulder and now almost touching your partners shoulder, but your soul shake is in the way)

3--Now that you're in side hugging position, give a light back slap with free left hand.

4--Release within 1-2 seconds.

5--Proceed with meeting on the Berkowitz Project.

It's in the manual people.  Let's get our #### together on this and stop looking uncomfortable.

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For the HR leaders who follow this blog, the news that Amazon has formally opposed a shareholder proxy related to diversity bears watching.  In a nutshell, CtW Investment Group — asked Amazon to “implement a ‘Rooney Rule’ requiring that the initial list of candidates from which new management-supported director nominees are chosen should include (but need not be limited to) qualified women and minority candidates.”

The Rooney Rule requires NFL teams (professional football) to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and general manager openings. Currently, all 10 directors of Amazon’s board are white. Seven are men and three are women.

In advance of the shareholder vote deadline of May 25, Amazon’s board recommended a vote against the proposal — setting off an internal debate.

I've written about the Rooney rule and what it could mean for your company before.  

For Amazon, it's clear that allowing a shareholder to put forward a provision that requires the board to do anything is unacceptable to the company - it's all about control for the board.  They can want the same things that the investor group wants related to diversity - but they'll be damned if they're going to lose control of any part of the process.  To the uninitiated, boards recommend "no" votes on anything that causes them to lose control.  ANYTHING.  So this is no surprise, but it looks awful in a headline and to many employees as well.

But as I've written before, the Rooney rule has some clear benefits, most notably that diverse candidates who never would have made it in the process (for a variety of reasons) get the chance to interview and do well.  Sometimes that results in a hire, a lot of times it doesn't, but the hiring executives and managers get opened up in the process.  Whether a hire happens or not, people see candidates they would not have seen otherwise and surprise!  They learn the candidate in question is pretty damn good.  They start to wonder if they're ready for the job.  The candidate gets the chance to become part of the conversation.

Over time, progress happens.  Hires start to roll in at some point.  The progress can be uneven, but it is there.

Amazon's going to pay the price in the court of public/employee opinion for their recommendation to vote against this proposal.  The smart play here is to take action with Rooney Rule-type guidance at the next layer down in the company - think all VPs and Directors - to show they are pro-diversity beyond other companies - even if the Board won't cede control.

Good luck Amazon.  You probably need to make a move here to show your employee base you mean business when it comes to diversity hiring.

See my past post on what the Rooney Rule could do for your company by clicking here.

 

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“I am not uncertain.”

The phrase is a workplace culture feature from the Showtime series Billions.

"I am not uncertain" is what employees of the hedge fund Axe Capital featured in Billions say to their boss, Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), when they’ve got potentially incriminating inside information they are about to trade on and Axelrod asks them if they are sure: the goods on a scandal about to topple a car company, or a tip that the Nigerian currency is weak.

Framing this assertion in the negative insulates whoever’s saying it from liability from prosecution, which seems unimaginable, from a legal point of view. But that’s the point that Billions has hammered from day one: The rules that govern the world of big money are strange and easily sidestepped, provided you know the script.

Does your company have catchphrases that allow your employees to communicate directly, yet sidestep accountability from forces inside and/or outside your company?

Of course it does.

In the South, there's a cultural catchphrase inside companies and outside in the general community:

"Bless his heart", defined as the following by Urban Dictionary:  "This is a term used by the people of the southern United States particularly near the Gulf of Mexico to express to someone that they are an idiot without saying such harsh words."

When used in the workplace, "bless his heart" isn't generally spoken directly to the subject.  It's used when people are discussing the ramifications to the subject related to a certain course of action:

"What about Tom?" (asked because a budget request your team is making for the next year is going to be in direct competition for resources with Tom's department)

"Tom's still holding onto the opinion that he'll get funding for his department." (Both parties know what Tom doesn't - everyone feels that Tom's initiative is dead on arrival at this point)

"Bless his heart. Move forward and put our budget proposal in." (Code for this - The boss who speaks this doesn't even think she has to talk to Tom about it because he is so out of touch.  Speaking the words "bless his heart" gives permission to the direct report to move forward, to not worry about Tom and also sends the subtle message that the boss thinks Tom is out of touch at best, an idiot at worst.)

Phrases that are seemingly small mean big things in your company.

Discussing probability?  "I am not uncertain" means a lot while saying little - it might also protect you from overcommitting.   Discussing someone you consider a poor sap in the New South?  "Bless his heart" gives you permission to be brutal while saying a little prayer for the target of your action.

Words matter.  What's the catchphrase that means the most while saying the least at your company?

 

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It's Friday, and whether you work in a software company or a bank, you had a decision on what to wear to work.

No one is more confused than the professional class white guy.  I'm on record about having opinions on this through the following tutorials:

BEST PRACTICES IN BLUE BLAZERS FOR THE CONTEMPORARY WHITE PROFESSIONAL CLASS MALE

BEYOND BLUE BLAZERS - THE PANTS CHOICES OF PROFESSIONAL WHITE MEN IN AMERICA

If you're not a white guy, feel free to partake in these tutorials as you see fit and use at your discretion - there are lessons for all in these, but as a white guy, I'm an expert in the behaviors of the caucasian male.

But back to today's post.  Let's say you've devoured the contents of my tutorials and have your game together.  You pants game is tight and you've updated the blue blazer you wear.  You're content, but now you want more.

Where do you go?

Well, I don't want to freak you out or cause your spouse to say, "what the hell happened to my 'Dockers-sensible' husband", but I've got the next step for you.

Two words: Ricky Rubio. (email subscribers click the title of the post in the email to go to the site if you don't see the pictures)

--Ricky Rubio is a professional basketball player for the Utah Jazz.

--Ricky Rubio is from Spain.  I think many females would say he's not hard on the eyes.

--Ricky Rubio kind of looks like Jesus these days, which is good for appearing relatable.

--Ricky Rubio is hurt and was on the bench for game one of the Jazz series vs the Houston Rockets.

--Ricky Rubio showed you the path for what's next if you've complied with my first two tutorials on dress for professional (white) guys.

Ricky Rubio rocked a gray hoodie underneath a smart, stylish blue blazer. (email subscribers click the title of the post in the email to go to the site if you don't see the pictures) Can you pull this off, professional white guy?  You say no, I say MAYBE.  It all comes down to will.  Once you walk through the office one time, the shock has been delivered.  Then you're on to your day and everyone around adjusts to the new normal, but you have to keep the blazer on.  Let's say your name is Pete.  The process of the office coping with you breaking some type of professional dress barrier goes something like this:

--Did you see what Pete was wearing?

--Pete may have lost his mind.

--You know, that actually doesn't look bad.

--Pete dresses better than anyone around here.  I wish these other slobs were more like Pete.

--Pete is a cool #*#*##.

Or maybe it goes to hell for you.  You won't know until you try, right?

Click here for all the twitter buzz on the Rubio style and enjoy.  

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A reader asks...

Hi Kris -

Do you have an opinion on the use of “acting” in title?  A situation has come up where two ppl in an org would be made “acting”…one person – we’ll call her Abby - would be moving into here boss's role and the boss (Maggie) would be moving to a higher level position.  Maggie didn’t seek out the new role, it was offered to her when the position opened up.  It’s fair to say that Maggie has already been somewhat serving in the higher level position, but without the title or pay, which is why she is the CEO’s pick to fill the role.  As part of succession planning, Abby has been groomed for Maggie’s role for years.  The rub is that the CEO isn’t sure whether she’s the right person to take over for Maggie so he wants to make Abby “acting” and feels it would be cleaner if Maggie is “acting” too.  FWIW, the CEO asked Maggie to commit two years to the role and Maggie has agreed to one year and reevaluating at that time.  Any strong opinions on this?

--Sarah from Syracuse

----------

Hey Sarah - 

Well, you've got a lot going on, don't you?

Here’s my take on the use of acting in this situation.

1. “Acting” in any role is a crutch when you either aren't sure someone can do the job, or 100% know that it won’t work out, but you need the butt in the seat.

2.  In the scenario you’ve laid out, your CEO’s use of acting for Abby seems appropriate, but if the CEO is sure that Maggie is a fit, he should place her in the role without the interim tag.  She’s already got a commitment issue to the role you want her to move into, and the “acting” tag is going to allow her to bail mentally if times get tough.

3.  I’d put Abby into the “acting” role for a quarter and make definitive call at that time.  If you drag it out past that, odds are you’ll end up with commitment and employee relations issues from Abby as well.

4.  What happens at the end of the one year period for Maggie if she doesn't want to stay in the job? I’d avoid talking about periods of commitment for specific jobs, it just leads to the aforementioned commitment issues once that period is up.

5. Will you take care of Maggie if she’s key and it doesn’t work out?  Sure. I’m just not convinced that talking about a one or two year commitment is the right way to go.  Stalin had a 5-year plan – that didn’t work out well for him.

Bottom line – put Abby in the “acting” tag and make your call in 3 months, at the same time put Maggie in the higher role with no “acting” tag and stop acting like she has the ability to come back down the org, even if she secretly does.

It’s all Jedi-mind tricks and Doug Henning-like illusions in the show.
KD

 

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