The Cost of Doing Business

Bill O'ReillyLots of people are pointing at Bill O’Reilly’s firing as a triumph against sexual harassment and discrimination against women in the workplace. I’m not so sure. For years his employer, 21st Century Fox and Fox News had quietly paid over $13 million to settle harassment suits. This was considered the cost of doing business. It was part of their culture to tolerate, condone and cover up his misdeeds and those of others.

Some say it was the women who spoke out against O’Reilly who brought him down. Others attribute the decision to the wives of the CEO’s sons who insisted O’Reilly be fired. Many people who support O’Reilly will blame and demonize the women who work there for taking down their idol and chief Fox News rainmaker. They’re wrong. Fox terminated O’Reilly because over 50 advertisers deserted his show and the network. The cost of doing business with sexual harassers just went up. When the cost got too high — and clearly $13 million wasn’t too high a threshold for Fox — that’s when they took action. This was a business decision, not an organization taking a stand against workplace harassment and discrimination.

We’ll eventually learn the true impact of O’Reilly’s exit. But I’m not holding my breath. When something like harassment, for any reason, is tolerated and accepted for so long it gets ingrained in the culture. I fear that there’ll be more polarization between groups and more distrust. Sadly, sexual harassers will take this as a signal to be even more discreet in their attempts to exert their power over others. I doubt that we’ll see a turnaround in the culture at Fox. I hope I’m wrong.

Evil-doers beware!

Lately I’ve been receiving dozens of messages that people want to join my mailing list and receive my updates and blogposts. Now while I’d love to believe that suddenly scores of people had recognized my brilliance and couldn’t go another day without hearing from me, my social media antennae told me otherwise. After investigating some of the e-mail addresses, several of which looked rather suspect, I was able to determine that many of them, probably all, came from sources of spam. Seems these evil-doers want access to my site, probably for nefarious purposes.

Rest assured that I haven’t granted access to any of the requests that I’ve received in the past few days. THIS SITE IS SAFE. And so are you. I’m going to keep somewhat quiet until this storm passes over and the situation is resolved.

If you are a real person interested in hearing more from me and you sent a legit request in the past week, please send me a personalized e-mail letting me know and I’ll be happy to add you to the distribution. But I won’t be adding any that obviously came from bots.

If only they’d use their powers for good and not evil.

Dr Evil

Focus on Ability

I can’t program. I can’t code. I’m impatient with bureaucracy and hypocrisy. I get bored doing the same thing all day everyday.

If a recruiter only looked at the things I don’t do well, I’d never get hired to do anything.

Fortunately I’ve had the good fortune to meet people who looked beyond what I couldn’t do to focus on what I could do (Thank you Pat Licata) and what I do well. EY is taking an innovative approach to filling jobs that are hard to fill by accessing a frequently overlooked group who are particularly well-suited for this function. As reported in Workforce magazine they’ve piloted the EY Neurodiversity Program in their Philadelphia office, hiring individuals with high functioning autism to fill jobs that require the ability to compile and analyze data. Focusing on a specific and possibly repetitive task would drive someone like me crazy but these individuals are particularly talented at crunching the numbers, recognizing patterns and paying close attention to detail.

By looking at what this group of talented individuals do well, they’re able to fill these jobs with employees more likely to stay in them than job hop and fill a need that others might find less fulfilling. More organizations need to follow EY’s lead and tap into a vastly underemployed  population of talented people with disabilities. The way to do this is to focus on what people can do and not what they can’t.

numbers

How well do you have to do your job?

Are you willing to sign you name to your work? Would you want everyone walking by to know who was responsible for these efforts? What if the work was as simple as concrete?

sidewalk1

They say there are few things as boring as watching cement dry. Yet it seems that contractors in Toronto take a lot of pride in how their cement has dried. While walking around I saw all these imprints embedded in the sidewalks. On closer inspection I realized these were the names of different contractors who’d laid these sidewalks. I’ll bet most people don’t even notice. But it sure seems important to the people who created these walkways. Important enough for the contractors to have signed their name. It’s branding no doubt, but it’s more than that.

sidewalk2

If you know that everyone walking by is going to know who created that street, I think you’re going to do a better job. Because if the work is slipshod, everyone’s going to know that too. If the pavement cracks or chips and someone slips or trips, that unfortunate individual will have an up close view of who is to blame. At best, a soiled reputation. At worst, lawsuits.

sidewalk3

It’s been proven that even the idea that someone may be watching inspires people to do better work. Some of the imprints were over 40 years old. Most likely some of the people who laid those sidewalks are no longer around to walk on them. The evidence of their good work lives on. How good is your work? Would you sign it knowing that it would be around for decades? Someone is watching.

sidewalk4

People make a difference

airline seatMore and more it seems that the more you pay the less you get. On a recent flight, if I wanted to pick my seat before I arrived at the airport on the day of the flight, there was an additional charge. I’m not talking about getting an upgrade or extra legroom; I’m just talking about picking a seat. Really? It sure seemed like coercion. “Oh, yes, you’re paying to get on our plane but without a few more dollars we get to decide where you’re going to sit. How about row 39, middle seat?” Now it all turned out okay and it was a lovely flight but not because of the airline. It was because of the people.

flight attendantsWhen you get right down to it, whether it’s Delta, American, United or any other airline, the plane is pretty much the same. What differentiates one airline from another is the people, the service you get on board and at the gate. That’s why so many people are fans of Southwest. Some Southwest patrons actually look forward to their flights!

Sam Walton famously said, “Treat your employees the way you’d like them to treat your best customers.” Okay, that may have been a long time ago and I know that Wal-Mart has made the news lately over the way their employees are treated at some locations. But let’s look at the underlying philosophy.

Employees look to their managers and leaders as role models for how to behave. What are you showing to your employees? We’re no longer in a manufacturing or agricultural economy. Everything today is about customer service and information. Bill Gates said, “Whoever has the best information, wins.” I believe that the best service wins, assuming that everything else, like which plane you’re on, is relatively equal. Every person in your organization must be a superior customer service representative of your company. I’ve heard people in some functions say, “I’m not customer facing.” Here are two things I know. One, if your employees aren’t serving the customer, they’re serving someone who is. Two, if employees are not giving good service to their customers, internal or external, then your external customers will go elsewhere to get the service they want.

Just about everyone has heard, at one time or other, some senior leader pontificate that, “People are our most important asset.” It’s been repeated so often it’s become a bitter punch line in some organizations. But people really are the key differentiator between you and your competition. The companies that find, retain and develop the best people are the ones who reap the greatest profitability per employee. Companies need to invest in developing their people rather than spending their resources on churning through staff. When I was a recruiting manager, I never complained about filling a position. I did get annoyed at having to fill it repeatedly because the manager had driven away another good employee.

Training managers in how to treat their people is one of the best investments an organization can make. The organization will save on staffing and training because your managers won’t just be managers.  As they model the behavior they want staff to demonstrate, they’ll also be trainers developing their people. And that’s where it all begins and ends.

Independence

Fourth_of_July_HistoryNext week, in the U.S., we’ll celebrate Independence Day. Two hundred forty years ago the founding fathers, and the strong women who stood by them, made it possible for these brave people to found our nation, declaring themselves free and independent. They stepped out into the unknown “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence” and little else but their beliefs that they were doing the right thing. They believed in their goals, their actions and their abilities.
 
So my question for you is, from what are you declaring your independence? As you begin, continue or re-energize your job search, are you moving forward with confidence in your goals, actions and abilities?
 
Now is the time to declare yourself independent of fears, of doubts, of despair. These will not aid you in finding your next job. Know what you want, move confidently in the direction of your dreams and have confidence in both your abilities and your actions. Employers prefer to hire people with confidence. You may make missteps but one of the keys to success is when you get knocked down, don’t stay down. Learn from your mistakes and move forward, confident in what you’ve learned and how that will help you next time. It’s not how far you fall, what’s important is how high you bounce.
 
And remember that you are not alone. You have the support of the people around you. Cultivate your support network. Reach out to people who can help you define your goals, categorize your abilities and achieve your dreams. Declare yourself independent of whatever is holding you back, remember the fortitude of our founding fathers, and take the steps to personal independence.
 
Happy Independence Day!

They Replaced Horses

That was the lead in this column by Eduardo Porter in the New York Times. Thirty-five years ago people debated whether machines, technology, would ever replace humans in the workforce. Many respected economists dismissed the idea until the great economist Wassily Leontief made his analogy regarding equines.

The rest of the very interesting column discussed universal income and other aspects of the economy. I kept thinking about jobs.

work-horsesBecause horses were replaced. Their jobs went away. And they never came back. Oh sure, there are a few horses still in use today. Under two million, down from over 20 million at the time when the automobile and the tractor pretty much put them out to pasture. Over 90% of their jobs went away in the span of just a few decades.

Sound familiar?

What we need to learn from our hard-working, four-legged co-workers is that when jobs go away, whether it’s because technology has automated the work or the demand for a product shrinks, those jobs aren’t coming back. So you have a choice. You can hang on dearly hoping that somehow you won’t be affected (you will be), you can mourn the fact that your job no longer exists (you won’t bring it back) or you can adapt.

You’ve really no choice but to adapt. Figure out what you will do next. Because as certain jobs exit, others come along and replace them. There are no SEO specialists with 20 years experience. Ten years ago no one had a job monitoring tweets. The skills, the people required for those jobs were found in other industries and were adapted to the needs of these new functions. The people who filled these newly created jobs were the ones willing to adapt rather than mourn what was lost. And they’ll have the last laugh.

laughing horse-head

 

My Journey to the Top

Mt EverestI saw a blogpost recently titled, “Your Career Path Isn’t a Straight Line – So Stop Getting Upset When Things Don’t Go as Planned.”  In the post it said that, “Careers these days aren’t so much about climbing the ladder, but about bouncing around a jungle gym.” I like the image and another idea in the post stating that it’s okay that the path isn’t straight or even always appearing to be headed in the right direction. Often it’s when we veer off the obvious path that we learn new things, experience obstacles and develop the GRIT to overcome them.

I spent my twenties working at a non-profit arts organization, making very little money but gaining incredible managerial experience. When I shifted into human resources and started my career in Corporate America, lots of those lessons were both applicable and helpful.

When I was promoted during my first year on the Corporate job, of course the first thing I did was call my wife to tell her the good news. And the first thing she did was call her mother to prove that marrying me hadn’t been a colossal mistake. Her mother’s response was, “If only he hadn’t wasted all those years in non-profit just think of where he could be today.” My quick-thinking and brilliant wife replied, “If he hadn’t spent all those years in non-profit getting valuable experience he never would have gotten this opportunity in the first place.” I’m a very lucky man.

The takeaway is that there is no wasted experience. Take the opportunity that’s in front of you. See where is leads. Be prepared to meander, just remember what your ultimate goal is and where you think you want to be someday.  There are 18 named routes to the top of Mount Everest and several others that are as yet unnamed and unclimbed. Maybe you’ll forge your own path. Maybe you’ll follow in the well-worn footsteps of others. Either way, my advice is to take some chances and enjoy the journey.

 

Employees with GRIT

sandpaperI saw a piece in CLO magazine about grit. That companies want people with grit. People who’ve been able to make it through tough times. The article defined grit as passion and perseverance with long-term goals. Now that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue for me. I like acronyms. So here’s what grit means to me.

Goals, Resilience, Insistence, Tenacity.

Goals: you have to know what you’re working toward. As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t have a goal, how will you know when you’ve arrived?” It’s pretty tough working toward an ambiguous, amorphous goal. You have to define, and if you’re a manager define for others, what it is you’re working towards.

Resilience: this, in my opinion, is the key difference between success and failure. You will have setbacks. It’s how you deal with them that sets you apart and will make you successful. Sheila Wellington said it best. “It’s not how far you fall, it’s how high you bounce.”

Insistence: everyone else says it can’t be done and you keep going. A belief and a willingness to go in the direction you believe in spite of the naysayers. A saying attributed to George Bernard Shaw says, “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” People with grit get things done.

Tenacity: stick with it. If resilience is bouncing back from adversity, then tenacity is the toughness to keep slogging along because you believe in your goal. Oprah Winfrey said, “Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” I promise it won’t always be easy, but people with grit keep going.

So I’ll agree with the author, I like employees with GRIT, especially resilience. Because if you’ve never come up against any resistance, you’ll never know exactly how much you can achieve,