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    Entries in career (168)

    Friday
    Aug172018

    Expect Great Things

    The other day I caught an interview with Kevin Dann, the author of 'Expect Great Things: The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau'. I don't know any more than the average person about Thoreau, I read Walden Pond I am pretty sure back in high school, but that is about it.

    But the interview with Dann, the most recent of Thoreau's many biographers really resonated for me, and mainly for the author's reasoning behind the book's title.

    Here's the section from the interview, courtesy of the Art of Manliness Podcast:

    Kevin Dann - And you’re pointing to my contextualizing Thoreau in this way. A big part of that was a signature I found right away was this sense, you know, I used it for the title of the book. “Expect great things”. So his mantra was, that he said in a hundred different ways, “In the long run, we find what we expect. We shall be fortunate then if we expect great things.” And whether it’s astrology, or reading tea leaves, the operative principle of magic is that what we think manifests in the world as being real, and that’s what his mantra was. “Expect great things”.

    I pretty much stopped really taking in the rest of the hour-long conversation after hearing that. The 'Expect Great Things' concept I just could not stop thinking about. Maybe because it is so different than what I am comfortable or used to doing. I might, on a good day, 'hope' for good things to happen, but I have to admit it is the more rare situation that I 'expect' great things. 

    And Thoreau's point, as far as I think I understand it, is that eventually we find what we expect to find. We find what we think or believe we are going to find. There is also at least a bit of mysticism in what Thoreau was talking about. We also, I came to learn, communicated with faeries out in the woods.

    But if Thoreau was right, and we do indeed, eventually, find what we expect to find, then it makes perfect sense to expect great things. Who would expect less?

    Ok, I am signing off for the week. I am going to try better to expect great things in work, at home, for my Liverpool FC team, and for the folks that I hold dear. I hope you will too.

    Have a great weekend!

    Friday
    Jul272018

    Job Titles of the Future: Chief Non-alcohol Beverages Officer

    A quick dispatch for a middle of Summer Friday from the often-imitated, easily duplicated Job Titles of the Future series. For the latest offering I submit a job title I've never seen before - 'Chief Non-alcohol Beverages Officer'. For details, see this piece from Fortune:

    American beer drinkers keep shunning Bud, and Anheuser-Busch InBev is going to extreme measures to meet their changing tastes.

    The brewer announced Thursday that revenues in the U.S. had slumped by 3.1% in the second quarter as sales of its major brands—Budweiser and Bud Light—continued to drop. U.S. beer sales dropped 5% by volume.

    At the same time, it announced that it will create a new executive position—chief non-alcohol beverage officer—as a response to Millennials and “Generation Z” drinking less than their elders. Lucas Herscovici, currently global marketing VP of strategic functions, will fill the role. Nonalcoholic drinks constitute some 10% of AB InBev’s volumes, and it’s aiming to boost the proportion of low and no-alcohol sales to 20% of the total by 2025, reports theFinancial Times. But in the second quarter, the category fell a damaging 43%, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    This announcement about the new C-Level job role from Anheuser-Busch InBev was interesting to me for three reasons:

    1. It shows, at least at the surface, that the organization needs to react to changes in customer attitudes, tastes, and preferences with a significant and high-level talent/people strategy response. In the past, I guess forever, Anheuser-Busch InBev didn't need to consider this market and this role. Their business was selling beer. Now their business is changing to one that is more about meeting the customer's needs/desires for refreshment - a wider, deeper, (and maybe for them in the long run), a more lucrative market.

    2. This shift in Anheuser-Busch InBev's business is another great example and reminder of the challenges that all kinds of legacy, established businesses have when trying to adapt to shifts in customer attitudes. The company knows that it needs to focus more on non-alcohol beverages moving forward, but at the same time has to try and protect and strengthen its core, legacy regular beer business. Becoming more nimble and agile to chase new markets while at the same time having to rely on declining core businesses for profits and cash flow is the classic big company challenge. I am a fan of many Anheuser-Busch InBev products, so I am hoping they navigate these challenges successfully.

    3. It's the summer, it's just about the weekend, and an article about a beer company essentially just drew me in. Hope you have a great weekend, have a cold one if that's your thing, and Cheers! 

    Thursday
    Jun142018

    When to tell an employee who resigns - 'No need to work your two weeks notice, just get out of here'

    The World Cup kicks off today and in what can only be deemed a fantastic coincidence for the 'Sports and HR' blogosphere, the event has already provided us with an incredible story upon which to opine, one that fits the formula of 'Yes, it is a 'sports' story but it really is a workplace and HR story'.

    In case you don't know what story I am referring to, it involves the head coach of Spain's team (one of the favorites to win the World Cup), getting fired from his post just hours before the event is set to start. Let's all get on the same page with the details of the story courtesy of reporting from ESPN.

    Julen Lopetegui has been sacked as Spain's national team coach on the eve of the World Cup, one day after he agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the tournament.

    In a news conference at Spain's training base in Krasnodar, Russia, Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales said Lopetegui's fate was sealed just two days ahead of the team's World Cup opening game, as Rubiales could not accept an Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) employee having negotiated his next job without informing his employers.

    "We have been obliged to fire the national coach," Rubiales said Wednesday. "We wish him the best, he has done an excellent job in getting us to the tournament. But the federation cannot be left outside the negotiation of one of its employees, and find out just five minutes before a public announcement. If anybody wants to talk to one of our employees, they have to speak to us, too. That is basic, as this is the team of all Spaniards. The national team is the most important we have; the World Cup is the biggest of all."

    A lot to unpack there, but just to be sure the non-soccer readers get the important details, here is the gist of what went down.

    1. Spain is one of the top teams in the world, has a great chance to make a deep run in the World Cup, and the coach, Julen Lopetegui has done by all accounts a great job, (unbeaten in their last 20 games), of getting the team ready for the tournament.

    2. As is the case with many national team coaches, Lopetegui had planned to move on from coaching the national team once the World Cup was over. For top coaches like him, coaching at one of the world's leading clubs in the Spanish League or English League represents the pinnacle of the profession, (and is the most lucrative).

    3. The Spanish League Club Real Madrid is the best club team in the world, have just completed winning the European Champions League for the third year in a row, and surprisingly found themselves in need of a new coach for next season, following the shock resignation of their coach.

    4. Combine #2 with #3 above, and we arrive at Lopetegjui agreeing to become coach of Real Madrid at the conclusion of the World Cup.

    5. See the reaction of the Royal Spanish Football Federation above upon learning this news. Essentially they said to Lopetegui, 'Thanks for the notice, but no thanks. Clean out your desk and hit the bricks.' Note, this 'Two weeks notice' is not the usual two weeks notice - it is the World Freakin' Cup, but the people calling the shots did not care. So on the eve the competition, Lopetegui is out.

    So let's spin this story back around to the real world. I don't know for sure how it will effect Spain's performance in the tournament, and you probably don't care. But we do have employees, sometimes high profile and top employees resign all the time. So when should you let the resigning employee ride our their two weeks notice gracefully, and when should you pull a Royal Spanish Football Federation move and show them the door immediately?

    I have three scenarios that line up with the Royal Spanish Football Federation position:

    1. You find out the employee is leaving to go to work with a direct competitor. Leaving Coke to work for Pepsi. Leaving Lowe's to go to the Home Depot, that kind of thing. The sooner they are out of your office, off of your email, and out of your memory the better. Kind of an easy one. Real Madrid does not compete with the Spanish national team, so this one does not really apply here.

    2. You're in an important, stressful period at your shop, and you get the sense that the lingering presence, and the impact the departing person might have on the team they are leaving behind present a risk that is not acceptable. This is the closest to a justification I can get for the Spain move. All of a sudden, all everyone wants to talk about is that the coach is leaving, and the focus on performing in the tournament becomes a risk.

    3. You know the 'two weeks notice' is more or less a paid vacation for said employee, who may have checked out long before officially checking out. If you get the sense that almost no value will be derived from having the departing employee around, you are all better off just acknowledging that and letting them go as soon as possible. Again, probably not applicable in the Lopetegui situation, but stll one scenario that is pretty common in our world.

    I am not sure how this HR move will work out for Spain, it was definitely surprising considering the timing and the importance of the World Cup. I guess we will know in a few weeks.

    Ok, I'm out - have a great day!

    Tuesday
    May222018

    Learn a new word: Introvert Hangover

    I've had two solid weeks of business travel, events, a ton of meetings, interviews, podcasts, some personal travel and more and by the end of that run, last Friday or so, I was feeling really burned out. Not exactly 'tired' even though I was definitely tired, but more like I just needed a break from people - interacting with them, being in a crowd, making small talk at dinner, even dealing with the hundreds of emails that have piled up, a fair number of text messages and looking a backlog of Twitter mentions and messages. I just needed some time to step back from what seemed to be just a relentless, suffocating sense or feeling that 'someone wants your attention' that has not let up in some time.

    And while I have, from time to time, had a similar feeling after a spate of travel, events, and meetings, I had never known that for folks like me this feeling of being burned out and needing a break from people, from social settings, even from electronic communications actually has been given a term - an Introvert Hangover.

    From a piece over the weekend on Business Insider explaining the phenomenon:

    If you identify as more of an introvert than an extrovert, you'll know that means you are more energised by spending time on your own, or in very small intimate groups of people you trust. It doesn't mean you are a hermit or dislike social situations — you just often need time to recharge alone after them.

    This time to regroup is sometimes called an "introvert hangover" because after a lot of social stimulation, whether that's in a small group or a noisy overstimulated context, an introvert's nervous system gets overwhelmed.

    Essentially, an introvert brain functions differently than an extrovert brain. An extrovert has a very high threshold for dopamine, so they require constant stimulation. An introvert has a very low threshold, so they reach their limit much sooner.

    Also, while an extrovert can approach an event objectively, an introvert has a lot more going on internally. For example, they notice all sorts of details, are self-conscious about themselves and the mistakes they are making, and draw a lot from their long-term memory bank when speaking. All of this is emotionally exhausting, so it's no surprise they need to take some time to regroup afterwards.

    But an introvert hangover isn't exactly a bad thing. For most, it means curling up with a book or a film, or doing a relaxing hobby like drawing

    I know that this idea, this concept of an Introvert Hangover could sound kind of silly to some folks, I would argue that those folks are either extroverts, or are introverts that have managed to architect their lives so that they don't often run into extended periods of over stimulation, or near constant contact with other people and social settings. After thinking about how I felt this past weekend, and other times in the past where I have had long runs of 'public' activities, I kind of think this Hangover idea is a real thing. It's definitely not the same as being just tired. It's more, 'I need some time to take care of my own stuff, I need to not have to talk to anyone for a little bit, and I need to re-charge, not just physically, but emotionally too.'

    Why bring this up?

    Well, besides being a really apt and accurate description of what i was going through, it also serves as a great reminder to be aware and empathetic of other people at work, in our personal lives, even family members that also need a 'break' from people from time to time.

    It doesn't make them bad people, it doesn't even make them anti-social or unfriendly, it doesn't mean they don't care - it just means that for their own mental health they need to step back from time to time.

    So if you have one of these people in your life, try to understand that sometimes an unreturned text message or an email or phone call that isn't responded to right away isn't some kind of personal insult. It could be that they just need a little time-out, a little re-set, and the chance to get prepared to get back out there again.

    That's it - have a great day!

    Friday
    Apr272018

    In praise of the ordinary job ad

    We are probably all a little tired of or at least raise a cynical eyebrow when we see yet another job posting advertising an amazing work culture, fast-paced environment, incredible colleagues, and off the charts compensation and perks. We all know that every job ad is a kind of marketing message, so a little bit of hype and exaggeration is kind of a given and kind of expected and accepted. But at the same time most all of us with even just a little bit of work experience know that not every workplace can be a Top/Great/Awesome/Admired place to work, not every job is actually a great opportunity, and not every workplace is blessed with a great, supportive culture.

    Sometimes a job is just a job. And there is nothing wrong with that. Beats watching Cable news all day.

    And in the spirit of the acknowledgement that sometimes a job is just a job, even one that seems as cool an opportunity as being a teacher in a university, I want to share this story, seen on the excellent Sixth Tone site, of how one average university in China has decided to advertise on very average job opportunity.

    From the piece on Sixth Tone:

    A recruitment notice from a university in southwestern China impressed readers with its bluntness on Tuesday, and has been shared on social media as “the most honest job ad.”

    The ad from Xingyi Normal University for Nationalities in Guizhou province seeks teaching staff who hold doctoral degrees in languages and linguistics. It begins by introducing the college as a “very, very ordinary” institution that is not part of any prestigious national tertiary education leagues and describes the salary and conditions as simply “standard.”

    The perk, however, is that the role is fairly undemanding. “There’s not too much pressure and no research obligations; it’s entirely up to you whether you want to apply for projects or publish articles — if you just want to teach classes, that’s fine,” the advertisement says, adding: “The students here are comparatively unsophisticated … don’t teach anything too esoteric that they might not be able to absorb.” The post also includes some attractive features about the city of Xinyi — such as the low price of beef - 35 yuan a pound cheaper than in other cities.

    I have to admit I love this ad for its bluntness and self-awareness.

    An 'ordinary' institution offering a 'standard' job with 'average' compensation, but having the benefit of being 'undemanding' and serving 'unsophisticated' customers/students.

    While on the one hand you would think a job ad of this type would only attract 'B' or 'C' type candidates, (and you could also argue that any 'A' player or top talent would not be happy in a role like this), the University has actually reported that the responses so far to this honest, ordinary ad have been really positive.

    According to reports, the Dean of the University had received many inquiries, including ones from graduates of some of China's top schools.

    So maybe this honest job ad, seeking candidates for an average job at a standard rate of pay where the successful candidate won't have to work too hard might just achieve for the University just exactly what any job ad is meant to do. Attract not necessarily the 'best' candidates, but rather the 'right' ones.

    Do your job ads manage to accomplish that?

    Have a great weekend!