The Productive Professional
January's Fortune had an interview with Herb Kelleher, Chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines. In it he says that many companies have come to Southwest to find out how they hired and motivated their employees. Basically, he says, they were looking for a formula.
Then he says: "The concept is simple, but the execution takes a lot of work and a lot of attention. If you're going to pay personal attention to each of your people, for instance, and every grief and joy that they suffer in their lives, you really have to have a tremendous network for gathering information'.
That line 'every grief and joy that they suffer in their lives' reminded me what One on Ones are really all about. They might be rote, and boring and mundane for weeks and weeks and weeks, but they allow you to build the relationship which allows you to share in the grief and joy of your direct's lives. That's professional love. That's management.
May's Inc contains an article about 'Audacious Culture' and lists several companies who have non-standard corporate cultures and rules. There's one which requires a health risk assessment each year and which has introduced a 'twinkie tax' in their cafe. There's one which gives employees a four week sabbatical after 10 years.
The one that really caught my eye though, was Menlo Innovations. The headline says 'Taking Teamwork To The Extreme'. In the text it says 'Developers - and nearly everyone else - work in pairs and switch partners weekly. Employees talk through problems while passing the mouse back and forth...'.
The thought of sharing my thoughts, computer and mouse with someone while I'm working was like nails on a chalkboard for me. Which is why I work from home, on my own, and don't share my thoughts until I've had time to at least half bake them. Fortunately, our company allows that.
It shows though, that you need to chose your place of work carefully. If you can't deal with that kind of teamwork, don't go to work there. One person rarely changes the culture from the bottom up. You'll be miserable and that'll show in your results. Find somewhere you'll fit, even if the job title, pay or location aren't what you would have liked.
Vizify, a new app is described in Inc. It says it's 'designed to help job seekers create online resumes that give potential employers a sense of their off-resume lives'. Every time I see something about interests and non-work lives on resumes or as part of the job search process, I get mad all over again.
Yes, it's all about people. Yes, we want to get to know people and have relationships, and that's not all about work activity. But during the interview process, it's all about the 9-5. An interviewer CAN'T ask about your family or your age or your politics and nor do you want them too - that's why we have discrimination laws.
You don't want them to ask about your interests or your other non-work activities, because the time you spend time talking about sailing you're NOT talking about what matters - what you can do for them.
There are times and places for everything. The interview process is NOT the time for your non-work life.
I saw an article in Inc. entitled 'Backpacks Grow Up. New options with sophisticated style'. Despite their assertion and a rather groovy graphic, backpacks are not grown up.
I can understand that a heavy laptop and all the the things you need to bring to work are better held in a backpack than over one shoulder. If you commute to work by public transport or bicycle, then, yes a backpack is more convenient.
It's never going to look executive-like though. A couple of solutions: we don't recommend you take briefcases or purses to internal meetings, so that won't be a problem. Have a briefcase/purse at work and transfer your belongings before you meet clients. You can do the same with appropriate work shoes too.
In an article in Fortune, there are five suggestions for finding extraordinary people for your team. Suggestion one: build your bench. I think we said that.
Suggestion two: play in the right sandboxes. I think we've said that for job hunters, but not for employee hunters. It works just as well though. Be in the organisations you think your potential employees will be in.
Suggestions three: try guerrilla tactics Hmmm. My favorite ever recruiting article was about guerrilla tactics, but I don't think they're necessary in the normal world (they're fun to read about though!).
Suggestion four: tweak the job description (by which they actually mean the advertisement . Definitely. If you're not getting who you want, you haven't thought hard enough about what might attract them. (And yes, a job advertisement is more about attraction than the job description).
Suggestion five: become a celebrity. With social media, you can definitely become well known in your industry. If you get great results and get people promoted, you can be a rock star in your organization. Both those things will cause people to want to work for you.
A few people have asked me which blogs I read, after I mentioned in a Career Tools cast that I have over 300 in my feed. I'm sorry, but I think you're going to be disappointed. Most of my list is made up of things that interest me, or help me do my job - they're not really about management or careers.
I have 16 folders and I divide my blogs amongst the 16 topics. I was using google reader, which I loved, but as it's going away I'm using Feedly. Don't love it as much, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.
My favorite in my business section is Nicholas Bate; http://blog.strategicedge.co.uk/ If you remember Tom Peters Top 50 books, he's very like that. Short and makes me think.
All my favorite career blogs come from ERE.net. They're mostly aimed at recruiters and hiring managers, not candidates.
In productivity, my favorite blog is http://www.asianefficiency.com/ If you're an omni-focus fan, this is a can't miss.
I have a bunch of social media blogs, my favorite of which is probably http://www.chrisbrogan.com/# He does a great sunday morning newsletter too, if you want to run your own business, or get into the social media world.
If you travel a lot, don't miss http://boardingarea.com/ You'll see a lot of repeated stuff, but you won't miss a deal, an announcement or a solution to a problem.
I tend to have an afternoon one weekend when I explore a topic, and I add up to 50 blogs on that topic. Over time, if I don't find them useful, I have a clear out. I'm probably down to 150 at the moment, and I'll build back up over time. The ones I've mentioned here have been favorites for a long time. I hope you find them useful.
If you have others to share, with me or the rest of the community, please do in the comments - I'd love to hear about them.
Yesterday I read a profile on Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, written in October last year (yes, I’m a little behind on my reading). The part that interested me was the description of how she got from Google to Yahoo. It says: “Mayer had no plans to leave Google. But when Spencer Stuart recruiter Jim Citrin called last June, she agreed to meet with the directors”.
There’s nothing disingenuous in this. It’s exactly what we tell you to do. There is never anything wrong with being open to a discussion about a role elsewhere, and to having that discussion. You don’t need to tell your boss. Who knows, it might go nowhere and then you’ve lost his trust.
We tell you that executives do this all the time, and I was glad to find an example of exactly that. Being open to discussion is what gets you the opportunities you never dreamed of. Be open.
Reading a bunch of business magazines last weekend, something struck me. There was an article about Michael Porter (the academic who created the five forces model) who at 65 is on a campaign to change American productivity. Since no company strategy meeting is complete without a discussion of the five forces he might well do it too.
There was an article about various big company CEO’s succession plans. The CEOs were between 60 and 70. One was 75. There was an article about Warren Buffett. He’s 82.
At 65, I imagined myself sitting on a rocking chair, telling people about the good old days. The description of one of Michael Porter’s weeks included a flight back from London, two tv appearances, two speaking engagements at a conference, and advisory sessions to a Fortune 500 CEO and the government of Rwanda.
I’m starting to wonder what I would do if I didn’t have 25 years of work left in me. What if I had 45? I’d wouldn’t even be halfway through my career. There’s a lot I can do in 25 years, but there’s a lot more I can do in 45. Time to make some REALLY long term plans.
There’s long article in Fortune magazine which is an extract from ‘American Turnaround’ by Ed Whitacre. In it, he describes working with Fritz Henderson, General Motors’ CEO, when Ed became Chairman.
There were two particular passages that struck me. In them Whitacre describes giving Henderson specific instructions as to the content and structure of a presentation that Henderson is to prepare for the board. One says: “I want you to prepare a simplified presentation on revenue, expenses and dealer shutdowns... Keep it short and to the point.” The following paragraph says: “Fritz didn’t do that. Instead he showed up with a long detailed presentation”.
Behavior, especially habits you’ve had for a long time, can be hard to change. 6 months later, Henderson was gone. The writing was on the wall long before though.
When your boss gives you specific instructions for something you should be capable of doing, you’re in trouble. However hard it is, change. Now. It’s a sign you’re in trouble.
There was a great article in last month’s Inc about a corporate spy. What he does is, at least what’s described in the article, completely legal. It relies on public records and ‘loose-lipped’ employees.
In one example, he describes finding the US contact for an Asian patent holder in minutes using Google Translate and international patent filings. He says he has an 80% chance of finding the cell-phone number of your competitor’s main contact with Walmart in 5 minutes.
If I ever leave this job, I’ll do that job. I love a good google challenge. The opposite of the ease with which he can get the information, is the ease with which companies and employees (including you) give it out. Most people I meet could do with be a lot more taciturn – especially the young lady I met recently at a spa. In 5 minutes I knew about the owner’s bitter divorce, who owned what building and their financial difficulties with keeping the business going. Ooops.