Posts Tagged ‘People’

diversity is a lot more than just what’s easy to see

March 9th, 2018 No comments


Last week, I overheard a discussion where someone was complaining about too many assholes joining their team. As I listened, it became very apparent that the person was complaining about behaviors and perspectives that where different from their own. When I pointed out to them that different mindsets, opinions and behaviors was diversity, he became very belligerent telling me that diversity was either race or sex. Well Simon, yes, those are glaringly obvious and don’t require any thought which make them easy to spot. We were interrupted and this interchange got me thinking. I started to write this post highlighting how travel, our past, mindset’s and attitudes all impact diversity when I realized that I was missing the point.

No matter how we define diversity, the key is to respect the differences. To ask questions, to understand them and learn about them. While we can decide to return some perspectives to their owners, the key is respect. Respect their perspectives, especially if our’s are different.


This Job Description sucks…

March 6th, 2018 No comments

There is research that our language is a reflection of our perspectives and biases. As such, the terms and language that we use can negatively affect people when they are reading our job descriptions.  Here are some of the highlights that I learned researching this topic and how we now approach the creation of job descriptions.

Key Lessons Learned

  1. Most men in the USA will read the job description and when they see 3 or 4 items that they can do, they apply for the position. This is not true with many other cultures and mindsets where they will read and evaluate the job description numerous times, determining which criteria they don’t meet. Simply put, they self exclude. an example of this is listing a looooong list of desired skills in the required skills section.
  2. Some labels or terms can be perceived by the reader to indicate a culture that is aggressive, comfortable with conflict or that a teammate has to fail in order for someone else to succeed. e.g. ninja, rockstar, cowboy, crush competition, dominate, work hard – play hard
  3. For folks that are in the early stages of their careers and others that are blessed with a learning mindset, the workplace needs to be a safe environment where people can make mistakes and learn from them. For these folks, a learning environment is key and so they will be looking for keywords that indicates safety. Safety is a key aspect of a healthy culture too!
  4. Focus less on the title and more on the role and don’t list all of the levels that HR has associated with the roles. Why lose a talented candidate because they don’t like a cookie cutter title?
  5. Ten plus years of experience doing something really doesn’t equal competence and excludes people who are talented and deliver the results needed but meet the number of the years experience. Quite honestly, this is how the recruiting team leverage the resume automation to exclude unqualified applicants.


How we’ve implemented the lessons learned:

  1. Tell a story of that what the company is like; describe what a day in the life of this role is like. Potential candidates can then easily visualize themselves in that role and determine if it’s a  fit for them or not.
  2. The job description is not a wish list of skills – if there are two or three skills that you cannot live without, list those but resist the urge to publish a wish list.
  3. Focus in on the what the candidate can learn, how they can learn, how they can collaborate with teammates & customers. Learning is a massive part of our life journey and as such people that want to grow are looking for indicator of a safe culture.
  4. Have one name for the role. The level and associated compensation can be addressed with the successful candidates based on their capabilities. That is in internal stuff and shouldn’t complicate the hiring and recruiting process. In our world where we value deliverables that delight our customers, we have learned that ego and compensation is not in the top decision criteria.
  5. Experience solving the following types of challenges in a collaborative manner: ……… People that are excited about the problems that need to be fixed based on their life experiences.

So did this work?

The short answer is: YES!!

We saw a much larger percentage of women apply and the majority of people applied were in our target audience. There were the normal percentage of under qualified or SPAM submissions. The candidates who made it to the short list and were looped for interviews were all exceptional candidates and we had difficult choices on our hands.

We develop software service leveraging an agile-methodology in a disciplined, collaborative environment where creativity & learning is valued; we are sensitive to our customers needs and invest in developing warm relationships with our customers. This approach to writing job descriptions definitely helps us find people that fit right in and thrive in our culture.


Additional reading:

FastCompany article on how job description wording affects people -


Online tools to evaluate your job descriptions

Free tool:

Paid tool:



What is important to you?

September 10th, 2015 No comments

“Gavin, these guys are late again!  I am really tired of them not delivering as they said they would!  I really want to give them a piece of my mind and explain to them the concept of accountability.” Joe said explosively.

I am sure that we have all found ourselves in a similar situation where we would like to blow off some steam, send a flame mail, and/or even give the person a piece of our mind.

For those of us that are aggressive results driven people, we tend to find this lack of accountability painful and frustrating.  Here is a suggestion that was shared with me years back and I am sharing on a technique to handle this type of situation:

What is more important?

We need to be conscious about what is more important to us.  The results that we are trying to achieve or being able to vent at them?  By asking this question, it forces me to think about the situation, what the business needs and what what the costs are of an emotional outburst are from me.  Sometimes I am more successful and other times not so much…..

Looking for a new job?

September 8th, 2015 No comments

I have spoken with a number of people that are either unhappy in the their current positions or are feeling an extremely strong desire to move onto the next chapter in their careers.  For the folks that are extremely unhappy or frustrated, I know that this is going to be difficult but in order to move forward, you need to have a clear head.  So take a couple of deep breaths and get those frustrations under control.  Frustration is just a form of anger, get it under control or the anger will be visible to those that you speak with and is that the message that you want to send to prospective employers?

Now that you have decided to find greener pastures, you have decided haven’t you?  Remember, no decision is a decision.  If are not deciding, then you are either choosing to stay or allowing others to control your career and dictate to you.

If you have decided to move to greener pastures, the first is to take a look at what’s out there right?  Actually not!  The first step is to identify what it is that you are looking for and then to do a targeted search in the organizations that meet your criteria.

It’s all about youSparkPilot.com_What_makes_you_happy

So let’s look take a quick look at what you want or what makes you happy.  What we are trying to achieve here is to get to know what it is that we want.  The concept is quite simple.  We play this game with ourselves all the time, where we are looking to be happy but we never really take a look at ourselves to determine what will make us happy.  So what areas do I suggest looking at to ensure that we understand what will make us happy at work?  Why do this?  Simple, if you know what will conditions, environment etc make you happy, you can go and look for that instead of arriving at a place or role and finding out that you are not happy.

Still reading?  Good, now let’s take a look at the criteria that I suggest you look at to determine where or what your next opportunity should be.  There are two key elements for this approach to work and it is important for you to know yourself before evaluating the new opportunity.

Your Passion

What is your passion?  This is core to your job being fulfilling for you.  Are you doing something that you really enjoy doing?  When you wake up in the morning, are bushy tailed and rearing to go?  If not, you job does not align with your passion.  I have seen people go through life listless about what they are doing and after doing this for years, they think it is normal.  Folks, find what you really care about and what makes you happy.  And it is possible that your passions may change as you mature.  It is OK for your passions to be outside work.  I have had the pleasure of working with two guys where their passions where their kids.  Their job was just a way to provide for their kids.  I know that some management/executives do not like this answer because they expect to be #1, but this is their shortcoming, not yours.

Your goals

What are your goals that you want to achieve and how will this new role help you achieve your goals?  If you do not have goals, then this is a great time to start defining some.  And please write them down because without them being documented, we tend to drift based on the situation.  When you document, it provides you with a great baseline and something that you can review over time.  I had an employee who thought he was great at executing.  To help him understand that this was an area of improvement, I had him document his goals for the month.  At the end of the month, we reviewed what he had completed and to his horror he had completed nothing that he had committed to complete.

Your Style

How do you prefer to operate?  While I do acknowledge that this is situational. we all have a preference for a particular style.  Do you know what yours is?  If not, ask a significant other and your colleagues and they will provide you with feedback very quickly on how they see your behaviors.  What we are trying to discover here is what is your natural style.  To help here, I had a situation where the organization culture had become very combative and confrontational, mainly because of a single person’s style and culture and the leadership did not want to run the risk of losing and therefore they chose not to put him on a behavior modification path.  I personally found this to be an unacceptable situation, not only the culture but the lack of leadership and therefore I chose to leave, as did 63% of the organization.  For me to be happy, I like people being happy and being able to share ideas in an open and collaborative manner.  What is your preferred style?

Your natural Pace

Do you naturally move at 110mph or 40 mph.  The pace of industry is getting faster and faster and I have seen this become more and more of an issue.  Ten years ago it was very seldom an issue but the pace of technology is frenetic and therefore if you do not like moving quickly, do not target a role where fast paced is a necessity.  But you need to know what your pace is before you start looking……..


 The new role / job

OK, so now this section of the post is all about the new position and some suggested areas to research before you sign on the dotted line.

Company / Team Culture

What is the culture at the new place?  Do they value cross group collaboration or is the culture very combative? Are they are a bunch of sports nuts that work out twice a day or a bunch of single people that socialize together a number of times together every week.  You will need to fit in with this culture, so make sure that it is who you are and that it is what you want.  A big red flag here is if the org is leaderless or recently underwent a leadership change because the culture is set from the top and influenced at the ground level.

I am putting this under culture but it can stand by itself – office hours.  What are the official office hours and then the unofficial work hours.  Do they start meetings at 7:30 AM and then expect people to be in the office until after 7PM in the evening?


What are their values?  I had a friend who took a position because they gave him a large salary bump only to find out that some of his office mates were members of a religious cult.  As a lifelong Catholic, he left within a month because he could not relate to people that had a vastly different value system to his own.

A note to the technical people that value a high level of technical prowess.  Think about others who do not share this value and do not have the skills that you do.


What is the management style.  I have come across a startup where the CEO does a daily war room meeting so that his 30+ employees can cover what they are going to do during the day.  He them checks in on them during the day to ensure that they are on track.  He was very confused when I asked him who was running the company while he was micro-managing the people.  Needless to say, he was experiencing a rather staff turnover and he kept on saying that it was because people did not have the work ethic for a startup……  Remember that your manager has control, or at least some influence in your career trajectory while your are employed with that company.

It is always a good idea to see how others in similar roles to you interact with the management and how management interacts with them.  And never overlook how they interact with each other.  That is so telling!

Senior Leadership

Do they believe that only senior leadership can drive initiatives or do they believe that anyone can lead an initiative?  If it takes the involvement of one of the anointed ones to have an initiative succeed, is that what you are looking for?    Alternatively, the lack of leadership will kill any idea / initiative extremely quickly and then the people will mill around and often bicker about often irrelevant things because there is no direction.

 Money / Benefits

Yeah, I have to bring up the piece that no one wants to talk about but the latest research is starting to highlight that higher reward does not equal more results.  In some situations, company’s are having to provide larger packages in order to compensate for other situations such as work environment or just because they are not able to find suitably skilled people that want to do the job. In addition, some companies are having to pay large packages in order to attract and retain talent.

 The role

If possible, I suggest speaking with the people that are currently performing similar roles to the one that you will be performing.  Is the role really what they documented in the job description?  Where there peers on the interview loop?

Their Expectations

This is a loaded one.  Are they expecting you to build a new product / technology / team without really understanding of what it will cost to deliver?  Yeah, this is a personal lesson that I learned where the company wanted the results but was not willing to invest what it took to deliver that caliber of results.  In their mind, they were paying me to deliver but did not understand that it takes a team to deliver a world-class product…..  Now I always ask what it is that they want to get from me and in what timeframe?  The shorter the time, the higher the investment needed.

You also need to remember is that the more that they pay you, the higher their expectations will be.



Categories: People Tags:


September 29th, 2011 No comments

In a previous post titled: Simple Approach / Plan for Change, I brought up Awareness as the first phase for change.  This has been the stimulant for a number of conversations about what Awareness and requests for more clarity on the topic.
I have been having lot’s of conversations with managers about how to get people to modify their behavior. Behavior modification starts with making the person aware of the impact of their behaviors. The awareness state is the first step of a journey that enables us to change the situation or address the issue.  Getting someone to the aware state can be a rather daunting hurdle, mainly because our egos get in the way. Awareness is just having the knowledge about the current situation or state of affairs. So let’s look at the process that we all go through to become aware. Awareness Flow


Moving from an unaware state to an aware state is a journey that requires an event or trigger to kick start the transition process of moving from an unaware state to an aware state. For self-aware folks, you are able to generate this event without help from the outside. However for most of us normal folks, we require some outside help to generate the the event. Think of the event as your alarm clock going off in the morning. We might not particularly enjoy it going off but it can definitely help us from being late and is therefore very beneficial to us. Managers:  We might need to be the ones that create the event that kick starts this process.


In this phase we tend to ignore or deny the incoming data / perspective because the situation does not match our preconceived idea or notion of how we want it to be.   This phase can be traumatic and depending on the implications or if the situation it may have an emotional on us.  This phase is the most impactful all around because the personal that is doing the denying can feel that they are being picked on.  The people that are trying to help can easily just stop trying to help because they are getting told that there is not an issue.  People just get tired of trying to help and walk away.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Our perspective is different from other peoples.
  • Unwillingness to discuss the situation with others.
  • Denial will manifest itself as emotional spikes or silence.  The more passive the personality, the more the silence.

With practice this phase can be shortened but unfortunately not bypassed so make peace with it.  It is OK to wish and / or wonder why this is happening to us.  The circumstances of the event and associated emotional impact with have an impact of the duration of this phase. Managers:  Give people time to process the event and the implications.

Manager’s Note:

  • Work with your people and take them through the trauma.  In certain situations, they might need to get external help, so work with your HR representative and be aware of the manpower laws.
  • Do not mistakenly categorize silence as denial because analytical personalities take time to process the data and they tend to process in silence.


  • Getting stuck in this phase means that we are disconnected from reality and often leads to argumentative behavior.
  • People that just deny will find that people will stop trying to help them.


Redirecting the attention elsewhere is an attempt not to involve ourselves.  This phase is where people find the reasons and attempt to rationalize things why not to accept this information that is different to our perspective or desired state.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Redirecting the attention or blame onto others.
  • I can’t do anything about this situation / issue.
  • Raising points about similar behaviors / issues with others thereby justifying their perspective.

Manager’s Note:

  • Do not allow people to play the victim or to rationalize the situation as not theirs issue.  Accountability starts here.
  • Equality for all – do not treat people differently because it is divisive to the team morale.
  • Stay focused on the individuals situation and do not fall into the trap of discussing this issue as a relative issue.


  • This is the victim state because it is a lot easier to redirect the attention form us.



Yeah I know I talk too much We all start off in an unaware state where we do not have the knowledge in our minds. If we are lucky enough we manage to make it to an aware state where we have the knowledge and are then able to define our action plan based on the knowledge we have gained. Let’s look at the process of how we move from the unaware state to an aware state so that we can remove the luck portion and manage the situation better. People that are self-aware have the ability to generate the Event with little to no outside help.


Recognizing this phase:

  • Run out of excuses is the most common.
  • You have adopted or modified your perspective to include the points raised.
  • Able to list the points where your perspectives were different or the similarities.


Manager’s Note:

Acknowledgement is last step of awareness but for managers it is important to help our people use this new awareness to modify their behavior appropriately.  Help them and coach them through to the desired state.



  • It is important to differentiate between acknowledgement and a plan to address the issue discovered through the new found awareness.
  • When dealing areas of improvement, it is important not overwhelm the person and also to help with a plan to address these issues.  Without the help, they will quickly become demoralized.






Simple Approach / Plan for Change


September 5th, 2011 No comments

Last week, a friend shared this article titled:  Caring for Your Introvert and I though that I would share some of the highlights from my perspective:

  • Introverts brains work differently, seriously, there is scientific research on this.
  • Introverts find dealing with people tiring.  It is not that they cannot do it, or do not like people.  They just need to recharge their own energy levels afterwards.  Unlike most extroverts, they are not energized by social interaction with people.
  • While a lot is known about extroverts, very little is known about introverts.
  • Please accept them for who they are.





Categories: Behavior, People Tags: ,

Optimistic Mindset

January 13th, 2010 No comments

I was born and raised in Africa and like most places in the developing world (politically correct term for 3rd world) , culturally, we looked to the 1st world countries for leadership and guidance. As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a number of visitors from various 1st world countries. This exposure allowed me to see, firsthand, some of the cultural generalizations.

Working with American, the first thing I noticed was how they increased the volume of their voice when they perceived that someone did not understand them.

The second thing I noticed was their optimistic mindset.  They were always willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt and listened to their input, ideas and feedback in a non-judgmental manner. I watched in amazement how these people responded very well to this behavior. They changed from being interested parties to involved participants. It was awesome to see how the energy levels increased and how the folks cooperated together.  Needless to say, the goals were achieved quickly and with little fanfare.

I believe that one of the biggest advantages that the Americans have, is their optimistic mindset.

Over time, I have come to realize that the behavior that I was exposed to as a teenager was a combination of the optimistic mindset and also an ability to listen.  Listening is a skill that all managers should have in their arsenal and constantly practice.  For some of us, this does not come easily, but for the sake of your people please continue to work on it.

10 Reasons why we fail? Plus 3 from me for an unlucky 13

December 8th, 2009 3 comments

I recently came across a post regarding 10 reasons why people fail.  For the folks that know me, I prefer to focus on the positive but in this case I do believe that there are some great points raised. I have taken the liberty of changing the ranking sequence listed in the original post slightly.  I also inserted a number of  items of items of my own in the list.  Please refer to the original blog post for details on the reasons that are from the original post that can be found here:  10 Reasons Why You’re Probably Going to Fail

And the 13 Reasons…..

  • It’s not your passion
  • You don’t have a plan.
  • You’re waiting for it to be perfect
  • You’re afraid of failure
  • You’re not willing to work hard
  • You don’t have the skills or knowledge
    • Not knowing what to do becomes  tends to cause more paralysis the longer the challenge stays without a solution.  Here are some tips that can help:
      • Break the problem into smaller pieces
        • Large problems generally consist of lots of smaller issues/challenges.  Think of the problem as Thanks Giving dinner – eat it one mouthful at a time with a smile
      • Separate the problem from the solution
        • Define and understand the problem first.  When the problem is defined and clear, then work on the solution for each problem.
      • Put your ego away and ask for help
        • To soften the blow on the ego, you can do brainstorming sessions to elicit help from others.
        • Discuss the situation with your mentors and get their input.
        • Enlist help from team mates, when part of a team, it is less about asking for help and more about collaborative teamwork.  Remember, your baby is never ugly, so get people to help you make the baby.
      • Fill in the skills Gap
        • Attend a class
        • Do research and Read – books, blogs, Internet searches
        • Ask for help
  • You don’t trust yourself
    • Or put differently, I don’t have the self confidence
      • The first thing here is to stop stabbing yourself with the butter knife!!!  Come on, putting yourself down like this is no different from stabbing yourself with a butter knife.  Your get to stab but no one knows that you are stabbing yourself because it is not life threatening.
      • Build yourself up through supportive statements
      • Trust in your instincts / gut, afterall in most case, your manager would not have hired you if you could not deliver the goods
      • Start small and build up slowly and regularly.  Succeed at least once a day!
  • You do not have the support
    • We cannot succeed alone and we all need support.
      • Start by supporting yourself!!!  When others see that you are supporting yourself, they will follow your lead and support you too.
      • Support generates support other in a genuine manner because then they will support you
      • Ensure that you goals align with your manager’s because then they are incented to support in return
      • Teamwork and collaboration is the best source of support
      • Get a mentor(s) and/or a coach
  • It’ll outgrow you
  • You’ve had success in the past
  • You’re unwilling to stop doing something else
  • You won’t build a team of friends
  • You won’t have the tough conversations

Categories: Behavior, People Tags: ,

Vampires and Wolves: No, watch out for the Zombies?

December 6th, 2009 No comments

With the current Twilight craze going on, everyone is talking about Vampires and Wolves.  This got me thinking about the various “personalities” that we encounter at the office, more particularly High Performance Teams.  The three that came to mind, are the Vampires, Wolves and Zombies.

Vampires – there are different types of vampires.  The vampire that comes to mind is the blood sucker or the Sang Vampire or Sanguinarian Vampire as the smart people call them.  There are a number of other types but the one that I will touch on here is the Psychic Vampire or Psi Vampire.  These folks will either conscious or unconsciously feed on the life-energy of others.  In the majority of cases, they will feed from the energy from groups but the ones that we need to be aware of,  are the ones that suck the energy from us individually.  For me, the best way to handle these folks that come to drain our energy is just to say “No!”.   It does not make them bad people and often they do not realize what they are doing, they just find it energizing to be around you or in large groups.

Wolves – These guys & gals have their territories and search for food in those territories, they run in packs and will defend against anything that they perceive encroaches on their turf.  Because they are pack animals, the key is for them to see you as part of the pack and to achieve this, the key is to remind them that the enemy is not inside the company.  The enemy is outside the company and in most cases it requires management support to define the common enemy.  That is why they are called competitors.  Internally in the company we call the people that we work with colleagues.

Zombies – these are the folks that come to the office because they need the paycheck.  I am not judging this behavior, I am pointing out that the problem with this behavior is the impact on the rest of the High Performance Team who are busting their humps to solve the business need in the most expedient manner.  Therefore as managers, these folks are our biggest challenge because we need to help them with their self awareness, so that they can see the impact of their behavior on the rest of the team.  I have found that they tend to be blissfully unaware of the impact that their behavior is having on the on the team.  They tend to be horrified when they see how their lack of commitment is impacting the team. They are stunned when they see that their team mates are having to fill in for them not being fully engaged.  In certain cases, some of the team are putting in 110% to make up for them just cruising at 60%.

If the zombie chooses to make the transition back the land of the living, they will struggle with the change in priorities.  Often they are unprepared to handle the sacrifices that the changed priorities demand.  Managers need to be there for their folks to help them and coach them through these new challenges.  As the zombie reengage with the High Performance Team, often they will dedicate a significant amount of time and effort, they need to search for alternative techniques and skills that will allow them to meet the biz needs in a more efficient and sustainable manner.

Categories: Behavior, People Tags: ,

Not delivering the results?

November 17th, 2009 4 comments

I don’t know about you but I have run into the situation where a great employee  is not delivering the results that the business needs.  Here is the question that I ask myself:

If I put that person in a Life or Death situation where they face death if they are unable to deliver the results.  Are they able to deliver the results?

And the options are:

  • if they are able to deliver the results: – then there is a motivation issue
  • if they are still not able to deliver the results: -  then there is a skills issue

I do not recommend that you put any of your people in a Life or Death situation.  For me, the ideal approach is to have conversations with them to determine what the issue(s) are.  As long as you have already established a culture where they can share issues without any repercussions, they will share with you.

Categories: Management, People Tags: ,

Do you Build or Buy the ideal employee?

October 28th, 2009 1 comment

I come from a software development background and this is an age old discussion.  When should we buy technology or product and when should we build it ourselves.  As engineers, we tend to believe that we can build it better than anyone else.  As a result of this mindset,we tend lean towards building it ourselves and then rationalizing the decision.  Therefore I use a number of evaluation criteria to help overcome this bias and to ensure that we make decisions that are beneficial to the company.  Some of the evaluation criteria that we use are: time to build, predictable costs of buying, risk of building, specific / customized requirements, discovery of unknown issue(s) during building, scope creep, and of course time to market.

Now, let’s go back to management and look at a similar decision that we have to make on how to staff our teams.  Do we bring in talent from outside (buy) or do we grow (build) someone that we know into the position?

some of the benefits of growing a known person into the position

  • known entity – we know how they will fit in with the team and have existing relationships inside the company that they can leverage
  • risk - Because they are a known entity, they are a known risk
  • employee motivation – when the company is prepared to invest in people, it definitely helps boost the team morale which helps motivate people to grow
  • integrated into culture – the person is already integrated into company culture and therefore there will be able to operate within the culture
  • team player – because they are known, you know if they are a team player or not

some of the cons of growing a known person the position

  • growth time – it takes time for a person to grow and acquire the skills needed
  • training – not only is there the financial investment with training but there is also the question that the training investment will be able to be converted into results
  • errors – mistakes are part of the learning experience
  • risk – it is possible that the person will not be able to perform at the higher level
  • company focused growth – as the person grows into the position, their growth can easily be customized or focused to meet the company / team needs
  • personal investment – for the employee to grow, they will need to invest in themselves and often they underestimate the investment needed or are not willing to make the sacrifices needed to learn and grow

some of the benefits of bringing in new talent

  • fresh perspective – new people bring their perspectives and experiences that can greatly contribute to the team diversity
  • exact skills needed – because require skills are available immediately, the results are delivered with a shorter wait
  • acclimatization only – because the new outside talent already has the skills needed, all that remains is for them to acclimatize

some of the cons of bringing in new talent

  • unknown entity – we will still need to discover what the person’s weak point are
  • integration into the team / company – how will the person mesh with the company culture / team climate
  • resume inflation – does the person really have the skills that they claimed to have?

So, after looking at these Pro & Cons, is it better to build or buy your ideal employee?

Although, I have a preference to build.  It really depends on the business need.  Do we have the time  to invest in our people and still achieve the business results?

In the end, the decision really boils down to the person.  Here are some of the additional items that I take into consideration.

  • drive / self motivation – Is the person a self starter?  Do they turn into a victim when the going gets tough or do they persevere through challenges?  This is so much easier to evaluate with a known entity.
  • team work – are they a team player?  Again definitely easier with a known entity.
  • work ethic – I am one of those that does not believe that it can be learned?
  • feedback – How do they respond to feedback?
  • mental horsepower – simply put, gotta have the mental capability and be able to use it to solve the business challenges on hand
Categories: Management, People Tags:

Is Passion a Key Element for Success?

September 9th, 2009 No comments

I recently attended a talk by a famous professional photographer.  At one stage in his career he had grown his company to a point where he was hiring a lot of people, wearing a suit and no longer shooting photographs himself.  Therefore he was looking for and hiring talented photographers, to do the shooting, while he ran the business.  He started off basing his hiring decision on the normal criteria of skills, work ethic, interpersonal skills and sales ability.  Often he had numerous candidates that all had the same skill level and could all perform the job.

Over time he found that the folks that were passionate about photography, would go the extra mile needed to do a great job thereby ensuring a higher level of customer service and satisfaction.  Therefore he came to conclusion that passion should be his primary decision making point, followed by the rest of the criteria.  As a result of this change, he found that his pool of candidates was significantly smaller.  Surprisingly he also found that his pool of candidates had a slightly lower skill level but were more than willing to go that extra mile to ensure a great job.  So he took a chance with the lower skill level and moved ahead.  It was a successful gamble and he now attributes this change of hiring policy as one of the pivotal points that contributed to his business growth.

The image on the right, shows quite a gap between what is needed and the skills and and passion combination.  This gap (the visible red portion) is a massive opportunity that someone else can easily step into.

As I am writing this post, a rerun of Hells Kitchen was playing in the background.  Gordon Ramsey said the following to one of the contestants:   “I can teach a chef to cook but I cannot give you a heart.”

So is Passion a key element for success? I believe that passion can be a key differentiator.  It can be a great multiplier for your capabilities and can help close the gap between skills and the need.  (as shown in the image on the left)

I say that passion can be a great multiplier because passion is a blade that can cut both ways.  You need to channel your passion in a manner that complements your capabilities and not against your capabilities.  For example, throwing a temper tantrum when things do not work out your way is a good example of passion going against you.  Leverage your passion to complement your capabilities while being very aware of the possible price of passionate behavior.

So if passion is so important, what do I do if I am not passionate about what I am currently doing?  The answer is short and simple.  Do something that you can be passionate about.  Go and experiment and try different things.  A well known author only discovered her passion when she was her early 40’s.  It took her 8 years to write the book and it has since been reprinted 43 times.  Those culinary blood hounds will know that I am referring to Julia Childs.  So if you do not know what your passion is, go an experiment, learn from failures and try new things until you find your passion.  Until then be very passionate about what your current word provides you with.

When you do what you are passionate about what you are working on, it comes through in not only the results but also in how you go about your efforts.  Not only will your passion be evident to others but it also provide you with an additional level of energy.  When channeled appropriately it will provide yu with an additional 10% without you realizing it.

Categories: Behavior, Emotions, People Tags: , ,

Reference Guide on Freedom and Responsibility Culture (Netflix)

August 5th, 2009 No comments

One of the PMs in my org shared this with me earlier today.  Thanks Susan!   It is a slide show from Netflix titled: Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture. 

Although I really enjoyed the deck, here are some of the messages that really resonated with me.

Slide 19 – The 9 behaviors and skills: Judgment, Communication, Impact, Curiosity, Innovation, Courage, Passion, Honesty, and Selflessness.

Slide 33 – It’s about effectiveness – not effort – even though effectiveness is harder to assess than effort.

Slide 38 – The Rare Responsible Person – Self motivating, Self aware, Self Disciplined, Self improving, Acts like a leader, Doesn’t wait to be told what to do, Never feels “that’s not my job”, Picks up the trash lying on the floor, and Behaves like an owner.

Slide 77 – The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people.

Slide 78 – Context – Strategy, Metrics, Assumptions, Objectives, Clearly-defined roles, Knowledge of the stakes, Transparency around decision-making. Exceptions (emergencies, learning, wrong person) slide 79

Slide 82 – Good Context – Link to company/functional goals, Relative priority (how important/how time sensitive), Level of precision & refinement (no errors, good enough, rough), Key stakeholders, Key metrics/definition of success

Slide 115 – High performance people are generally self-improving through experience, observation, introspection, reading and discussion.

The slides can be found here:

The Changing Face of Management

July 29th, 2009 No comments

Business has changed:  We have moved from business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) to Consumer to Consumer(C2C) model.  20 years ago C2C was pretty much limited to a swap meets.

I believe that the face of management has also changed.  There is a move from the pure hierarchical model where top-down rules to a more social form of leadership where the followers get to choose who they want to follow.

To me, there is a new social era of management where leadership plays a much larger role than before.  This is especially important when working with Millennials.

Here are some  key elements:

  • put your followers first
    • if you put yourself first, they will follow your lead
  • listen to your followers
    • feedback from your followers is important – listen to it!
  • grow your followers
    • provide feedback consistantly
  • trust your followers
  • share information with your followers
  • step out of the way and allow your followers to step into the vacuum – enabling you to move into something else

Hire for Today. And Tomorrow. But remember the investment required.

July 20th, 2009 No comments

I came across this blog post yesterday; it is by F. John Reh and titled Hire Talent, Not Just Skills –

It got me thinking about how hiring the right person can solve both the short term and also the long term challenges that the business is facing.  Even the most talented candidate will require time to acclimatize before they can work on meeting the business needs.

However even with someone with immense talent, in addition to time, it takes an investment from the manager to provide the candidate with regular coaching sessions and also ensure that the opportunities are provided for the candidate.

I have seen managers totally ignore this responsibility and as a result not only does the company lose because it takes longer for their investment in the talented candidate to mature.  The candidate also loses because their career does not progress as they expected, which often creates a negative perception about that company.

The candidate is not without responsibility in this equation.  The candidate needs to evaluate both the managers and the company culture on growth.  After the candidate has joined, they now need to manage their growth and totally embrace the opportunities presented.

Business and/or team growth and how it can catch people unaware

June 11th, 2009 No comments

I am in the hi technology industry and therefore I am very comfortable working at companies that are growing and leading teams that are growing.  Now let’s take a look at this year-to-year growth where the ellipses show the needs of the business.  In this example our employee, which we will call Mo, is represented by a star.

Year 1

The blue ellipse shows the business needs for Year 1.  Mo is doing pretty well in Year 1 because his skills put him on the high end of the business needs.  Therefore he is well within his comfort zone to deliver against the needs of the business.

Year 2

The greenish ellipse shows the business needs for Year 2 have moved on from where they were in Year 1.  Mo is not doing very well here though because he barely has the skills needed to successfully meet the business needs.  Mo is going to have to have to step up and grow his skills.  Mo needs to either have the self awareness that the business needs are changing or he could be caught unawares that his skills not longer meeting the business needs.

Year 3

The orange ellipse shows the business needs for Year 3.  Mo is in serious trouble here because he does not have the skills needed to meet the business needs.

The disadvantages of this model

  • In Year 3 Mo might find himself unemployed or marginalized due to his skills not meeting the business needs.
  • In Year 3, the business might need to go through the expenses of recruiting someone that can meet the needs of the business.
  • Replacing Mo will not only disrupt the team dynamics but it will also take time for the new person to acclimatise to the business.

Improved Situation

Now let’s take look at another scenario where Mo is not stagnant and grows his skills in a similar direction to what the business is moving in.

Year 1

The blue ellipse shows the business needs for Year 1.  Mo is doing pretty well in Year 1 because his skills put him on the high end of the business needs.  Therefore he is well within his comfort zone to deliver against the needs of the business.

Years 2 & 3

The greenish ellipse shows the business needs for Year 2 have moved on from where they were in Year 1.  Mo’s skills have improved too and he is keeping track and staying aligned with the needs of the business.

The benefits

There are significant benefits to Mo growing his skills.

  • People that are growing tend to find their work roles to be much more rewarding and therefore are much happier employees.
  • If one person grows, they tend to drag the rest of the team along the road too, ultimately resulting in a team climate of growth.
  • Because Mo’s growth is parallel with the business needs, they both win because he can customize his growth to meet the needs of the business.  The business gets someone that is really closely aligned with the needs.
  • The team dynamics continue to improve and grow because people get to knw each other better and therefore they are able to work better as a more cohesive unit.

Categories: Behavior, People Tags: , ,


April 7th, 2009 No comments

So what is this leadership thing all about?  Henry Kissinger had this to say:  ““The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”

Here is my definition:  “a Leader must provide their Followers what they Need in any given Situation

This might be stating the obvious but leaders exist for their people.  Followers decide for themselves who they want to follow and therefore it is up to us convince our followers to follow our lead.

Now lets look at needs, I chose this term because, to me, it is indicative of what our people need and not their wants.  We all want a salary of $3 Million per month but realistically we only need enough of a salary to allow us to pay for our basic needs.  e.g. food and shelter.

Leadership is situational and in many situations it does not require the same person to always be the leader. In most cases, all it requires is someone that is credible to them to meet the followers needs (leadership)  in that situation.  Be aware that not all situations require a leader.

Categories: Leadership, People Tags: ,

hire the best

February 24th, 2009 No comments

I recently had a conversation with some managers regarding their hiring criteria.  They were looking at candidates that could fulfill the role that was advertised. I presented them with a different perspective that has caused much followup discussion.

hire_the_best_iIn the graphic above, the yellow dot indicates the work capability of the team.  The blue dot is meant to indicate the expected contribution of candidate.

hire_the_best_iiIn this graphic, the green dot indicates another candidate with what we expect to be able to contribute more than the blue dot.  Bringing someone into the team that is capable of a higher level of work output also tends to raise the output level of the whole team.   One of the people that benefits significantly from this addition, is the team manager.  The higher the level of the people on the team, the more the manager can delegate, thereby allowing the team manager to expand into other areas.

Therefore simply by bringing in a more capable person into the team, the productivity of the team expands beyond the yellow to include both the yellow and the orange.  And over time, it will only increase.

what can I do to keep my job?

February 21st, 2009 No comments

Considering the recession that we find ourselves in, it is not surprising that I am being asked the following question:  “what can I do to ensure that I do not lose my job?”   All I can offer regarding this questions is some suggestions and here they are:

Make peace with what you cannot change and influence the hell out of the rest.

So here are some examples of the things to make peace with:

  • company going out of business
  • Reduction in Force
  • elimination of the department/position

Now, here are some things to think about and to manage:

  • Return-On-Investment:  Ensure that the company is getting more than what they are investing in you.
  • Evidence of results: It is important to be able to demonstrate the results of your efforts.
  • Don’t be a pain: Do not make life hard for your boss or peers.  Please do not bitch and moan.
  • Solve the business need: In times like this, our role is to solve the business need in the best possible way.  Pushing back about tasks that you do not want to do, is the last behavior that should come to mind.
  • Add additional value: Do more than you have to do for your job but do not neglect your job.
  • Fiscal responsibility:  Resist the urge to spend money.
Categories: Behavior, People Tags: , ,


January 22nd, 2009 No comments

I recently had a discussion with one of the folks in my org regarding conflict and his perception was that conflict was negative.  During our conversation it became very apparent that we did not classify conflict the same.

To me, conflict is a necessary evil for a healthy environment and that it is necessary for success.  I believe that open and respectful communication about a point is good because this dialogue ensures that all of the various point of view are shared.   Often this respectful airing of opinions stimulates new perspectives that are superior to the ones originally brought to the discussion.

Back to my discussion, it turns out that he in fact did not have an issue with conflict, rather he had an issue with not being treated in a respectful manner.  In particular, he was perfectly happy with the decision as long as he felt that someone had listened to his opinion.

In his book Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni defined conflict as “Conflict is nothing more than an anxious situation that needs to be resolved”.  He defined it far better than I every could have and therefore I have adopted that definition and added  “in a respectful manner” to create my own definition.

“Conflict is nothing more than an anxious situation that needs to be resolved in a respectful manner”

Categories: Emotions, People Tags: , , ,

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