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Friday, July 25, 2008

Its Employee Review Time!

Yes, its mid-year again and time to do semi-annual performance reviews. While this can be one of the most important exercises done between employees and managers, it is also a time a great stress and dread.

Nobody likes to be told they aren't doing a good job, and nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news. To help make the review process worthwhile, there shouldn't be any surprises. Regular feedback between employees and their management allow for corrections as well as congratulations. Regular feedback also reduces the impending doom many employees feel.

The mid-year performance review should be a time to review the overall goals, as well as the objectives that were to be completed by mid-year. This is also a time for employees and managers to make adjustments to rest of the year goals. Additionally, this is a good time for employees to begin planting the seeds for next years goals.

Finally, this is a great time for managers to highlight and encourage employee development. Managers should look for measurable, achievable goals, and find ways to improve employee skills. Employees should also drive development goals and express interest in new skills or opportunities.

Do you have your facts together? Have you written down your successes and misses? Are their any changes you want to make. These are the questions managers and employees should ask before their reviews. Reviews are a great time to learn about yourself and chart the path to a successful rest of the year!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Manager 2.0, Part V

The post has finally arrived, the last in the series of five on management, Web 2.0 style. Through the previous four posts, we have discussed several topics, from Open-Book Management, compensation, and even Total Quality Management. In this post, we shall discuss items relating to deadlines and opportunities.

Item 13 states: "Deadlines agreed on and set by those doing the work." One could suggest that this isn't realistic, as it ignores both the internal and external customer needs. Consider home renovation. Does the customer allow the contractor to dictate how long the job will take, or is the schedule negotiated? Also, what if those doing the work are inefficient and their scheduling of the work promotes inefficiency? While a negotiated work schedule is best, no one side should have the scheduling power.

Item 14 states: "Employees create opportunities to learn and to be challenged." This is an excellent statement. Employees should be doing this any way! Suppose an employee has access to the company's online training resources. Shouldn't that employee take the opportunity to learn about new things in the business, or just improve other skills? It is always better to be proactive. Study the business, ask questions about the direction of the business, and be prepared to change.

As the Bible states, "There is nothing new under the sun." In each of the 14 topics, we have seen how the cultural phenomenon of Web 2.0 is causing managers to rethink how they operate their business and how they relate to their employees. Web 2.0 has brought acceptance of self-service, as well as acceptance of rapid change. While these elements have been demonstrated as positive for business, they have always required strong leadership. Let's hope that these Web 2.0 lessons will make for a more efficient, and stronger Manager 2.0

Friday, July 18, 2008

Manager 2.0, Part IV

In this post, I will discuss the next three items(10-12) listed from the Manager 2.0 diagram listed in the Web 2.0 for Business post. Allow me to first express my gratitude to Kathy Sierra for creating the figure, referenced in Web 2.0 for Business post.

Item 10 states: "Continuous peer review ... official "appraisals" irrelevant due to constant communication." This is very similar to a the Deming principles. W. Edwards Deming, arguably the father of Total Quality Management used the notion of official appraisals only if performance was outside of an accepted band. The expectation of employees were clearly stated and understood. Continuous feedback was part of the process of achieving total quality, and thus, formal appraisals were not necessary.

Item 11 states: "A Hollywood model." This is contrasted with an hierarchical structure. I contend that there has to be some hierarchy, as there has to be a final say to issues, as well to provide direction. Examples of companies with looser hierarchical models are AES, Whole Foods Market, and

Item 12 states: "Hiring based on curiosity, ability to learn, and passion." This is a statement I don't agree with. While these attributes are important, the demonstrated ability to do the job, or some aspect of a job is more important, in my opinion than curiosity or passion. Just because I have a passion for art doesn't mean that I have the talent or skill to become a great artist, or accountant, for that matter. A company must decide how much they are willing to invest in an employee who is curious, passionate, and able to learn to get them up to speed. Experience tells me that budget is very limited.

As I have mentioned throughout this series, many of these topics are have been discussed, though in a piecemeal fashion. Further, the points focus on filling not just the basic need for a paycheck, but rather more on the psychic benefits that keep employees motivated.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Manager 2.0 - Part III

In this post, I will discuss the next three items(7-9) listed from the Manager 2.0 diagram listed in the Web 2.0 for Business post. Allow me to first express my gratitude to Kathy Sierra for creating the figure, referenced in Web 2.0 for Business post.

Item seven states: "Employees have autonomy, responsibility, and authority." In this statement, the only word I have issue with is autonomy. In all things, there has to be a leader. No one can operate in pure autonomy. Perhaps a better way of putting this is to say that the employee is empowered to work inside a broad framework, to achieve business goals. To do this, they must be responsible, accountable, and have the authority necessary to direct action. However, authority implies an hierarchy of sorts, so there is conflict. If employees rotate jobs frequently, they may encounter a position that has certain authority, which may suit this model.

Item eight states: "Intrinsic motivation to do really good work." Respectfully, that assumes an inwardly motivated individual, which is not typical of the human condition. Most people don't want to go to work, like the old saying, "I work to live, not live to work." If the work one does is interesting, and provides psychic benefits, then motivation will be high. However, external rewards and incentives are very necessary to set both the tone and to enforce expectations.

Item nine states: "Users are king, but not at the expense of employees." I take issue with this point, to a degree. Customers should always be king, but employees should never be treated unfairly. Companies and management need tools to enable the workforce to serve customers and satisfy their needs. Policies, particularly those meant to meet compliance with external forces, need to be crafted in such a way that compliance brings a benefit to the company and not a hindrance to the employee.

Oh, I put the picture in there because its funny. These things can be kind of dry, but I do have a sense of humor, really.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Manager 2.0, Part II

In this second article in a series of five about managing in a Web 2.o framework, I will discuss points 4-6 of the figure found here.

Item four states: "Employees and teams challenge themselves. If one person or team succeeds, everyone wins." Employees should be give great latitude and more importantly, time, in their development. Management needs to insure however, that the development money spent rewards not just the employee, but also the shareholder. A good example would be an employee taking a basket weaving class. That class might really benefit an employee of Martha Stewart, but not necessarily ExxonMobil. Regarding rewarding "everyone" for an effort, hopefully, the work of the team or the individual is geared to the success of the company. In other words, a team win should, by definition, be a corporate win.

Item five states: "Informal job role created by employee, tailored to their strengths and interests, and changes all the time." Outside of the need of formal titles for compensation studies, this makes a lot of sense. As employees mature and become experts in their work, they should be able to move on to new positions, building on those strengths, and learning more about the business. Regular job rotation is widely regarded as a good thing and can be very manageable.

Items six states: "Emphasis on community." A company is a community of sorts, with different teams supporting the company as a whole. Good management practices are about aligning teams to create a well-organized and functioning business. While this corporate/community function is very important, arguably, customers should have the emphasis.

This discussion has left me with an interesting perspective. Web 2.0 concepts are generally positive, though strongly individualistic. While there is emphasis on team and community, much of these items focus on the individual and create tension with the natural and necessary authority in companies. Taking care of employees in general, and individuals in specific, is good for business. However, without a strong focus on customers and strong leadership, the Web 2.0 principles can lead to a lot of good work serving no purpose.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The First of Manager 2.0 Posts

In this post, I will discuss the first of three items listed from the Manager 2.0 diagram listed in the Web 2.0 for Business post. Allow me to first express my gratitude to Kathy Sierra for creating the figure, referenced in Web 2.0 for Business post.

The first item listed in the Manager 2.0 figure is: "All employees are asked to help with policy decisions and solutions." While I think this item is very difficult to implement in a large company, I do agree with the concept. Employees should be well versed with corporate policies and be willing to challenge them, if they have a better way. In some cases, these suggestions will have to be rejected on legal or regulatory grounds, however, if the suggestions save money or do things better, they may be accepted.

The second item is: "Pay is generous and fair, profit-sharing is the norm." Well, who can disagree with generous and fair pay? Profit-sharing can be a good thing, but shouldn't be considered a goal in and of itself. In some cases, there may be other incentive-based pay, other than profit sharing, that achieves the same goal. In each case, the business will need to evaluate its compensation policy to insure that both the employees and shareholders are treated fairly.

The third item is: "Employees are given as much information about the company as possible, including financial." I couldn't agree more! A good model for this and its success is Jack Stack at SRC Holdings and "Open-Book Management." Jack went on to write The Great Game of Business. Once employees understand the components of corporate finance, not just revenue, they can align their actions accordingly.

We have seen in the first three items of the list that many of the Web 2.0 principles of management are not new. Rather, what is novel, is that they haven't been widely discussed in this context. For Generation Y and younger, particularly those who don't have strong corporate experience, or a business school education, these HR-type issues (compensation, management principles, etc.) aren't well understood in a broad context. Instead, they are intuited. People want to have a say in what they do, how they are paid, and they want the inside information.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Web 2.0 Framework for Business

By now, everyone is familiar with the basic Web 2.0 concepts of social networking, blogging, Facebook, etc. What people aren't familiar with is the cultural shift that Web 2.0 is making in the workplace.

As employees are used to using the Web 2.0 applications outside of work, as we know nobody uses them during work (wink, wink), except for things such as corporate blogs and knowledge bases, these applications change patterns of thinking and behavior.

I found a great chart referenced by Luis Suarez at ManagerNewz. It highlights the cultural shift and behavioral differences mentioned above. I hope to do more posts on this topic in the future and found this chart perfect to create the framework for those posts. Here is the link:

Diversity of Thought, Hire the Entrepreneurs!

So often one reads about "diversity," more as a regulatory or compliance exercise, than what it truly is, finding people with a diversity of thought and opinion. Regularly, businesses hire people who are similar to the existing organization. Sure, that makes for great "fit," but what value does that bring to the organization?

In an article on, titled "Wanted: risk-takers for the next decade," the author acknowledges the need for entrepreneurial thinkers in UK businesses. The key words are, "highly skilled, creative, ambitious and enterprising staff, in other words people who can spot opportunities and have new ideas." In other words, focused and driven people who bring different points of view to problems.

The article also points out that this is a cultural weakness in the UK, in particular. This remark highlights the variability and diversity of the business culture of different countries. Many have long recognized that different markets value talent differently. In particular, the entrepreneurial spirit is part of the national character. However, in other countries, a more communal spirit is valued.

For the UK to change and meet the need to bring in more diversity in thought, Alessandra Buonfino, head of research at Demos states: "Much will need changing: from what's in our textbooks to how society incentivises risk-taking ,..."

Network, Network, Network

We have all heard it before, "Its not what you know, but who you know." Networking is definitely the way to improve your chances of success, whether that is success at work, in your social life, or just in your everyday dealings.

Many people find networking difficult, as it is "like a muscle, you've got to work it," my wise, older friend Jay tells me regularly. I agree. As gregarious as I am, I haven't taken networking seriously enough, nor have I viewed it as a discipline. The first step is to admit you have a problem...

I was reading an article at Forbes, titled "How To Network Your Way Up The Corporate Ladder." It is a great article, and here is the best quotation:

"Successful networkers make themselves visible--they put themselves out there. And they back up that ubiquity with credibility."

So how do you do that? Here are the steps Forbes suggests:

1. Join Professional Organizations
This is the first and most basic step to networking. But do more than just attend monthly meetings. Join a committee or run for the board so you get visibility and earn credibility among more senior professionals. Get to know the leadership of the organization since those people know so many others in your field and can introduce you to influential colleagues.

2. Lunch
It’s important to network within your company too. These are the people you will run into for years even after leaving your current job. Lunch is an easy way to get to know colleagues. Instead of working through yet another lunch, set one day aside to eat outside the office with co-workers. Don’t stick with your three closest cubicle-mates; invite those people from different departments you speak to and e-mail regularly but rarely see in person.

3. Give and Receive
Have a short and snappy description of your job ready for when you meet new colleagues, attend a business event or meet clients. The goal is to get people to remember you. Reciprocate by showing an interest in what others do.

4. Find a Mentor
Look for someone on the job who has accomplished the things you hope to achieve. Pop by the person’s office now and then to ask for advice and for a critique of some of your work. If you get advice, heed it and then report back on how you implemented it.

5. Your Starting Class
Get to know people who started their jobs around the same time you came on board, to follow their careers throughout your own. They’re people who eventually become senior employees and are in a position to hire or recommend potential new employees. A brief e-mail every few months to find out how they’re doing will go a long way.

6. Pay It Forward
Building relationships takes credibility, and you earn that by helping other business professionals. If you help a colleague from another department meet a deadline or solve a problem, that person is more likely to introduce you to his or her network.

7. Be Visible
Don’t just attend industry conferences; give presentations while you’re there. Also, write for an industry trade publication or start a blog about your field. People will introduce themselves to you and seek your advice.

This is great advice from Forbes. Now all you (and me!) have to do is follow it, and exercise that muscle. Don't forget social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and your college/university alumni groups.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Different Kind of Interview

Of the vast and various sources of information about interviewing, none prepared me for the one I had recently. It was different not because I had to wear a chicken costume or audition Tuvan throat singing, but rather because of the information asymmetry.

Most people normally go to an interview knowing the position they are interviewing for, what the job calls for, in general, and what the range of compensation is. However, for this particular set of interviews, I had very little of that data. Further, while the interviewers knew each other, they didn't provide a context as to why they (individually) were chosen to interview me.

The organization I interviewed with, while over 10,000 employees, has a very flat organizational structure. The reason for that type of structure is because they encourage small teams that are nimble and fluid. For anybody working for large companies, this often spoken of, but not regularly executed.

How does one handle this type of interview? I will have to let you know after I get an offer letter! Seriously though, if you are bad with ambiguity, this type of company is probably not for you. If you really value a title and rigid organizational structures, look elsewhere. However, if you like loose structures that are results-focused, this is your type of place.

My suggestions would be to prepare your successes in the type of position for which you are interviewing. Highlight your command of the general base of knowledge, as well as be prepared to offer suggestions as to how the company can do better. Maybe that is a better marketing plan, or different sales techniques, etc.

As always, be honest, confident, and patient. A new and ambiguous situation requires patience. Feel free to think about the questions and ask for clarification. Once you have done an interview of this type, you will definitely be more prepared in the future. You could also find some interview information here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Manager Q and A

When you face a problem at work, most of the time it is a matter of misunderstanding. Perhaps management doesn't understand the value of your work. In other cases, a co-worker doesn't understand his constant political questioning is inappropriate. In most cases, a frank and open discussion can clear up issues and lead to a greater understanding between parties.

However, there are situations where a course of action isn't so obvious or clear. Some basic principles will help you make the right decision. In all things, honesty is the best policy. It is possible to present your honesty with shades of meaning and nuance, but deceit is long-term loser. Additionally, the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is always appropriate. Finally, consider your personal moral and ethical code. If you must take action, would you be willing to share the plan with your mother, spouse, or child?

There are many decisions to make in life, they might as well be ones you are proud to speak of.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Criticizing Your Manager

Are you dreaming, a post about criticizing management? Yes, you can safely and successfully criticize your management.

In an article on, titled "Criticise a middle manager today – they can handle it!" the author states that middle managers are some of the toughest out there.

From the article,

"Middle managers may also be owners who head small businesses and require the capacity to handle frequent criticism or rejection, to work through tough negotiations and to build credibility by remaining even-tempered," he (PsyMax Solutions chief executive Dr Wayne Nemeroff)added.

It makes sense. Middle managers have to deal with peers, superiors, and subordinates, not to mention customers. In short, they get kicked around lot. What does that mean for you?

If your manager is doing something that could be improved, or just really annoys you, make an appointment to address the issue. Remember to be honest, candid, but also polite. Provide a reason for the manager to change. I criticized my manager for taking on work that I should have been doing. I framed it by saying it took away from my managers time to solve bigger problems, as well as it displayed an unintentional lack of confidence in me.

Because I was honest, sincere, and frank, he changed. Things have been better since.

Monday, July 7, 2008


As I have written in previous posts, honesty is the key to a successful relationship with your manager.

Authenticity is another key trait to bring to the relationship. Enjoy this clip that discusses it deeper.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What Makes a Good Manager also Makes a Good Employee!

I have been asked what makes a good manager. What I think is a good answer is that the traits that make a good manager make a good employee also.

I was reading an article on about what makes a good manager. This is what they wrote in part, as key traits:
  • Action-oriented;
  • Approachable;
  • Able to deal with ambiguity;
  • A sense of humor.
Why does it seem like this is so much common sense? Because it is! We often get wrapped up in our own expectations and office politics that we create a "work" persona, instead of just being true to ourselves.

Management is all about personal relationships and trying to bring people to unified action. By using common sense, honesty and building personal relationships, one can be not just a good employee, but also a good manager.

Not to be Out Done, Here is Warren Buffet

While much of this blog is focused on money, one should never forget about philanthropy, and more importantly, charity.

As one rises in business success and salary, it is often easy to forget that money isn't about keeping score, rather that it is about improving the lives of others.

Here is a great YouTube interview of Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, on Buffets' announcement to donate 83% of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Charlie Rose is the interviewer.

It runs 56 minutes.

Jack Welch Speaks!

In all of the posts so far, I have been the one giving the advice. Ok, there is a Monty Python bit in there, but by in large, it has been my mind at work.

To help provide some context into my thinking about management and leadership, I am posting a link to a video from the Sloan School of Management at MIT. It is 17 minutes of Jack Welch talking about being bold.

This is a good talk for both managers and employees, as well as a generally good life lesson. I hope you enjoy it!

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