Archives for June 2017

Fast-trackers: Are they Climbing With Their Mirrors & Open Minds?

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The most challenging (and for me, REWARDING) aspect of leadership is the intersection of people & results.

Grow People, Grow Business.  PERIOD.  And the reverse is also true.

But like most things.  This says easy, does hard.  I can rattle off a few reasons….

  1. Not everyone views their job as something other than a 4 letter word.  They just want to do their job, check in, check out, collect their well earned compensation.
  2. Some cultures are simply suffocating, toxic, political, or just generally not conducive to the individual that wants to grow.
  3. Top leaders can be too consumed with pressures of the business vs. the need to develop individuals.  In other words, “I’ll get to that after I deal with…..”
  4. The individuals have simply not dealt with their big life barriers (real or perceived).  In particular, they ignore the must humbling and powerful tool in business (and life):  THE MIRROR

Let’s focus on #4, for one simple reason, it’s controllable.  And painfully hard to get people to understand.  But the mirror is a bigger symbol for some vs others.

Leaders deal with all kinds of people, but generally they can be categorized into groups, just like market segments.

  • Climbers– Driven individuals that seek more pay, title, responsibilities, some with realistic expectations and some have wildly crazy expectations.  Some put great points on the board, some just want to climb regardless of the scoreboard.  Tend to have better than average talent/raw ability.  They also tend to know it, sometimes remind you of this fact, and generally have high ego strengths.  Performance can be highly volatile, sometimes off the charts, sometimes toxic.
  • Plodders – “OK” performers.  Good soldiers.  Some occasional issues.  But most organizations are able to keep the lights on with a great core of plodders.  Maybe not thrive, but certainly survive.
  • Complainers/Debbie Downers (DD) – DD’s never met a situation that couldn’t spark gloom and doom.  Performance is all over the board, some are strong, some aren’t.  Classic glass half empty people, always finding the darkness vs the light.  I’ve rarely met a DD in life that is generally happy, fulfilled, satisfied with where they are in life, career, etc.
  • Grinders – They just get the job done.  All work, no drama, sometimes hard to read, sometimes introverted.  Performance tends to be a solid “B.”  Grinders do more than keep the lights on, they allow top management to sleep well at night.  These are the in-sung heroes in business.

A great friend and mentor of mine has a brutal expression:

“If I could buy you for what you’re worth, and sell you for what you THINK you’re worth, I’d be a rich man.”

OUCH.  Brutal (especially if the expression is directed at you!).

Nothing like a pithy quote with biting humor to bring a point home, damage the ego and level someone up!  Especially in the world of compensation that is often fraught with emotion, grey area, mis-leading market data, etc.

Compensation is not an easy topic to confront, especially with climbers.  Ignoring the climbers needs and motivations however is probably not in either parties best interest.

Rational Check List

  • Is the Climber a cultural fit?  Do they feel like the company’s core values, or are they a bit “off-center?”
  • Do they ADD to the talent around them and make other’s better, or are they an individual climber?  If your business values the team concept, it’s important to distinguish where the climber fits.
  • What’s the “market value” of the climber?  Same company size, same industry.
    • Plenty of sites can lend data, but few level up same industry, size and scope of job equally for a realistic comparison.  Anything else starts to get into massive grey area.  What good does it do comparing a service industry “director” where capital requirements are low, margins are high vs. a capital intensive, low margin manufacturing business where the lion’s share of employee base may earn less than $30k?
  • What’s the cost to replace the climber?
  • Should the climber even be engaged, or should you be looking at your grinders?

Maybe most important when understanding the climber?  How strongly do they believe in the mirror test?  How thick is their skin to absorb critical feedback?  

Many people want to make more money.  But are they willing to listen to critical feedback, absorb it, and make the changes that may be needed to make take their performance to a new level?  If YES, hang onto the climber.

If not?  That’s a much harder situation, and all too common.

Last, another brutal little expression:

“An asset is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.”  A house.  A Stock.  A person. 

A market starts with one human, not the average of a bunch data points slammed together.  In other words, the market is usually sitting directly in front of the climber.  

For climbers, and LEADERS, this is one thing I know to be true.  The stronger the mirror test on all sides, the quicker Leaders and Climbers move together, in the same direction, with high energy and lots of fun.

Climbing without a strong mirror, and receptive ears along the journey is a ticket to stress.  It’s the leaders job accompany the climbers on their journey, but only for those that carry both.  

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Old School Rant: Choices, Teenagers & Parents

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Alexa always gives me some interesting factoids.  Today’s report on the plummeting teenager labor force participation caused me to stop and look it up.  Here’s the article, and below the stat.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fewer-teens-working-summer-jobs/

“The teen labor force participation rate reached a peak of almost 58 percent in 1979. By 2015, the most recent year of data provided by the BLS, that rate had declined to about 34 percent, which is lower than the Great Recession’s 40 percent rate.”

So What?

We can give plenty of reasons for WHY this is going on and I’m sure there are good ones.  No doubt more kids are going to summer school as they prepare for college and are likely putting a higher value on that over the long term than a minimum wage job.  I get it.

But it’s awfully hard to imagine our country in a better position with massively fewer teens participating in WORK

This is not to make a value judgment on education vs experience, it’s to ponder CHOICES that our future producers seem to be making.

Seems like you really only have 3 types of CHOICES Teenagers make.  Work.  Study.  Play.  3 distinct teens making 3 different choices.  

  • 1)  Teen Timmy makes the choice to pass up on the minimum wage job to attend “summer school” or pre-college prep.  Timmy has his sights on a scholarship at a prestigious university.  Timmy is clearly trying to hone those classroom “muscles” and I can envision his first year in college perhaps even being more successful in college as a result of this choice.  Timmy is on his way.
  • 2)  Teen Tara, an “average” high school student scores a job at the local Starbucks.  So much for sleeping in, store opens at 5am and she needs to open at least 3 days a week, and Tara isn’t a morning person so this doesn’t feel fun.  But slightly better than school for Tara, she just can’t seem to get motivated by the classroom.
  • 3)  Teen Tiffany.  She’s doing neither.  By golly it’s the summer and she’s going “Down the shore” DTS (NJ saying for hanging out on the beach) to work on her tan.  School and jobs will always be there and her bestie is joining her, it will be a blast.

I suppose there are all kinds of cross-overs between Tiffany, Tara and Tim.  Who’s to say you can’t do a little DTS, hold a job, and take a course or 2.  Our society seems to be obsessed with “balance” so one could argue this approach would kind of feel pretty darn smart?

Regardless, all could be massive successes, and all could be grade A loafers in life too.

There’s also a VERY powerful force in a Teenager’s Life:  Their Parents

One thing is hard not to notice about Parents and business leaders?  People are AWFULLY proud of their alma matter.  Their college experience shaped them, who their friends are and there is usually a tremendous sense of pride in their college.  I have a healthy degree for my college experience too.

Do yo think this rubs off on Junior?  You betcha.  Do you think Junior’s Parents vision may be a tad biased in their own hiring decisions when trying to get talent for their companies?  How can it not?

When student loan debt crosses the trillion dollar mark in the USA and countless young adults are graduating without “experience” and consider themselves “under-employed,” maybe, just maybe parents and leaders need to step back and ask themselves if we live in a different day?

Again, I’m not advocating education vs NO education.  But it’s hard not to at least challenge the underlying assumptions and recognize that the world we live in now is not our Grandparents world.  Everything should be questioned.  There are multiple paths to a fulfilled life, but listening to many of them talk about plans for junior, there only seems to be one.

Employers still want the sheepskin.  Some won’t even interview the non-degreed applicant.  That means there’s tremendous talent not even being considered in the market for talent, and that spells opportunity.

You know what employers really want MORE than the sheepskin?  Results.  Difference makers.  

For the record, I had a HELL of a teenage life.  I helped run a liquor store, and is there any cooler job for a teenager than that?  I had tons of fun, but I also remember plenty of weekends my friends going DTS while I worked at the store and locked it up at night.  The pride of being entrusted with a key to that store and locking it up, in great shape to start the next day was a responsibility I wouldn’t screw up for anything.  I think of my Uncle and Cousin often with a tremendous amount of gratitude for their trust.

Sometimes in life, success isn’t a matter of distinct choices, to work or to study or to play.  Success sometimes means, who are you trying to please?  Your parents?  Your buddies?  Or……yourself?  Coming of age usually means you get this clearly, and sometimes people take a lifetime with this struggle….

For teenagers, these are awfully tough choices.  I just hope it’s the teenager that makes the call, not their parents.   

BTW, don’t miss the video on Raven Osborne, got here college degree BEFORE her high school degree.  For free.  That’s HUSTLE, and I’d love to hire her.

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