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    Entries in career (93)


    Poker, dating, and responding to email - it's all about the timing

    Good poker players will tell you, at least I am pretty sure they will tell you, that no matter if your cards are good, bad, or somewhere in between, that a smart player will respond and react to the betting action in a consistent manner. If you call or raise a bet too quickly or eagerly, that might be a 'tell' that you are holding some great cards and can't wait to get more money into the pot. Similarly, waiting and belaboring a decision to call a bet could signal a comparatively weak hand, and embolden your opponents.

    So the smart play is to find and maintain a consistent rhythm or cadence to your reactions and decisions, good cards or bad, and eliminate at least one source of intelligence for the other players. Don't get too twitchy, don;t wait too long to move, and you maintain some control of both your emotions as well as the table.

    I suppose the same argument could be made in dating where guys have, for pretty much forever, had to figure out how quickly to call after an initial meeting and exchange of phone numbers, or a positive first date. Call too soon then you come off too eager and possibly creepy. Wait too long to call back and you might send off a 'I'm not really interested' vibe that inadvertently could short-circuit the relationship from the beginning. So it's a tough call (no pun intended), figuring out the proper 'wait' interval for the call so that you don't screw it up or send the wrong message.

    This kind of 'How long do I wait to react?' dilemma pops up in all kinds of workplace situations as well - in when to speak up in meetings, following up after a job interview, and particularly one that stands out for me, the 'How long do I wait to respond to this email?' conundrum.

    Here's the scenario I want you to consider. You send an important'ish email to a colleague - maybe your boss or a sales or job prospect, not one of your direct reports, the idea being the person you emailed does not have any kind of 'expected response time' commitment to your emails. But you are eager for a response nonetheless. Then this person sits on your email for a bit. Maybe a day, maybe two, maybe even a week. Again, they don't really 'owe' you a reply in any specific timeframe, but they 'should' get back to you at some point. So a few days pass, let's say about six, then you finally get a reply back to the email that for which you've been eagerly waiting. 

    And now the moment of truth, like the poker player having to decide how long to wait before pushing in your chips, you have to determine when to reply to the reply, to the message that you waiting six long days to receive. If you immediately hit back, say within a half hour of getting the message you are sending out a couple of signals that you may not really want to send. First, you come off as a little bit desperate or at least over eager. You waited six days to get a response and you're firing back in almost real-time. You may just be excited, but you also could appear weak. And second, and maybe this is just a hangup I have, you set yourself up as someone who is constantly, perhaps obsessively, monitoring your Inbox. Most productivity folks recommend checking and responding to emails a couple, maybe three times a day. Getting an immediate reply back tells me you never stop looking at your email.

    So what is the 'right' or best way to mange this situation? 

    Unless the subject matter is really urgent, or has some kind of hard deadline associated with it, I think you have to wait at least half as long to reply back than it took for you to get your original reply. So in our example if it took six days to hear back from your emailer, then you should be able to hold out for a couple, even three days to respond back. Waiting, at least a little, sends a couple of more positive messages. It shows you have other things going on besides waiting for that email. It shows that you took some time to actually think about your reply. And finally, it sort of but not quite evens the power dynamic between you and your correspondent.

    So if you want to play the power game at the poker table of in your Inbox, take a little time before you re-raise and before you reply. You don't want to show what you're holding but acting too fast.

    And to everyone waiting for an email reply back from me, I promise they are coming soon...


    The half-life of technical knowledge

    That thing you just learned about or acquired mastery of - it could be a piece of electronics or a programming language or a new HR or Talent Management system, or anything really - about how long would you estimate is the useful life of that newly acquired knowledge or expertise?

    One estimate,published in 1997, from the mathematician and engineer Richard Hamming suggests the half-life of technical knowledge is about 15 years. Since Hamming's conclusion was reached more than 15 years ago, the theory itself, as well as our own practical experience with the modern world, seems to indicate the 15 year useful life of specific technical knowledge is probably even shorter. It could be 10 years, it could be even fewer. You still (mostly) remember things, but as time passes the value of what you remember continues to diminish.

    Think about the device that passed for what you called a smartphone in 2005. Remember how that thing worked? And even if you do, does that specific knowledge help you much today? Or how about the expertise you developed to help you navigate through that archaic HR and Payroll system your company used a decade ago. Any of that training and learning paying off these days?

    While it is no great bit of insight to conclude that technology is progressing more rapidly than even in the recent past, the question that results from that conclusion, just how can you attempt to stay relevant and knowledgeable in such a fast-moving environment is the important matter. How can or should you go about becoming more accustomed to learning all of the time, since as much as half of the knowledge we have already acquired becomes obsolete, in a kind of continuous cycle of degradation?

    Well, our pal Hamming had some really good ideas about that, and they have been synthesized and summarized in this excellent piece Ten Simple Rules for Lifelong Learning, According to Hamming, on the PLOS Computational Biology site. (Please don't ask me what I was doing on a Computational Biology site).

    You should really read the entire piece, it is not that long, you have time, but since I know you won't I will highlight the one 'rule' that stood out for me the most, especially since it sort of contradicts a currently popular idea that we should be open to and embrace failure.

    Take a look at an excerpt Rule 6, Learn From the Successes of Others:

    As Hamming says, because “there are so many ways of being wrong and so few of being right, studying successes is more efficient, and furthermore, when your turn comes you will know how to succeed rather than how to fail.” In addition, he notes that “vicarious learning from the experiences of others saves making errors yourself.

    The best part of that observation is just recognizing the almost infinite number of ways to fail and the extremely rare ways to succeed or to be 'right'. Maybe we have gotten too caught up in the 'embrace failure' cult since it is just easier to spot and experience failure in ourselves and in others than it is to attain success. Learning from success, even other's success, might get you where you want to be faster than always trying to extrude the value from your own failures.

    There are plenty of other great nuggets in the piece, (especially Rule 8. No Matter How Much Advice You Get and How Much Talent You Possess, It Is Still You Who Must Do the Learning and Put in the Time), so like I mentioned above if you are someone that needs to be concerned and able to keep current and proficient in today's complex world of technology the entire article is worth your time.

    Have a great weekend - try to learn something new!


    On not being active on a social network

    I was having a real business (I swear) conversation with a colleague recently, when the subject turned to another person (Person X) with which both myself and my colleague are very well acquainted. I mentioned that I had not heard from Person X in quite some time, and I wondered why this person had not taken time to contact me (the context, of which the specifics don't really matter), was that in my view this person really should have reached out to me on some things and he/she had not for a long time. 

    My colleague said something along the lines of 'Person X is really active on Facebook. Just post something on their wall if you want to get in touch with him/her.'

    And I kind of cringed for two reasons I suppose. One, I don't really want to do 'business' on Facebook, and two, in truth I don't really want to do anything on Facebook. I have an account there sure, I am not a Luddite, but I don't check it all that often, I never post anything other than my blogs and the HR Happy Hour Shows that auto-post there, and for the most part I just ignore the site. I still am reasonably active on Twitter (mostly for professional reasons) and for personal/social kinds of things, I use Instagram.

    But that's just me. Most folks have their preferred ways of online social interaction, for both their business and for their personal reasons, and I don't suggest that anyone's approach is wrong or right or even that anyone should agree with me.  But to this situation with me and Person X, who is (it seems) conducting a lot of business via Facebook, it looks like unless one of us moves to change our preferred methods of interaction, we will keep missing each other for the most part. I guess that is just how it is.

    That's a long pre-amble to a shorter, more obvious point. We, or most of us surely, if we are actually busy with real work, family, friends, etc., simply can't be that active, present, and aware of all the things that are going on in our industries across the myriad of social platforms (and in-person events), all of the time. After some time of trying to keep aware and active of industry people and news and events and even opportunities on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, (and often using multiple personas or accounts), I think at least for me, that eventually you have to settle on the one or two that you either enjoy the most, or, get the most value from. For me, it is Twitter and Instagram. For others, like Person X, it seems to be Facebook.

    And that small difference, that seemingly insignificant divergence in preferences, (and yes, I know that I could just CALL this Person X, but who does that any more?), actually does become pretty significant over time.

    Back in the day, when you as a 12 year old kid moved away from your home town you basically lost all contact with your circle of friends and had to start all over from scratch in your new town and school. Even though you could have still stayed in touch with your old friends, you almost never did. It just was too burdensome to call or send letters or postcards when you could just walk outside and interact with your new friends instead.

    That is kind of how I look at my old friends/associates over on Facebook now in a way. Sure, I could go over there and see what is going on, but it's just easier to not do that, and stay where I have become more comfortable. So I am missing out, I guess. So be it. That is what not being present on a platform can do to you in 2015. 

    Person X, give me a call sometime.


    Job Titles of the Future #12 - Professional Selfie Retoucher

    According to Business Insider, the reality TV personality Kim Kardashian spends upwards of $100K to keep a 'professional selfie retoucher' on call, who stands (or sits more likely) at the ready, poised to edit, smooth, crop, and apply just the right Instagram filter (I am a 'Hudson' fan myself), to her selfies and other photos prior to posting them to her millions of social media followers.

    If it sounds ridiculous, it is because it is ridiculous. But I think at least half of why it is ridiculous is the kind of silly name this job has been bestowed, and the kind of silly protagonist of the story. Kim Kardashian retaining a professional selfie editor to be on call is comical, but what about an author, sports figure, politician, or CEO engaging consulting services to protect, augment, and improve their online personas? Maybe not so silly.

    It must be a really big deal, and a important part of her business strategy, for Kim to be seen in a certain manner in her social media posts and activity. She must have figured out what her fans want and expect, and paying $100K to make sure she delivers on those expectations must be worth it to her in the long run.

    But in some ways it is not just reality TV stars or athletes or actors that rely on social media image and presence as a big part of their business strategy. Lots of 'normal' people do to. We are all, as long as we participate in blogs or on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram, placing some importance (and risk) in how our intelligence, professionalism, and value are interpreted via our posts and pictures and, yes, our selfies.

    And lots of us try to be really careful about what we post. Not just in that 'I better not post that pic of me and the boys doing tequila shots', but also along the lines of 'Does this picture make me look smart/cool/happening/likable/on 'brand'?' You know you think about that. Everyone does. Think about how much you crop and filter and edit those Instagram and Facebook pics before you load them. It isn't just about you wanting to be the next Ansel Adams.

    It's just that you and me and almost everyone else makes these determinations and manipulations of our preferred version of reality for ourselves - it's only people like Kim K. who can dish out $100K to worry about that stuff for her.

    There have been PR agencies and image consultants and even 'personal brand coaches' (that title just made me gag a little), around for awhile, so the idea of a 'professional selfie retoucher' may not be all that new or novel, and just may be the logical extension or modernization of these roles for the social media age.

    But still, something about it, the on-the-nose way it describes the function seems new to me, and thus I officually welcome 'Professional Selfie Retoucher' as Job Title of the Future #12.

    Have a great weekend!


    ADVICE: Read more, write less

    Super interesting piece on the Savage Minds anthropology blog the other day titled Read More, Write Less, an essay by Ruth Behar about her conversations with the Cuban author and poet Dulce Maria Loynaz.

    I must confess to having no familiarity with Ms. Loynaz, but in the piece she offers some really excellent advice for writers, bloggers, really communicators of any kind.

    From the Savage Minds piece:

    Inspired by her meditative Poemas sin nombre (Poems With No Name), I had written a few poems of my own, and Dulce María had the largeness of heart to ask me to read them aloud to her in the grand salon of her dilapidated mansion. She nodded kindly after each poem and when I finished I thought to ask her, “What advice would you give a writer?”

    I will always remember her answer. It came without a moment’s hesitation and could not have been more succinct: Lee más, escribe menos, “Read more, write less.”

    That might seem like old-fashioned advice in our world today, where so many of us aspire to write more. But having pondered Dulce María’s words, I think I now understand the significance of what she was saying.

    It comes down to this: you can only write as well as what you read.

    Awesome advice, and so good that I don't really need to add anything more to it. I try and read as much as I can in order to have new ideas, fresh perspectives, and just interesting things to share. But there is so much more out there.  I know I probably should read more, and different things instead of trying to push out posts all the time.

    Read more, write less. Great advice. 

    Have a great Thursday.