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INSTANT MBA: Avoid The Rock Stars And Hire Someone You Like

Today’s lesson comes from Michael Lebowitz, founder and CEO of Big Spaceship, a digital creative agency.

“I’m looking for people I like, because I’ve seen how, no matter how talented they are, the negative is always going to pull down any positive. The second- or third- or fourth-best candidate who isn’t a jerk is going to ultimately provide way more value. Because we learned that early on, we’ve always guarded against that sort of rock-star culture.

via INSTANT MBA: Avoid The Rock Stars And Hire Someone You Like.

While I find this to be an interesting philosophy, I would not subscribe to it in every circumstance.

Some people are just good at getting along with others.  That is truly an important factor, but getting along is not the SOLE factor I would use to make the final decision.

Right Experience-Right References-Right Demeanor.

If you can get the three rights, you will probably not go wrong.

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Get a firm footing on the corporate ladder | Inside Business

Employees looking to climb the corporate ladder and stay ahead of the game should behave in a way that sets them apart from the pack.

“There are many types of work behaviors that employers look for,” said Dan Ryan, principal of Ryan Search & Consulting in Tennessee. “Some of the most important include the ability to work effectively with others, the ability to communicate clearly, both verbally and in written form, and the ability to do what is needed to get the job done.

“Employees who follow only the letter of the job description end up being stuck in neutral in most cases,” Ryan said.

via Get a firm footing on the corporate ladder | Inside Business.

I was one of several contributors to this article which appeared in the Hampton Roads Business Journal on January 28, 2011.

I hope you enjoy the article!

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Is there any true value in failure?

We live in a world where winners are glorified and losers are vilified.  I can cite examples on end and many of you will recognize the names.  Those of us with a little snow on the roof (grey hair) have seen enough time go by where famous losers have become winners and we have also seen famous winners “head south.”  Seeing that there is value in winning, I ask you the question, “Is there any value in losing or experiencing failure?”  Let’s look at some examples and then draw a few conclusions.

My first example that failure has value is in the fact that Harvard Business Review has a column/blog that is focused on redefining failure.  Read this post from Seth Godin and see if it doesn’t help you redefine what failure is:

We think we know what failure looks like. Products don’t get purchased. Reorganizations make things worse. Shipments aren’t delivered. Speeches don’t get applauded. Things explode. These are the emergencies and disasters that we have nightmares about.

We think that failure is the opposite of success, and we optimize our organizations to avoid it. We install layers and layers of management to eliminate risk and prevent catastrophes. One surefire way we’ve found to avoid failing is to narrowly define what failure is—in other words, to treat almost everything that happens as a non-failure. If the outcome of our efforts isn’t a failure, there’s no need to panic, is there? Failure creates urgency. Failure gets you fired. Failure cannot stand; it demands a response. But the status quo is simply embraced and, incredibly, protected.

Failure is something we encounter every day in our lives and our ability to recognize, assess and overcome failure is what makes some of us successful and many of us less than we can be.  Life is full of failure and you better get used to it or you will not learn anything of much value.

The Endurance, Ernest Shackleton, Antarctica

The Endurance

abe lincoln, president

Abraham Lincoln

I recently read a book entitled “The Endurance“, a book written about Ernest Shackleton‘s adventure to Antarctica in 1914 that began an almost two-year saga that ended up with Shackleton and all of his crew being rescued.  Not one man was lost, but many did incur great hardships.  Reading through the story one can cite failure after failure, many of which provided great learning opportunities for all involved and tremendous insight for those who then followed after them.  The fact that no one lost their life is amazing when you consider the hardships they endured.  Don’t take my word for this; read the book.  It is amazing!
Abraham Lincoln could be the poster child for failure.  Lincoln lost 6 of his first 7 elections before he was elected President of the United States.  A lesser person would have given up much earlier, but Lincoln stuck with his vision and ultimately reached his final goal.  Lincoln also make me think of another word that goes hand in hand with successful people who fail.  That word is persistence.  Only the most persistent will understand how to utilize their failures and harness the learning into motivation for future accomplishment.  The ability to do this is a great skill.

high jump, dwight stones

High Jump

I was sitting in church this morning and one of the most glamorous events in track and field revolves around failure.  This event is the high jump.  The winner of the event is not always the person who jumped the highest, but every jumper eventually reaches his or her point of failure.  There is just no other way to understand what your capacity is until you get to your point of failure.

Think about your life and reflect upon your most recent failure.  What was this failure and what did you learn from it?  If the answer is nothing, you need to go back and look again.  There is always something to be learned.

Effective leaders know how to fail and they also understand how to allow others within their world to failure effectively on a regular basis.  None of us wants someone who repeatedly fails at the same thing.  On the other hand, never give me a person who has never failed.  Those who have not failed have not pushed their limits or their capacity.  Those who have experienced failure are the ones I want by my side, especially when tought times come.

Failure-it just may be the breakfast of champions.  Chew on that for a while.

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Making Assumptions-Why do we care what others think about Jay Cutler?

If you are a living, breathing member of the human race in the USA you have probably heard something about Jay Cutler Jay Cutler took more hits after the game than during it. (AP)

and his injury during the NFC Championship game versus the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.  Seeing players get injured is nothing new, but seeing the feeding frenzy that took place after the injury and in the  hours after the game bordered on being ridiculous, especially when you see just what our media considers “expert opinion.”  Several players such as Maurice Jones-Drew, Darnell Dockett, Derrick Brooks and Deion Sanders all chose to exercise their thumbs on Twitter or open their mouths when there was a microphone or camera within their reach.  Time has shown that the extent of Cutler’s injury was indeed serious and that many “jumped to conclusions” without all of the facts.

Many times we have similar feeding frenzies in the workplace.  We have all seen this.  An employee is not able to do something or comes up short in a project or delivers something other than what we thought was appropriate.  During the tough times we see just who our allies are and who the “fair weather fans” are.  It is no different than the gridiron.

When we have co-workers who miss the  mark, just how do we react?  Do we rush to conclusions without getting all of the facts?  Do we rush to Twitter to make sure we reach our audience or do we start a rumor mill of misinformation about our cohort?

People are very quick to rush to conclusions without all of the facts.  It just happens, and it is really painful and embarrassing when we have to backtrack and retract what we first said, especially if there are others present when we first share our assumptions.

Here are just a few handy guidelines you  might consider before pronouncing judgment on a co-worker.  Just remember what happens when you assume-it happens.

  1. Check with others to see if they saw or heard the same things you think you saw or heard about a situation?  Our eyes and ears can sometimes play games or distort our perception.
  2. Don’t rush to judgment.  Take some time to digest what has really happened and then consider how to take action.          Odds are that sleeping on a situation  will drastically change how you feel.
  3. Share your thoughts directly with the person and don’t feel compelled to broadcast your initial findings without doing due diligence.  Feedback of the negative kind is best shared in private.  Put yourself in the other person’s shoes-how would you want the message to be delivered?
  4. Talk about outcomes and facts, not your opinions or perceptions.  Be like Jack Webb in Dragnet; “Just the facts!”

If you follow these four simple guidelines I believe your diet will have a significantly less amount of “humble pie” on the menu.

It is always easier to retract a thought when it has not been spoken or written.

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Upcoming post: Why making assumptions can be bad business practice-Take Jay Cutler for example

Jay Cutler-when you hear the name there is an immediate response.  Some love him, some may not.

Bears come to defense of Cutler

This whole situation is played out in the business world each and every day.  My next post will compare the current Cutler flap with the way we handle issues in the workplace.

See you soon!


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The Main Reason You Won’t Find a Job – Work in Progress – Career talk for women – Forbes

It’s not big news that finding a job is difficult these days. Dependent upon which area of the country you’re in, it can be almost impossible with some areas having employment higher than the national average of 11%.

But in my experience as a career coach, the main reason that people are not finding a job is not because there are no jobs. It is because of their attitude. The majority of job-seekers have not put themselves in the right frame of mind to do the work needed that will lead them to a becoming employed.

via The Main Reason You Won’t Find a Job – Work in Progress – Career talk for women – Forbes.

These words are very true for the vast majority of job seekers.  I work with those in transition on a weekly basis and for every one who is working very diligently there are 2 or 3 who are not putting enough time and effort into the process.

Finding a job is a full-time job!  There is now way around this.

I am happy to help just about anyone, but my effort will increase for those who are working hardest and I will back away from those who are looking for me to “find them a job.”  I help people learn how to find their own jobs; I teach them to fish.

If you want someone to feed you, I may not be the right person unless you are incapable of feeding yourself.

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The window that blurs our self awareness

I was walking through my house just last week and stopped to look out of one of the windows into my back yard.  It is rare that I just stop and observe like this, but when I did so it brought many thoughts to mind. 

As I looked into the yard I could see many things, but my ability was obstructed, or blurred, but a few things.  The first obstacle to seeing the entire yard was the size of the window; the height and width are obvious barriers to see all that we might want to see.  Another obstacle was the screen while another was the slat pattern, made from wood, that holds the respective panes in the window.  The final obstructions were the dirt on the outside of the window and the blinds we have on all of our windows.

When I think of these many things it makes me wonder just what obstacles we each have that skew the view we have into our world, especially our view of others in the workplace.  I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast the window into my back yard with the window each of us may have when we look into the world around us.  There are comparable challenges that we each have and some are more obvious than others.  Many of the issues that blur our vision may be self imposed and we may not even be totally aware that they exist.  Stay with me as we explore just a few in the course of this article.

When we each look out into the world around us, the view that we take in is restricted by the mental models we have of the world.  These  models are formed and developed as we learn, experience and grow and they have a profound impact on what we see.  Just as the window into my back yard has a height and width limitation, we each have similar restrictions based on what we have been exposed to or learned in our lifetimes.  When I look around my community here in Franklin, TN I see a wide variety of housing types,

ranging from less than 1000 square feet to over 10000 square feet.

  My normal viewpoint might make me think that those in smaller homes are terribly disadvantaged, and in some respects they are.  But when I take that viewpoint and open it with the way that many live in a third world environment such as Haiti and many parts of undeveloped nations like Guatemala and others I see that most of our worst situations are better than their best.

Let’s look at a less physical situation to bring this into clearer view.  If I am someone who grew up in a household where the typical method of punishment was physical in nature, many times involving methods such as slapping or beating others, it may make me believe that this is the standard method that all will use to discipline.  A tangent to this exists in the workplace if we have had a supervisor who is demeaning or rude in his/her treatment of their subordinates.  We are all influenced by what we experience and this mental model is then transferred, sometimes unintentionally into how we may react in a similar situation.  It is challenging to “deprogram” people who have narrow visions of how to deal with situations based on their life experience.  it can happen, but it takes longer to undo and redo than it ever does to make the first experience take root.

Just as the height and width of a window influences the view we see, the length and breadth of our personal experiences have a marked effect on what we see as proper or improper in dealing with others in our world.  Leaders, in many cases, may not have the proper self awareness or may not have received sufficient feedback from others to fully understand just how their behaviors in the workplace are perceived by others.  An experienced leader knows how he/she is impacting others and he/she also is open to feedback from others on a recurring basis.  This provides for a health workplace and it also helps to build the Emotional Intelligence of the leader.

We each have screens and dirt, just like the window does, that further influence our vision of the world and those around us.  These obstructions may manifest themselves in how we treat people who are different than we are because of national origin, sex or sexual orientation.  We may also have biases built in based on the type of education someone has or even based on the part of the country or world they come from.

Take a look out of your window this week and think about what is obstructing your view.  You may be seeing exactly what is there, but there may also be things that are coloring your view.  How comfortable are you in looking at these obstacles and considering just  how they influence your thinking and your actions?  Do you need to make a change in how you interpret or perceive something that is happening around you?

Strong self awareness is of great value for those who lead others and you can never do enough to make this self awareness grow.  Strong self awareness helps build strong Emotional Awareness and I will talk in more detail in future posts about other ways you can strengthen your own emotional awareness.

Take a look around you-don’t be afraid.  You cannot deal with or fix what you will not recognize or admit!

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Looking ahead into 2011-100 trends to watch

I have flipped through this presentation and it contains a number of issues I agree with and a few I have never thought of.

Your time is valuable, and this is worth your time.

Have a great 2011!

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Volkswagen is hiring, just not Georgians |

Three years ago, when Georgia learned it was out of the running for a billion-dollar Volkswagen car factory, state officials rallied behind neighboring Tennessee’s bid.

via Volkswagen is hiring, just not Georgians �|

This article highlights local and international politics to an interesting level.  The VW factory is very accessible to many potential workers from Northwest Georgia who could easily drive up I 75 to work on a daily basis.  VW up to this point has chosen to hire only Tennesseans due to the economic incentives provided by my home state.

I understand this choice at the surface level, but I think the deeper implications of this could be far reaching and may stoop to much more petty implications.  State borders are typically “invisible” lines within our country and I know of many large employers who happen to be on the border of two or more states that appear to hire freely from both states.

Even though VW received their incentives from Tennessee, I believe they are hurting themselves and the Chattanooga area by being exclusive in the hiring of Tennesseans.  It borders on making our state a protectionist entity in their business practices; not a place we ought to be going.

My question would be this?  Did all of the mid to senior level managers come only from Tennessee?  Did all of the design and construction services come only from Tennessee?  Will all of the energy used (electricity and gas) come from only Tennessee?  This could become interesting as it plays out.

As a Tennessean, I want to work with my neighbors from Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.  I don’t want them treating us the way VW is treating our Georgia neighbors now.

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