The Productive Professional

Stupid Advice We Read


Mark and I keep talking about starting a column called 'Stupid Advice We Read'. It came up yet again, when I read in an article in Businessweek: "Once a resume is created, job seekers can submit hundereds of applications online with zero or minimal extra cost. The problem is that companies have responded with crude filtering devices, so many of those resumes remain unread. "Technology allows [companies] to search for keywords. And if applicants don't use the right keyword in their resume, they won't make the list".

This is stupid. First, the filtering devices are bad. That's true. So, as a recruiter, you leave the search criteria open and scan 400 or more resumes looking for what you want. And, when you've had some practice, you can do that pretty quickly and pretty accurately. So resumes aren't not being read for that reason.

Second, the keywords you use are pretty generic. If you're a project manager and your resume doesn't say 'project manager' or 'project management' somewhere on it, then yes, you need to think about keywords - but how many does that apply to? Less than 0.01% I'd guess. If you're an Oracle 9i guy you have 'Oracle 9i' on your resume. You have to, in order to describe what you do.

Instead of worrying about keywords and recruiter searches, create a great resume which showcases what you do and how well you do it. You'll be found. Use the extra time and energy to engage with your network. They are the people most likely to help you find a job anyway.

Making Stopping Easier


A quote from an article in Inc stood out for me as being a metaphor for much more than the closure of a product line, which was the subject. Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals writes about closing Sortfolio: "Sortfolio may be profitable, but it's far less profitable than our other products. As a result, it gets far less of our attention. And given the way things are going, it'll get even less TLC in the future. Sortfolio is standing still. And anything that's standing still is atrophying".

David Allen never recommended this (as far as I know) but as well as my to-do list, and my someday-maybe list, I have a 'things I'm not doing'. It hurts to put ideas to one side that you know you won't ever have the time or energy to do, or which won't ever be as important as what you're working on now. Economists and sociologist tell us that one of the worst habits we have as humans is emphasising 'sunk cost'. That's the time and energy and money you've spent on something already. You look at a project and think, I've spent a month on it, I should follow it through.

Instead, we need to be better at focusing on our priorities. We need to say, 'I've spent a month on it and it's not working. I'm done with it'. David Allen did recommend a periodic of your priorities and how your to-do's fit into them. Moving them to a 'things I'm not doing' list, is an easier way of removing them from active duty rather than killing them altogether.

In-flight Entertainment


How much does inflight entertainment weigh? The Singapore airline Scoot says that removing the IFE systems from their 777's reduced the weight by 7%! When you consider that the requirement for fuel on an aircraft is made up of both distance and weight, a 7% saving is huge. The article I read this in, in Businessweek, goes onto say that the IFE on a Lufthansa A380 weighs a total of a ton.

No wonder airlines are scrabbling to innovate in this area - consumers expect IFE, and yet, it increases costs significantly. One solution is to rent out ipads - but where do you put your ipad when you're trying to eat your dinner, especially in coach?

As someone who travels with a laptop, an ipad, and 10 or more magazines, the answer is simple. Take off, landing and eating are for magazines. When in coach, have an empty plastic bag in your carryon. You can put the read magazines in it, and that keeps your seat tidier. Laptops are for work, when I'm not travel exhausted. My ipad is for reading something trashy when I am. (In fact, to save weight, airlines should just start weighing my carry-on!).

Another solution which is being tried is using the IFE systems for e-commerce. Airlines already sell space in their in-flight magazines for advertising revenue. If they do the same for the IFE, they can recoup some (or all) of the additional cost it causes.

All this goes to show, that no matter where you've got to on the innovation curve, there's always further to go.

Career Tools now has its own iPhone app!


Like the Manager Tools app, you can get all the newest casts in two quick clicks on your iPhone. In addition, there's easy access to a selection of casts which build on the basics of your career: Results and Relationships, and checklists to help you take action. Other Career Tools favorites such as the blog, forums, video and our Twitter feeds are all included. It's a one-stop, always-with-you, improve-your-career, FREE app.

Download it now.

As you know, the Manager Tools mission is to change management, one manager at a time. The Career Tools mission is to maximize every person's potential within their career. You can help us in this mission by telling others about the app, or adding stars and reviews on iTunes. We'll appreciate it - and you'll be helping others improve their careers too.

Get it here.



Manager Tools believes that the hiring is the most important activity that a manager does. Two articles I read this week provided an example of how not to do it and then how to. The first article is about the CEO's of enterprise software companies is from Businessweek. In talking about some new HT software it describes a hiring manager working on an app on his smartphone: "A list of to-do items appeared on the screen. Zill clicked on one item - a potential hire - and pored over the dossier compiled by his co-workers. Satisfied with the prospect's credentials, Zill jabbed the approval button with his finger and hired a new worker - and did all that before finishing his Guinness". Whilst technology is great, it doesn't seem to me that this CIO took enough interest or made enough effort considering he was engaged in his most important activity.

The other article is in Inc. It's entitled 'The Biggest Hiring Mistake You Can Make' and the point of the article is that not following up with candidates after they have applied is a mistake. The title is a little exaggerated. But the points they make to support their argument are good. "It's disrespectful to potential employees: People pay your business the high compliment of all by saying they would like to work for you".

In hiring, you can do the positive thing (hire) and do it badly. And, you can do the negative thing (reject) and do it well. As a Manager Tools manager, who understands the importance of hiring, you can do all of it well. Why wouldn't you when it's the most important thing you do?

Auckland Meetup - 13 August


Mark will be in Auckland on the evening of 13 August, so we've arranged an informal meetup.

We've reserved space in the Housebar at Debretts, 2 High St, Auckland, New Zealand from 7pm. Mark's coming in from the South Island and will probably arrive around 8, but please feel free to get to know each other before he arrives. You can find details of the location here:

Mark will be happy just to say hi, or to answer questions, or to join in your debates.

If you're planning on attending, please let Wendii know -

We hope you can attend and have a great time!


Get Help


In an article about X Prize founder, Peter Diamandis, Wired quotes him on the entrants to the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge. He says: "Out of more than 350 entrants, seven teams doubled the clean up rate. The winner quadrupled it. The fascinating thing is that one team that doubled the rate was bunch of guys who met in a Las Vegas tattoo parlor". I guess it says as much about me as about the guys that I would not have expected that.

The point he makes in the article, is that the people who 'should' have been innovating the oil clean up process had become so steeped in 'what's done' that they didn't have any new ideas. Coming in from the tattoo parlor, outsiders had a new perspective. I often find trying to explain a work problem to someone who is not involved works for two reasons - the first, that very reason. Because whoever I'm explaining it to isn't involved, they sometimes give me a perspective I hadn't thought of. The second is the same as the old medical teaching meme: see one, do one, teach one. In trying to explain it, often I solve my own problem. Getting it out of my head helps.

It's easy to sit at your desk and try and try to solve a problem. It's sometimes harder to ask for help. But when getting help can save you hours or days, it's worth it.

London Meetup - 21 June


Mark will be in London on the evening of 21 June, so we've arranged an informal meetup.

It'll be at Gows Restaurant starting at 7pm. You can find details of the location here:

Mark will be happy just to say hi, or to answer questions, or to join in your debates.

If you're planning on attending, please let Wendii know -

We hope you can attend and have a great time!


Common Vocabulary


At the end of an email to Mark this week, I wrote: "My opinion. And, if it's the unchosen alternative, I'm completely willing to murder it myself". I was referring to this cast, about professional subordination: As I wrote it, I realised how useful it is to have a common vocabulary.

One of the best things about a team learning DiSC is that you have a way of talking about the way people behave. There's a shortcut: "would you talk to Dave about doing the project briefing - he's a high I so he'll be great but you'll need to remind him".

The thing we forget though, is that new people don't have the same vocabulary. They have to be told that the MTP report covers the 'Management Transition Plan' (if indeed it does). And we think that because we told them once, they'll remember. But when you're learning a new language, it's hard to remember everything first time. So if you have someone new on your team, take time to explain, and take time to remind them a few times when the conversation becomes peppered with acronyms. You were new once too.



Apparently, the Singapore girls aren't the attraction they used to be. I grew up around the airline industry - my dad worked for British Airways his entire working life - and I remember 'knowing' that there was no way that any of the european airlines were going to reach the service excellence that the Singapore or Cathay did. There was some thing special that they had, that we just did not.

No longer, according to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek. The world's best airline is Qatar, and Singapore hasn't won that award since 2008. The article quotes Skytrax spokesman Peter Miller: "We are seeing a more level playing field in product standards as many carriers seek to match Singapore'. It turns out it wasn't something special. It was something replicable.

The number one in your industry does not have something special. The number one in your team even, doesn't really have something special. Talent is not everything. Hard work and a desire to reach that standard counts for a lot. The airlines have proved it by obtaining the je ne sais quoi that only Singapore had. If you want to be that good, you can be.