Tackling the No-Accountability Wasteland

There is an uncomfortable, anxious pang that wells up in you when the halls have been empty for hours, and you know that you and the janitor are the only people in the building, again. You feel like maybe the fault is yours, that you aren’t quite working effective enough, that you could manage to get home at a reasonable hour if only you could better manage your time.

But you get sucked into tangential conversations all day. You find problems that need your attention at every turn. Every hallway conversation you overhear gives you the chills, fearing that people are going to act on the half-truths you hear spoken as gospel. Your only salvation (sigh) is that, for all the dis-information going around, little real action is being taken, so the many misunderstandings will remain just that. No one is responsible, no one is stepping up, and no one expects it.

You my friend are living in an No-Accountability Wasteland. (Alternatively, your expectations may simply be too dramatically out of step with the organization, in which case it will always feel like a wasteland, a sign that you probably haven’t found your right fit.)

I get how this happens. Status quo has been good enough for long enough. Change is viewed as rocking the boat. Challenging the norm is calling into question the environment that is in place, that is a reflection of today’s leadership. Many of those around you have a very real, vested stake in preserving the situation as it stands today.

Such wastelands are targets. Targets for acquisitions, targets for customer poaching by competitors, targets for talent scouts willing to take the last innovators out of your organization (assuming your not down to your C-stringers). Businesses operate in a dynamic environment, and must learn to flex with changing demands and competitive threats. If you still nuture a spark of aspiration and a hint of interest in furthering the lot of your fellow man, here are a few considerations for getting things turned around.

  • Preach (and monitor) Accountability through SMART goals. No one likes management by acronym, but SMART goals are brilliant. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. Being the frustrated but brilliant leader you are, find ways to ensure that your requests and requirements meet the SMART formula without explicitly spelling out the term.
  • ABS – Always be Shopping (not the brakes). Few love the perpetual state of recruitment, but if folks dodge tasks like the plague, you need to hit the streets. And your professional organizations; and your alumni network; and your past colleagues for referrals. You should always be looking to build a talent funnel – this is an exact parallel to the sales funnel, with everything from casual interactions to warm leads to hot candidates ready for offers. Human Capital Management – from prospecting through retention and development – must become as strategic a process as sales. If you want the best talent, you need to hire capable sales people into your HR organization, or continue to pay exorbitant fees to external parties to flood you with resumes that are meaningless.
  • Start Chanting, “You See It, You Own It”. Setting expectations for such ownership and managing to them drives quality into a business, even as it makes it abundantly clear that the apathy of coasters and free-riders won’t be an integral part of the future.
  • Keeping Brewing the Accountability Punch. No solo act goes unpunished for long, so broadening your base of change-agent constituents is mandatory. Remember that converts make the most rabid evangelists, so target a few key influencers within the organization with your Kool-Aid.

To be sure, few folks are actually charged with helping organizations change their cultural values, and it is the rare hiring manager that recognizes the important and time-consuming task that is influencing change. But if you are intent on building your career – and don’t want to be forging ahead alone – prepare to make substantial investments when you find no “there” there.

Posted in Accountability, Career, Corporate Culture | 4 Comments

Creating Options at Brand "You"

You’re tired of the race. Tired of working tirelessly in shifting sands of corporate America as an exempt FTE. But you do it with the hope of the BIG payday. You’ve got options in the company, and it seems that if everyone just works a little harder, the pay-off will come.

But what if it doesn’t? What if you’ve burrowed down into your cube, cranked out pounds of code/ marketing collateral/ analytical models/ CRM entries, and the company still burns through the remaining cash before IPO or acquisition? Uh – now what?

Here’s something I’ve heard myself saying quite a bit lately, particularly to folks that are with companies struggling to define direction, or struggling to execute on change initiatives: “Whatever other investments you make right now, you need to be thinking about how you ensure more options when you leave than when you came here.”

Whatever else you get out a day’s work – compensation, satisfaction with a job well done, participation in a like-minded community – you need to ensure that you are also increasing your professional options.

Here are a few simple ways to ensure that, should the time come, you have more alternatives when you hit the market place.

  • Get to know those you work with at your current company. Everyone goes somewhere, and just because you aren’t currently in marketing/ finance/ sales doesn’t mean that your next big break won’t come from one of the guys you impressed while you’ve been working here. Since the 21st truism will be “you won’t retire from here,” everyone will eventually move on, and we all remember the talented co-workers we’ve relied on in the past.
  • Participate in professional organizations in your area of expertise. If past co-workers can create current and future cross-functional opportunities, developing relationships with professional peers can increase your likelihood of getting an interview with their companies if and when the day should come. As important as what you know, who you know swings a big stick.
  • Get certified where it counts. While there are a thousand and one professional organizations offering certifications, there are a much smaller handful that are truly meaningful within the various realms of expertise. While certifications are less critical when you know the autonomous decision maker, they also make it much easier for all members of a hiring team to say “yes” to getting you engaged. Soliciting recommendations on certifications from your present managment team or mentor also sends a clear message that you have bigger plans for yourself than you are realizing today.

So while not revolutionary, well worth considering where you stand as we enter the new year. Just as businesses create a balance sheet of assets, now is a good time to inventory your assets and options as well. Make this the year that start turning down unsolicited offers.

Posted in Branding, Career, Measure, Networking, Recognition | 3 Comments

Yahoo! fires Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk

So, I just heard that Yahoo! Finance has decided to fire Penelope Trunk.

I mean, who would want to work with someone who thinks like this?

I just choose the lifestyle I want first, before I choose my work. Lifestyle first means that I turned down entry-level bullshit jobs in favor of playing professional beach volleyball. Not because I was dying to have all my friends think I was a lunatic, but because I couldn’t believe people expect you to do mindless work after earning a college degree.

And just to prove how the old-school, old-boys network has no place in the modern workplace, they offered her this advice:

Here’s what my boss’s boss’s boss said: “You should write for Lifestyles. That is more women oriented.”

Nice.

Disappointing, but not unexpected. It just goes to further prove the theory that practically every corporation remains home to such deep-seeded, flawed, and ridiculous mores and cultural crapola, that it’s going to be a terribly long road before we see anything change, if ever.

If you’re interested in reading the whole story, please see Penelope’s post. Cube Rules has covered the news, as well.

As always, we continue to wish Penelope luck. And anxiously look forward to her next incarnation.

Posted in BrazenCareerist, Career, Firing, PenelopeTrunk | 6 Comments

You're hired, you're fired

Anyone who talks to me about their current corporate career will likely have heard me utter—likely innumerable times—my quintessential thought about staying in one place too long, “You’re not going to retire from there.”

Truth of the matter is that there are very few, if any, corporations that should be giving away gold watches to long, long, long term employees.

In my opinion, it’s not good for the employee or the corporation. Plain and simple.

Now, hold that thought. I’m going to take you somewhere else for a second. And then I’m going to come back here. It will seem completely disjointed. But I promise to bring it back around.

Know one of things I appreciated most about college? It was a finite experience. Better yet, it was defined as a finite experience.

I knew, going in, that I was expected to complete my work in about four years. I knew that if I was able to successfully meet the set objectives by the end of that period, I would receive a valuable piece of paper as proof that I had successfully completed the effort.

No surprises. Everything was set from day one: my time of hiring, my vesting period, my goals, and my time of firing.

And I believe that part of the reason that I continue to have a very strong relationship with my alma mater is because of this open communication. This honest communication.

So, given this little piece of information. Let’s go back to the first scenario.

If I’m not going to retire from there. And staying somewhere forever isn’t good for the employee or the business. Then wouldn’t it be nice if part of my hiring also included a specific time at which I would be fired?

I mean, if I’m working in a set period, with set goals? Just like college?

Maybe it’s 18 months. Maybe it’s 2 years.

But on my firing date, I would be let go, fully vested.

I would be required to be away from the company for at least one month. After which, I would be allowed to reapply for my former position, if I wanted.

If I was truly the best candidate, I could get rehired for another period. If not? Too bad.

Maybe there is another position available at the company for which I am better suited. Maybe it’s just better that we part ways.

Point being: current hiring practices are predicated on an outright lie. That lie being that the company expects you to work in the job for which they are hiring you, forever. When in actuality, you know you’re not going to like the job forever. And, in reality, the company expects you to stay in that job just as long as it is convenient for them to have you there. When it’s no longer convenient for the company, they will fire you. Despite any promises made to the contrary.

Lies, lies, and more damned lies.

So why not tell the truth? This is a finite relationship. During which time, the business would like to have the best you have to offer. And the employee will be justly compensated for contributing said effort to the company.

Doesn’t that make more sense?

If you hire me, let me know when you’re going to fire me.

Posted in Career, Employment, Firing, Hiring, Jobs | 7 Comments

Adopting an open meeting format

Get your meetings off the groundEveryone complains about meetings. Seems that they’re all useless.

But I have to imagine that there are some meetings that are valuable. Aren’t there? I mean, I get the chance to participate in some pretty productive meetings.

So I know they’re out there.

Toby and I were bemoaning this sad state of affairs when something struck me.

What if instead of scheduling meetings as a covert activity, it was an overt activity? What if scheduling meetings was like looking for events on Upcoming? What if all of your office cohorts and confidantes could follow what meetings you attended?

Well, it doesn’t matter, you say, because there aren’t open seats at most meetings.

But what if there were?

What if I could see when my boss, some other execs, and some of my peers were meeting? And then, what if I could choose to attend that meeting in one of the open seats?

So now, anyone can attend any meeting that seems interesting to them. Hmm. That would make for some pretty interesting meetings, I would think. I might just show up to see who the heck else actually made it.

So let’s take that concept a step further.

What if there were some structure that rewarded those who had the most well-attended and well-received meetings? What if there were some way to recognize that? What if you found someone who was always attending the best meetings?

Think about it. Could be interesting.

What’s keeping you from implementing it?

Posted in Career, Meetings, Whatif | 5 Comments

Does Mediocrity Reign Supreme?

So Rick and I were talking about passion for your work. Do you love what you do? How badly would you want to change to actively go out and find a better alternative to the job the current have (and maybe hate)?

So here’s a quick straw poll – what percentages do you think define the marketplace:

  • % of people that love what they do?
  • % of people that would love to love their work?
  • % of people that would rather put forth a mediocre performance at a job they don’t really like than work harder to find something they love?

My guess based on discussions is:

  • ~ 10%. I think this is largely public services oriented professionals, that have chosen to make a career serving others (teachers, librarians, social workers),  and is probably true of a smattering of others.
  • 30-50%. I think that “love your work” gets a lot of lip service, but probably isn’t as big a motivation to changing one’s work life as a layoff, relocation, death/ marriage/ birth of a child. I think that for most, professional changes are the result of major life events, or a bigger brass ring, rather than driven by passion. Naturally, this potentially changes when one retires from their career, and considers a more giving-back second career.
  • < 20%. I think Rick would argue a higher percentage, but I’m hoping that inertia and apathy don’t take a bigger bite than 1-in-5. Can you imagine a 2-in-5 ratio, where most meetings you go into have a 40% apathy rate, and folks would rather be home watching tv? Yikes.

Interested in your thoughts and logic.

Posted in Career, Change, Passion | 5 Comments

More than a year for More than a living

Just a brief note to mention that More than a living has officially passed the one-year mark.

In that time, we’ve composed more than 265 posts. And those posts have generated more than 30,000 spam comments. (I can’t get a count on the real comments, but spam? No problem.)

Here’s the first post, entitled “I still have the piece of paper.”

Thank you very much for your support, your insight, and your participation. We’re looking forward to continuing this little experiment.

And what’s a birthday without gifts? To celebrate, we’ll give you free access to Kumquat, our simple tool for gathering feedback on your performance.

Posted in Kumquat, More than a living | 1 Comment