The Productive Professional



Our recent London conference participants were the best we've ever had in terms of the amount of questions they asked. We always promise, whether you ask 5 or 500 questions, we'll get them all answered and we'll finish on time. I think in London, they did ask 500 and we barely finished on time!

Some people, we've noticed, need to ask a lot of questions about a concept. Once they've asked about all their concerns, they can accept the concept as valid and are often the strongest supporters of the idea. It's easy to assume that the reason they are asking questions is because they are distrustful of the person with the idea, rather than understanding that it's just their way of understanding the concept.

If your'e the one presenting and you're feeling defensive about the questions you're being asked, try to let it go. It's not you, or your idea. Work through it with the questioner. And, make sure you build in time for questions. If you don't get any, and your meeting finishes on time, all to the good.

False Extrapolation


There's (yet another) article in the Wall Street Journal today about resumes going away. The article gives examples of companies who are using social media presence or on-line questionnaires to get expressions of interest from candidates and to assess their skills before interviews.

The problem with this is that's there's two or three examples which the WSJ encourages you, by their headline, to think is a long-term, wide-spread change. It isn't. There are always companies experimenting with different ways of finding and assessing candidates. They are exceptions. They make good headlines.

But resumes haven't really changed in the last 50 years. When it comes down to it, hiring managers want to know what you've done and how well you've done it: issues the Manager Tools resume addresses head on. Don't be fooled by 'newsworthy' changes. Consider what YOU'RE being asked for the in the roles YOU'RE applying for. We'll bet 99.99% of the time, it's still a resume.



I'm a real magazine addict. I have been for a long time. Everything from Bloomberg Businessweek to Wired to Oprah and yoga magazines. You'll have noticed a lot of blog posts are inspired by my addiction. However, I buy them at a faster rate than I usually have time to read them, so I look forward to transatlantic flights when I can get through 10 or more. If you're sat next to me, there's a tearing sound every few minutes as I rip out pages that I find interesting.

I have two tricks, one which lightens the load and one which means the pages don't hang around forever. First, as we get to the gate, I rip the whole magazine vertically along the spine at the page I'm at, and leave the front part which I've read for trash. That way I'm only carrying the half I haven't read yet.

Second, whenever I stop, I make it a habit of working through the pile from top to bottom. I wishlist on Amazon any books I want to read or products I want to look at later as potential purchases. I look up any websites I've got interested in. I write blog posts which are inspired by the pages, and store them in an email for later. I end up with a few pages for filing later, and a big pile of ripped in half pages for the trash. I've been known to do this in airport lounges on layovers - the secret is to do it quickly, before you forget what the inspiration was.



An article in Bloomberg Businessweek profiles Lenn Rockford Hann, who has invented, according to the article 'the greatest running shoe never sold'. The story starts with Hann running a half marathon inside Chicago airport, which tells you he's pretty extraordinary.

The rest of the story is sad though. Despite his apparently having invented a way of replacing parts of a running shoe to allow runners to use less energy to run, the shoes are still not on the market. It's not that companies aren't interested. He's been in contract negotiations with Under Armor, New Balance and Adidas. Every time, the negotiations broke down.

The negotiations with New Balance didn't even get started. He set a high-price intending it as an initial starting point, and the company closed the discussions. A colleague says: “He would be way better off with an agent to represent him,” says Hartner. “He’s the inventor-scientist guy, you know it from movies. But in real life they sometimes end up shooting themselves in the foot, and it’s hard to watch. They’re not as good at the people thing.”

Most of us rarely negotiate for anything. New jobs and salary increases are at most once a year. They fall under Horstman's Christmas Rule: you do it infrequently, it's important to you, therefore you're not any good at it. Most of us would be better off taking the first offer we're given. Hann proves this by following the accepted wisdom: start high, and the negotiation falls apart. Good negotiators know that negotiations are FAR FAR more complex than this.

We're not saying don't negotiate if you want to. But weigh up the potential gains against the potential loses and also consider the goodwill you're burning. Still worth it?

Wondering About Linkedin?


Three things struck me about this article about Walmart's recruiting in Asia. First, if you're wondering about whether you should be in Linkedin or not - Walmart is recruiting for some very cool jobs - and they start with Linkedin. There is no mention of advertising in the article. If you wanted to be developing Walmart's e-commerce offering in Asia, you had to be on Linkedin. So, stop wondering. Yes, you need to be on Linkedin.

Two, if you thought the job you were hiring for was hard, consider what Walmart is trying to find: "six senior-level e-commerce pros in six weeks". Oh, and "you were in Hong Kong, the hiring executive is in San Francisco, the job is in China, and the req asks for Chinese-speaking, retail-savvy, online experienced, e-commerce marketers?". That's a challenge. Keep the bar high and keep looking.

Finally, Simon Heaton, Walmart’s managing director in Asia, has a pretty cool job himself: "Not even a year ago Heaton was working in Bentonville, Arkansas. Today, he’s building Walmart’s executive team in India, China, Japan, and wherever next in Asia the company grows." How did he get it? "I’ve always wanted to do a global role,” he says. To prepare, he would volunteer for projects that had a global component, and take on searches for overseas candidates or jobs." He recommends volunteering for the kinds of roles you want, and building your network. So do we.



My parents and I were in the States recently. Walking down Main Street, we had to stop at numerous crossings controlled by stop lights. Each time, we would stop, press the crossing button and wait for the signal to cross. Here, the symbol for stop is a red hand, and the symbol for go is a white colored walking man.

The red hand would be there, and we'd be waiting and talking and getting distracted by the shop windows, and then someone would notice we could cross. Each one of us said at one time or another 'it's green!'. The symbol for go in England is a green colored walking man. We KNEW the man we were looking at was a white light, and yet the rut in our brains that the man is green is so deep, that we couldn't overcome it. (For the same reason, I persist in calling Main Street, the high street).

It's hard to make the changes we know we should - not to check our phones every 20 seconds, to always do the important but not urgent work first, to do our filing once a week - because the ruts are so deep. Knowing that gives you the advantage though. You're smarter than your brain. You know it's a rut and it can be broken out of. It just takes a little effort. The man is not green, and it's Main Street!

500th Cast Winners


Because we had so many great submissions for the 500th cast competition, we awarded more prizes than we originally announced. Tom Baldwin won a seat at a Manager Tools conference and Individual licences for life for both Manager Tools and Career Tools. We also awarded Pierre N, Sven Kosack, Matt Brigance, Joel Bancroft-Connors and Nicholas Dominguez seats at a Manager Tools conference. Our two 'extra' winners, Linda Morton and Mathew Lingerich won a year's License to Manager Tools or Career Tools.

We don't have room to show you all the winning entries here, but you can read Tom's below. All the winning entries here on the website at: And, you can read an ever changing selection of the other entries on the homepage.

In the course of all of our reading, we all exchanged numerous emails exclaiming about the stories. We were touched by the thanks and appreciation shared. Many of you told us you didn't even need to be entered, but you wouldn't us and everyone else to know how much we were helping. We promise you, it worked. We were all overwhelmed by the comments, and we thank you for them.

Performance Reviews


On Wednesday, I got to have a lovely dinner with a long time listener and friend of Manager Tools. As he began to describe his work and his team, he said something like 'I feel like I have to tell you I'm doing everything perfectly'.

We laughed, but it was a moment for a serious point. Please don't ever feel like this. Don't feel like you can't tell us you're struggling and ask for help. Don't feel like this should be easy and you're the only one who finds it hard. Management is hard. Work is hard (as I told my interns, if it wasn't, they'd call it play and you wouldn't get paid for it). Life is messy. Mike, Mark, Maggie and I regularly confess to messing things up - sometimes on air. We're not doing it perfectly either.

If you're here, you're open to critiquing your own performance and trying to do better. You're open to listening to guidance and trying it out. You're doing better than 50% of the other managers you know just because of that. Give yourself an A+ in your management performance review. Don't stop though, and keep trying to do better in 2012. We'll be here to help you.



An article in Fast Company focuses on Jason Evanish, and his influence on the start up / angel investor / vc relationships in Boston. He runs a clearing house for networking events and startup resources, but he also 'turned himself into a gatekeeper, arranging strategic meetings to filter out the groupies'.

He says 'Everyone thinks entrepreneurs are short on money, when in fact their most scarce resource is time'. No one has more time than they need. I regularly wish for 48 more hours in the day. I've never had a job where I have had more than enough time to do everything - and I don't believe such a job exists.

Given that 'not enough time' seems to be a universal complaint, all we can do is work within that constraint. What are my priorities. What needs to be done now? What can I not do in order to get the stuff I need to do done?



What's the solution to your building having a mailroom which may be targeted by someone sending a suspicious powder? An article in November's Fast Company describes the way Visa has solved the problem: the mail goes into a modular building near to their office. If a suspicious powder, 'the mail room can just be airlifted away'.

That wasn't the solution I'd have come up with, but it is genius. I admire anyone who is that creative. An engineer I once worked with told me the trick to thinking of ideas like this is to stay in the 'problem space' for longer. We tend to jump straight to the 'solution space', rather than really considering the problem.

But jumping there quickly, he told me, means you don't consider the more outrageous (and genius) solutions. Really fleshing out the problem - for example, that we don't want the suspicious powder to have any more contact than absolutely necessary - allows you to find the more creative solutions.