Saturday, July 14, 2012

Career Development

Many career driven readers need to know what factors into choosing a good career, how to prepare for this career, and when it is appropriate to switch careers. If you are asking yourself what career you should choose, make sure to factor in the following five points into your decision making process.

  • Find your passion. Corny perhaps, but true. Finding a passion is the most crucial factor in finding a good career. Regardless of what the media portrays, successful people work long hours, sometimes fighting straight through 15 or 16 hours of hard labor. In such a stressful environment, you better like what you’re doing. Without a passion and purpose to drive you, you will inevitably leave your career goals by the wayside.
  • People throw money at interesting things. Research and look into what areas you have worked in. Find out how much money it’s making. Money is the attention unit of society and if people find something interesting, they will throw money at it. Other than the innovative areas that have not yet been discovered, you can determine what careers are viable by what sectors are doing well now.
  • It really isn’t ever too late. True, if you switch careers, you will be the low man on the totem pole for at least a short while. There is no getting around this. However, if you are truly passionate about another career, willing to work from the ground up, and ready to learn about the area, go for it. You need to realize the immense opportunity cost of sticking around in the wrong career.
  • Start preparing early. A significant portion of America’s society has set up the false belief that high school and college are all about having fun and trying different things. That’s okay, but sometimes it’s nice to have a purpose and follow it. Your career is your life and there is no reason to delay starting your life. This doesn’t mean parents need to grind a career into their children; however, starting early gives kids a sense of purpose and direction. For example, my oldest daughter in middle school wants to be a paleontologist, she interns with designers and engineers to see what paleontologists do on a daily basis. This early exposure is optimal for finding the right career.
  • Vocational schools are great when applicable. If you know you want to pursue a specific career, vocational schools are very advantageous, especially for hands-on careers. In vocational schools, talent is very focused and does not get dispersed. In college, I sat through my higher-level math courses only to never use the information again. Instead, I could have spent time on other things relevant to her career.
As the destabilized economy struggles to make a comeback, many readers wonder what are the top careers for the future. The two most promising fields: technology and health care.

  • The Future: Any technology, especially cloud computing, that makes it easier to have technological solutions without having the technology in the office is emerging at the forefront of business as one of the top careers for the future. The technology market will only continue to grow bigger and bigger
  • The Competition: Competition is low in America’s technology market now and Silicon Valley is always in need of more engineers. Competition will start to grow, but America’s education system is not strong enough to effectively compete in the global economy yet. Many companies are outsourcing for engineering resources because it is much more cost effective. However, Americans will be able to compete in the future.

    Regardless of whether engineers overseas cost less, work takes longer and is done incorrectly because of the language barrier. If America can produce well educated engineers, overseas competition will not matter so much in the future. Americans, the last free people in the world, have been historically intelligent and very scrappy.

    When the necessity level rises to a certain point, the United States will make a come back. Above all, Americans need to stop complaining and square away the education system. Furthermore, Silicon Valley needs support. As the heart innovation, Silicon Valley and its expanding technology market have the potential to turn America around.
  • Competitive advantages: Fluency in other languages of emerging markets is key, including Asian languages, Spanish, Portuguese, and in time, maybe even Middle Eastern languages. Because so many companies are expanding their global offices, those who are fluent enough to communicate with a global team and figure out how to handle e-commerce in Asia will dominate in technology.

    Silicon Valley flourishes when its technology sector figures out how to target emerging markets overseas.In addition, a background in engineering is optimal. Engineers translate thoughts into the physical universe better than anyone else. This skill will always be needed in the technology field. As Bromund said, “if there isn’t an engineer to turn dreams into reality, we’re screwed.”
Health Care
  • The Future: Health care isn’t going anywhere. Although its growth depends on the government, Bromund predicts it will get overhauled in some other way. Regardless of the government’s actions, health care is going to be a large field in the future.
  • The Competition: Although 2008 and 2009 were major exceptions, there will be a lot of competition to find nurses and doctors. Especially on the aging side of health care, there will be plenty of openings as well as a shortage of health care professionals. However, compared to the exciting forefront of technology, health care is a relatively lackluster field unless it especially interests you.
  • Competitive advantage: Quite simply, attend nursing schools to become a nurse or medical school to become a doctor. There will always be a demand for these professions.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Unbiased Performance Appraisal

Fair performance appraisal methods use metrics only to judge performance at regular, short intervals. In this way, he or she knows exactly what is expected and can become stable in his role.

Give each employee a set of deliverables and measure those deliverables by graphing them on a daily or weekly basis to show changes. The employee’s performance can be easily judged. Of course, other qualities in an employee matter besides his or her ability to deliver, but this comes first and foremost where fairness is concerned.

As a role becomes more complicated or you head toward the top of the org chart, certain complexities make the evaluation of performance more difficult. In this case, the best idea is to make a list of the deliverables as well as the “soft skills” or intangibles that the position needs. Do this without regard to the person currently in the role. Imagine what an ideal person would do and be in the role and write that into the job description as a standard to judge the person against.

As soon as you enter “soft skills” into the equation, the ability to keep bias out of your performance appraisal methods becomes compromised to a degree. Therefore, the job description should include these skills at the outset, not added after a problem arises. Be thoughtful about the skills, tasks and deliverables of the role as early as possible so that the standard is fairly set.

If you do not currently have a job description for each role in your organization that includes the main tasks, the deliverables and the soft skills for that role, then this is the first task you must take on to get your house in order. From there, develop regular performance reviews based only on metrics that occur weekly.

Then, at longer intervals, such as every six months or one year, look at the whole list of tasks, deliverables and soft skills and write a short comparison of the person to this list. Remember as you go over the comparison of the person to this list that the person is receiving a picture of himself which may or may not be flattering. Think of how you feel when you view an unflattering picture of yourself, and take this into account as you share the information. Be firm but kind in your appraisal and after reviewing any negative information, quickly give the person a list of ways to improve his or her performance. Allow him to improve the picture.

The performance management process is the process of looking at how someone is doing in their role and guiding that person’s performance to a higher level in the organization. The most apathetic employees are the ones who have a ceiling in their job. The performance management process is a process that gives workers hope of getting to that next level. Without this hope, an organization will have bored, irritated employees. If you are not going to do performance management and you are not going to give people feedback or reviews, you might as well stick them in the middle of a forest with no compass.

To recap how to keep bias out of your performance appraisal methods, start off with a clear-cut set of tasks, deliverables and soft skills for each position. Review the deliverables on a weekly basis with the person to judge performance regularly. This allows for no surprises at the formal performance reviews which take place yearly and contain a comparison of the person to all the tasks, deliverables and soft skills. If any negative information surfaces, give the person a development plan to help him improve the picture.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Team Building Techniques

In the business world, top team building activities for the workplace lie on a spectrum of gravitas (seriousness). They range from light hearted, easygoing activities to hard-core exercises that can expose an executive’s vulnerabilities.

On the least serious side of the spectrum, top team building activities for the workplace can involve off site recreation where coworkers can get energized and learn more about each other on a more personal, unprofessional level. These out-of-office activities can range from wine tasting to rock climbing to tours and so on where teammates can learn about what their coworkers like to do in their spare time as well as discuss big picture goals and what the team is doing as well. This side of the spectrum suits companies with the expendable budget to take their team off site to fun environments very well.

In the middle of the spectrum, take assessments as a team. Discuss the results with a facilitator who can talk the team through as to how well it handles different perspectives and how different styles impact the team’s ability to work together. These activities are typically less expensive and very workable in terms of team building perspective.

Assessments can help teammates understand how their coworkers operate and how they are different. This eye-opening strategy is crucial to team building. A team’s biggest downfall is the perspective that everyone thinks exactly the same. With this mentality, team players will approach others in the same way they do things. This kills team building every time.

As far as team building downwards, bosses can work with their employees at ground level for a day. For executives and bosses who have trouble connecting with the team they need to manage, this can be an eye-opening experience. For example, I once sent a COO to work with customer service for a day. The employees loved it and the COO finally understood the full reality of what his customer service team did every day. From this new perspective, he was able to put his finger on their daily goals and problems and, thereby, manage them better.

In the most serious side of the spectrum, of top team building activities for the workplace, upper level executives can perform 360 reviews. They can gather performance info from their peers, employees, and through direct reports. Then, the executives must share with the group what they learned as well as their development plan — how they will be working on improving.

Although 360 reviews were disparaged in the press 5 or 6 years ago, they are making a comeback. Executives work in a vacuum most of the time with nothing to compare themselves to. As a result, they do not realize what other executives are doing or if they are really accomplishing their job. Many executives make massive changes after engaging in 360 reviews.

360 reviews are a very vulnerable thing for most people and, therefore, should be done anonymously. Although some cultures are so open that peers and employees can give feedback freely, it is easier to start with anonymity as a default so that people can be open and say what they need to say.
To decide which of these team building activities for the workplace to use, take a look at the team and decide what level of team building it has accomplished so far. If the team cannot communicate at all, build commonality and get teammates talking with the least serious activities. If the team is not at ground zero but is dysfunctional in some way, start with the more serious side assessments or even 360 reviews to help teammates understand how they can work together best.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Master Strategic Management

First, the strategic management process looks at the actual model of your business and determines whether it is a revenue generation model. You must clarify how your business is going to make money and why people would find your product or service interesting.

In addition, you must find out how much demand there is for your product or service and what qualities are demanded. For example, if you are selling TVs, find out what people want in TVs, if you can make a profit making TVs, and in what volume you can make TVs. All of these are strategic discussions that you must undertake when you draw out your plan so that you can actually have a profitable business. Without this clarity, you get stuck in the day to day.

Part two of the strategic management process is identifying your target market — the customers you are selling to. Survey consistently to find out what your customers think. Know where your customers go, what they buy, where they sleep, and everything else. This knowledge is essential to really grasp what your customers need. You must understand what your customers’ lifestyles are like and understand how your product fits into them.

You must have some way to contact your target market. You can use your current customers to survey if you have them. Find out your target market’s addresses, e-mails, and phone numbers. Draw up a survey about your product and find out what they want.

The best surveys must be short to entice your target market to take them. Furthermore, it is best to conduct surveys in person. Have someone call and actually talk to them. Ask them, “If you were running my business, what would you produce or what problem would you try to solve?” People love to talk about this and their answers can give you tremendous insight as to what your target market really wants.

There are rare exceptions of an innovator who is so visionary that the target market would never be able to come up with what he or she decides to produce. For example, Apple’s iPhone is a brainchild of design. Even for products like this, however, surveys are still conducted so that people can give their opinion about what makes sense to them.

Other than surveys, focus groups have some potential. However, they can be extremely inefficient and there is a lot of setup and preparation involved in conducting a successful focus group. If five people turn up, you are really only getting five opinions. To get a real sense of how the market works, you need a volume of opinions. One person’s off-the-wall opinion is not going to help you as much as a thousand people. With mass data, you can formulate a bell curve and analyze your market much more accurately.

The third step of the strategic management process is listening to the data. A remarkable number of companies fail because they do not take heed of the information they collected. For example, if the target market says they want 12 inch TV screens that fit on top of their microwaves in their kitchens and you produce big screens TVs, it should not surprise you if your product does not sell.

Skype is a great example of a company who listened to their collected data. The company figured out that their target market wanted simple functionality more than anything else. They didn’t want it to be fancy or impressive at all. It just had to work. Thus, Skype did not spend any money on sales. Instead, they put all of their resources into making their product work on the technical side and as reliable as possible.

Sometimes companies have to revisit their strategy because the market changes. However, if you are doing well, do not mess with your strategy. If you do notice that your product is becoming outdated in your market or that you are losing a large market share to your competitors, you need to change your strategy up.

However, once you find out an effective strategic management process that works for you, do not try to change it up just because of other companies. For example, when Michael Dell started building computers for people, they were always desktops. The minute that laptops hit the market, however, Dell started fleshing out into laptops and buying different parts.

This departure from their old strategic management process led to hard times. Until they really got their strategy back together again after a couple years, the company suffered. If you decide to change your strategic management process, make sure you do so for the right reasons.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Boss

“The Boss” is probably the easiest target for snide comments, pre-meditated gossip and murder fantasies in most offices. The term has become so maligned that most companies no longer even use the word. Now we call him “Your Manager”. Whatever term you use, you might find it helpful to know a little bit about him (or her).

First off, don’t forget that there are FEW, if any, schools that teach a person HOW to be a boss or manager. Management is a four-letter word in the business world and it remains one of the great mysteries of our time. Management is not actually that mysterious, but because it involves a few skills that are not specified clearly and that most people are lacking, you might find yourself in the precarious position of having a boss who doesn’t know HOW to be one.

Second, no one, and I mean NO ONE, is ever going to admit that he doesn’t know HOW to be the boss. This is equivalent to shooting off his own arm. Why admit such a thing? A person is successful or starts his own business and becomes "The Boss"! No training required. Or so many people think. Is there anything you can do about this? YES!

First off, realize that management is primarily about control. Control is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. If you don’t believe me, try making a phone call without controlling the phone. How did that work out for you? Control itself is neither inherently bad nor good, but is constructive or destructive based only on the motive of the person using it. You can be constructive with your control of your phone, i.e., dial a florist and order flowers for the wife, OR you can be destructive, i.e, prank call your boss. It’s your choice how you use the control. The same is true for your boss. He or she has a choice at any moment whether to be constructive or destructive. Decide for yourself RIGHT NOW if your boss (or anyone else who “manages” you) is constructive or destructive. The easiest way is to tell by results. Does the person get positive results with you and others?

Assuming the person is controlling you in a constructive way, realize that most human beings inherently do not like control. But we have to live with it in order to engage in group activities. So let’s assume your boss, like so many of them, is controlling you very poorly. Here is an example: “The Boss” tells you to start on the new social media marketing campaign. You do so. Two days later, “The Boss” comes after you wondering why you are tweeting on behalf of the company! You look bewildered and mutter, “But. . .I thought. . . you wanted me to . . . start the social media campaign. . .” He storms out of the room, telling you to remove all the tweets. Uh oh. Poor control on his part. He didn’t CONTROL you very well. To control is to create positive, predictable change.

So what can you do if your boss doesn’t control you, or anyone else, correctly? Well, you can take charge of the control. It would look something like this. Boss: “Start the new social media marketing campaign.” You: “Sounds good. I’ll have a plan on your desk for approval in two hours.” You type up the plan including all ideas for tweeting, etc., and put it on his desk with only boxes at the bottom where he can check “Agree” or “Disagree” to let you know if he likes the plan. True, it’s a little more work for you. But this is what being responsible looks like. As Ayn Rand said, "The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap."

Of course, you can always let the boss continually shift your priorities and complain about it to your co-workers. That’s what most people do. But if you really want to get ahead, try nailing down this control thing by taking your share of the responsibility for it. That way, more than your boss managing you, you are managing HIM!

And if you really want to handle the situation for good, send your boss to management training. You may have to call it something else, like “Jamaica” to get him to go, but if you can pull it off, I promise your life will be much easier. And maybe you can stop fantasizing about the steamroller and super glue . . .

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How YOU Doin?

Feedback is not always easy to give. Or receive. Take the story of the CEO who went in to give his head of sales his annual performance review and found the office cleaned out. Turns out the head of sales left a "note" in his drawer saying that he coudn't face the performance evalution he was expecting he would get. This is a bit extreme. Hopefully, your experiences have not been this dramatic.

But let's assume you have never given performance feedback, like about 60% of all bosses. If you need to create a performance evaluation from scratch, take the person’s job description and break it down into categories. Try not to list more than 12 or 15 areas at the outside. If you have no job description available, search the job title on the internet with the words “job description” included, e.g., “VP of Marketing job description”. Pull out the parts that apply to the role and break it down into categories. Be sure to include soft skills such as influence or conflict management if they apply. If you are reviewing a person in customer service, for example, friendliness and communication skills would be top priorities on the soft side.

Next, either have the person do a self-assessment or include as many people as realistic in evaluating the person in the time allotted. The people to include can be the manager, peers, direct reports or any other stakeholders who know the person well. A simple evaluation can include a rating scale and a box for comments. A more complicated one can include a rating scale and associated questions. A simple 360° process can be purchased at a reasonable price through a coach. (The cost can be as low as $100/person.) A 360° is so named because it takes evaluation information from 360° around the person. It is simply a specialized type of performance review most commonly used by executives and a favorite tool of many coaches.

If you are giving feedback to a high level executive, the most common areas of improvement for executives are listed in the following table by frequency. These percentages were gathered from the hundreds of executive 360°s we have performed over the last decade in our company and in partnership with other companies.

If a person had more negative comments than positive comments in an area, it is considered a “development area”. These development areas show common themes and they are listed in the table by frequency of appearance.  

Most Common Development Areas

Onboarding 12% / 88%*

Results Focus 62%

Problem-Solving 58%

Interpersonal Skills 58%

Delegation 44%

Influence 32%

Communication 31%

Executive Presence 22%

*While Onboarding was only a development area in 12% total of the reports we performed, of those who had recently begun a new role, 88% needed onboarding help in their development plans.

If you need further ideas for competency areas, check out the FYI book by Korn/Ferry. Next, get ready to actually deliver the feedback, or at least talk about it after you have slipped the report surreptitiously onto your employee's desk.

Remember a few key points as you deliver the feedback:

1. Be specific. Include examples as you point out development areas.

2. Balance praise and criticism. When giving the criticism, include suggestions for improvement.

3. Expect some reactions. Allow the person receiving feedback to digest and then have a follow-on conversation after tempers or tears have cooled.

4. Don't forget a development plan. Pick one or two areas that are most important and give the person a little adivce or some tasks to handle those areas. You'd be surprised how far a little advice can go.

It's time to get going on giving some feedback and helping the 94% of your employees, so let's get started!

Coach Me! Coach Me!

Whether you are an HR professional, a peer, a mentor or a coach, you need the basic tools to begin to assist another person. If you are an executive and just want to coach your direct reports or employees to improve their performance, the same rules apply. Use these tools to get any coaching or mentoring relationship off the starting block. IMPROVEMENT As irrational as it may sound, not every person who seeks coaching wants to improve his situation. Some are trying to get out of a role or company and just want to be coached as to how to do this. Others have a solemn belief that no improvement is possible, that “people are the way they are”. If you do not quickly understand this about your coachee, you may end up at odds because you intend improvement while he intends to leave or go through a fruitless exercise. Nothing is more important than setting up the relationship with aligned purposes. To begin, ask your coachee his goals for coaching by finding out what end state he desires. Then, pull off any false veneer of “playing along” with coaching by asking the questions below: Is there anything about your current role that you do not like? If so, what? What area of your job causes you the most stress? If you could leave to go do anything else, what would you do? Is there anything about your role which makes you feel old or tired? Are there any reasons why you would want to give up? Do you believe people can change for the better? Have you ever seen someone improve in any area? What was it? Get several answers for each of the above questions. These questions are food for a discussion, not just short ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. If the person mentions any fact or situation which is fascinating, confusing or worth discussing, ask further about it until it is perfectly clear. Take the role of detective in understanding the situation and goals of your coachee. When you are certain he would like improvement, not to leave or follow some other purpose, continue with the Help section below. HELP Clearly, a main role of the coach is to help the recipient, to be a sounding board, a stable source of guidance and a font of wisdom. But not everyone is open to accepting help from a coach. This is easy to understand for those who have been to a dentist or a doctor and had a painful experience. We go in to the doctor, relieved to get help for our illness or our toothache, and end up with a needle in our backside or our jaw, followed by a painful procedure or two, and some follow-up medication. As helpful the intervention is in solving the condition, it never sets us up to love the idea of help. Years later, we see people avoiding the doctor even when a condition has become serious. We often get the idea that help involves a little bit, or a great deal, of pain. This is the view on help that you might find your coachee (or even yourself) sitting in. Thus, the job of a coach is to get the coachee ready and willing to receive the help of a coach. Poke around about his reactions to help. Ask the following questions to start discussion: What types of help has he or she received before? Was any of the help bad help? Any good help? What happened? What does help consist of in his mind? Has he ever been coached before? How did it go? Was the coach helpful? Who has helped him most in life? Least? Describe the ideal type of help. This is a good time to check for experiences similar to coaching but not called “coaching”, such as having a mentor. Ask the following questions and get complete answers: Has the person had a mentor? Used a consultant? Anything similar to a coach? If yes to any, find out whether this helped or not. What types of experiences does he or she associate with coaching? Were those good experiences or bad experiences? Does he believe coaching could work? Is it possible that it could help? Give an example of how coaching might help someone. Give an example of when you have seen someone receive help. Please note, this set of questions could take as long as several hours, but minimally will take about 30-45 minutes. After digging in deeply to find the answers to these questions, and if the person is ready and willing to receive some help, move into a discussion on control. The next step in developing a coaching relationship is to come to an agreement about who is in control in the coaching relationship. Control is another dirty word in the workplace, second only to help. Sit any person down and tell him you are going to control him and he will likely leap from the chair and run from the room, possibly screaming. And yet, to have a successful coaching relationship, someone has to control the flow of the development plan, and the most likely candidate is the coach, not the coachee. So to have a successful relationship, a coach must help his coachee come to terms with the fact that the coach will control him and the process. To get the subject of control under control, the coach can ask the coachee the following questions: When you hear “control” what do you think of? Have you had any bad experiences with control? What happened? Have you had a good experience with control? How do you like to be controlled? How do you dislike being controlled? Is control ever a good thing? Give an example. Next, spend a few minutes asking the coachee to do various tasks, such as hand over his pen, get up from his chair, or bring you a glass of water. They should be simple tasks, but he should be willing to do them with no questions asked. This is a minimum threshold for control to start a coaching relationship. The control exercises are similar to the ones on help. They should take a minimum of 30 - 45 minutes and could go as long as several hours. Dig deeply to find areas where the person was controlled badly or the control was harmful. These experiences are likely to get in the way of coaching unless you uncover them and bring them to light. If you manage to dig in deep enough, you will get to a point where the coachee trusts you to control him, knowing that control can be a positive influence. After all, if you were operating your phone and didn’t control it, you wouldn’t make many calls, would you? You would likely end up with a broken phone. You can mention this to him to make a point about control. If you have completed these three major steps, you now have a person ready to be coached. The next step is to write down goals and create a development plan. This will be covered in another article.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's Peeeeeeeople!

My Sunday School teacher was fond of mentioning that there were only two types of people in the world: good guys and bad guys. While this may have been true, it left me with no tools to sort out which was which. For instance, were my business competitors all “bad guys” or might some of them be good guys? I needed a practical and workable system for determining whether someone was on my side or not, whether I could trust them or not. I finally found that one method worked best to answer these questions about people.

First of all, I stopped listening to what people were saying. Some of the most underhanded people I ever worked with said wonderful, flattering words to my face and then proceeded to undermine me relentlessly. So words were not the test of whether a person could be trusted. I needed a better system. What I discovered was that I could look for business results and get a good estimation of the worth of the person. I started dividing people into two camps. Rather than “good” or “bad”, which had too many extraneous connotations, I started using “constructive” and “destructive”. Either a person was helping me and the business or he wasn’t. Either he was pushing for results for himself and others or he wasn’t. This made the picture much clearer. I also found that the minute I focused on results and those who were constructive in achieving them or destructive of them, I could easily sort out a few other “types” in each camp.

Below are the “types” I found most commonly, with genders chosen randomly for each type.

THE CONSTRUCTIVE TEAM: Gets results for self. Helps others get results.

Mr. Busy: Rather than being a busy-body, he is just plain busy. Phone calls, emails, meetings—he goes all day long. He is just busy, busy, busy getting things done! This is the top person to have on a team that wants to achieve results.
Superhero: He is the ultra-constructive hero of the office. He likes to pitch in, works hard and goes a tad nutty when others try to stop him. If he complains, it is about injustices or the barriers to success. On a normal day, he is busy and optimistic. He likes to talk and may even run late from getting too involved in some conversations. He loves having an exciting goal to pursue and likes other people.
Ms. Thoughtful: She is concerned about the results, thoroughly thinking through strategies and timelines. She ponders about data and furrows her brow at complex problems. Likes to review charts and spreadsheets. New ideas are a bit too risky because they might jeopardize the cause. She’s helpful and a good person to go to for a thorough analysis.
Mr. Blah: He’s bored at meetings and tends to doodle on his napkin. He occasionally gets interested in a project, but it takes some effort and has to involve him personally. He’s nice and wouldn’t hurt a flea. Don’t expect him to lead the team, but he will do what you ask him to do. Put him on a team with a strong leader.
The Fighter: Picks a fight with anyone for any reason. Loves debate and a good boxing round with others. You might wonder at times whether he’s on your side or not, and he certainly can be exhausting, but his heart is in the right place. The fights can be unnecessary at times, but they aren’t ill-intentioned. A good team player if you can keep him fighting against the competition instead of his teammates. Also needs a strong leader to channel his energies.
THE DESTRUCTIVE TEAM: Will slow or stop any constructive goal. Wastes time and energy.

Blow-Hard: He’s always irritated about something, but won’t always mention it. When things blow up, he’s in the middle of it, yelling and screaming, throwing staplers and verbally abusing others. The accusations are untrue and full of destructive talk. The difference between the Blow-Hard and the Fighter is that the Fighter is fighting for something important: results. The Blow-Hard is just interested in beating others up. He’s not trying to “motivate” them or prove his strategy is the best. He’s just angry and obnoxious.
The Snake: Also known as the gossip of the office, this ‘type’ is the mark of death for your office. Wanders from office to office, making seemingly harmless comments about others but secretly stirring up conflicts and problems. Casually “mentions” to the boss that Sheila was at lunch for 1.5 hours and smelled “a bit like alcohol” when she returned. Will profess to be doing every action for the good of others while casually inserting a knife into every back he or she can find. Will undermine every possible constructive goal. Will support and help destructive goals like layoffs or downsizing only. It’s nearly guaranteed that you have met one of this type, but you might have missed it. The best skill you can learn is to recognize it when you see it. The snake is intensely dangerous while appearing completely harmless or even “nice” at times, and can be quite good at hiding his treachery by apparently “sensible” arguments. Look for a person who can’t do an honest day’s work and would rather sit around “talking” about problems and excuses rather than just driving the results. Will cause confusion to all constructive types in a short period of time.
Fraidy-Cat: She’s worried. She can’t sleep. She needs another cup of coffee. The competition just sold the contract to the client! The sky is falling! The fraidy-cat is the constantly worried officemate who has you wondering if you will ever get ahead or how so much can go so wrong so quickly. She is the bearer of bad tidings, and no good for you either. The world is much more dangerous place after you finish a breakfast meeting with fraidy-cat.
Victim: He just got in an accident. Again. He lost the sales contracts just before the big meeting because someone stole his briefcase at Starbucks. People are always stopping him, beating him up, picking on him. He can’t win. Ever. You wonder how one person could have so much trouble and bad luck, and how he could miss so much work and still have a job. A popular type to start frivolous lawsuits. Stay away or you will be part of one of the lawsuits shortly. Don’t hire him or you will have more and more problems on your hands daily.
The Weeper: She cries at the drop of a hat. She’s a bit slow. She looks sad or blank most of the time. May be still stuck in a recent tragedy or just generally sad and depressed. Seems a little “out of it” at times. Hard to get moving toward goals. Points out what is wrong or bad about nearly everything. Not a good team player or even an individual contributor. Too slow and too many excuses to be useful.
Mr. Whatever: This guy usually barely speaks. When he does, it is about how much he doesn’t care, how it all is fruitless and a waste of time because failure is clearly right around the corner. Can’t ever be convinced that something will go the right way. Has few friends. Doesn’t move much or control much. His response to anything, either good or bad, could be summed up as “whatever”.
So perhaps you found your teammates in the types, and perhaps you even discovered that one person was not as constructive as you might have hoped. It’s time to get down to the most difficult question of the day: Are the few people you work with most often going to take YOU up with them? When they become successful, will you be successful too? Looking at these types should help you determine the answer to that question. The constructive types will, to a greater or lesser degree, help you, support you and be constructive toward the group goals. The destructive types won’t. It’s that simple. So take a good, long look at those around you and see what your group looks like.

Wondering what to do if you found too many destructive types on your team? Time to restructure your team. If you can’t do that, talk to a coach about handling the destructive types and finding more support for your constructive goals. And good luck!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


It was December 20 and the VP of Marketing of an e-commerce business was staring blankly at a recent post on Yelp. The post condemned the e-commerce company, claiming their customer service was “abysmal” and their products “far below par”. After several nearly sleepless nights and a tired phone call to the PR person to see what they could do about it, they resolved to carry on without doing anything about it. But the post still haunted her.

Was their decision correct? How hard should they have tried to have the post removed, or please the displeased customer?

Negative press is never easy to take. For any business owner, it can feel like a personal jab rather than a dispassionate discussion of your business. One CEO was so distraught over some negative press about her company that she spent six nights manning the phones in customer service personally. That’s heroic.

Let’s look at the other side of this coin, shall we? To do business, we must garner attention. Yes, that’s right, we have to get others to see us, to look at us, to talk to us, to exchange money and services or goods with us. Communication is the bottom line. And that takes getting the public’s attention. Without attention, our businesses wither and die.

So, if we get negative attention, is that so bad? It certainly FEELS bad. It dampens our spirits. It kills our restful nights. That is actually what it is supposed to do. Remember Robert Kennedy’s quote: ‎"One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time." That’s right. One-fifth. Twenty percent. One out of five. Ok, you get it. It’s a large percentage. If you have five people in your office, at least one of them will never like what you are doing at any given time. It’s time to face the facts and grow up a bit. Not everyone will like us all the time!

Now let’s truly reverse this look and decide that criticism is a GOOD thing. Yes. A GOOD THING. Why? Because it means you are getting enough attention that someone is spending their valuable time to criticize you. It means you are impinging on your market. Truthfully, most of our businesses are never known at all, right? We spend our days WISHING for our articles to go viral, for our products to create massive demand. If you truly want that, start facing up to the hard truth that you will have to be ready to receive some criticism. As Grant Cardone (The Turnaround King) says, “When you start taking the right amount of action and therefore creating success, criticism is often not far behind. Receiving criticism is a surefire sign that you are well on your way.” Ask any major celebrity when he started receiving criticism in full force. It is quite likely right around the time he hit it big.

Back to our VP of Marketing. What if, instead of worrying about the criticism, she marketed so hard that she got 10 positive comments for every one negative one? What if she got so many customers that the one naysayer was drowned in a sea of excitement? What if you did the same?

To overcome criticism, don’t get stuck on it. Just expand above and beyond it. Go big. Speak more. Speak louder. Sell more! And when you get a public criticism, forward it to me so I can congratulate you for getting enough attention. Here's to criticism!