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    Entries in career (111)

    Friday
    Jul242015

    On tackling that project you have been avoiding

    Every job, no matter how perfect or ideal has at least some element that is less than exciting. 

    Even my dream job, relief pitcher for the New York Mets, must have some aspect that is not so appealing, (relatively). I can imagine sitting in the bullpen and having to shake sunflower seeds out of your shoes once in a while might get a little tedious.

    But most of us are not professional athletes, and thus, the less exciting elements of our jobs are much more mundane, unglamorous, but still (usually) necessary. So how can we best deal with these aspects, the parts of our jobs we really are not at all excited about, or that project that we have been dreading and avoiding? I have a couple of ideas...

    1.  Break it up into smaller tasks - You know what is awesome? Crossing something off of your 'To Do' list. If you have a project or major task that you have been dreading, it helps to try and break it down into smaller, more manageable elements which you can then complete more easily. That way even a small amount of progress on the project or task feels like victory. Of sorts.

    2. The stale sandwich - This is a strategy I like to use. Basically you 'sandwich' the less than exciting work with tasks you are much more enthused about attacking. Start the day with something that really jazzes you up, then spend an hour or so on the thing you have to do but you have been avoiding, then jump back into something cool to get the bad taste of the lousy project out of your mouth. 

    3. Get up early and knock it out - Once your day gets going, your email inbox starts filling up, and the day gets consumed with meetings, you are almost certainly not going to drop what you have to do, and what you would rather do, to work on that project you have been avoiding. Every second that passes after about 8:30AM reduces the likelihood you will take on what you are dreading by a factor of 100. So you might have to just bite the bullet, get up at 6, and spend 90 minutes or an hour just banging out what you know you have to do, but won't be able to later on. Sure it will stink, but it might not ruin the rest of your day if you can knock it out by 8.

    4. Give yourself a prize - Chances are there are there are not any 'official' rewards heading your way for completing this lousy project. The boss just thinks it's your job, and get it the heck done and shut up about it. So any extra rewards that might help to motivate you have to come from you. So place a prize or incentive for yourself at the end of the slog. It could be a nice dinner out, that expensive bottle of wine you've been eyeing, or maybe just an afternoon off - doesn't matter. Just treat yourself a little. It's ok, I promise.

    5. Find ways to never be in this situation again - Chances are once this terrible project is done, sometime in the future it, or something closely resembling it, will cross your desk again and the vicious cycle of dread will resume. Now is your time, while the stench of this ordeal is still in the air, to think about and implement ways to outsource, eliminate, streamline, or otherwise reduce the pain associated with this task in the future. Even if you can find only a 10 or 20% reduction in the stink, you will be better off the next time. So once the project is done, give yourself an hour or two, (block your calendar), and find at least one way you can make this better for the next time. Do this three or four times and who knows? Maybe this lousy project won't be so lousy in the future.

    Ok, that is it I am out for the weekend! Enjoy the summer sun.

    Wednesday
    Jul222015

    The worst people in the workplace, ranked

    You probably work. You probably work with other people. Many of those other people are terrible. Here is your incomplete, yet definitive guide to the worst of these other people.

    10. The five people in your conference room who are still meeting at 11:05 when they only booked the room until 11 - Your meeting is probably a waste of time and money. The seven of you standing around in the hallway waiting to get inside the conference room is certainly a waste of time and money.

    9. The host who is late to the Conference Call - The virtual equivalent of standing around in the hall at 11:05 because the idiots who reserved the conference room from 10 - 11 can't stop yapping. But only this time you have terrible 'hold' music to listent to.

    8. The 'I never got the email' guy - You got the email, you liar. You forgot/ignored/deleted the email. But you got the email.

    7. The 'Half day?' guy - This is the jerk who feels obligated to track the comings and goings of everyone else in the office. Anyone who drops the 'Half Day?' line at you at 5:02PM is a terrible, sad, humorless dullard.

    6. The 'Marked as urgent' emailer - If it were urgent, you would just call. It is an email, therefore it can't be urgent. Look up the word urgent sometime you jerk.

    5. The Sunday night emailer - Hey guess what? Sunday is (still) technically part of the weekend. You may feel the need to work on Sundays, but that doesn't mean the rest of us want/need/care to. Work on your own stuff on Sundays if you must, but keep the rest of us out of it until Monday morning. 

    4. The 'wears headphones all day' guy - You are at work. You are not on a LAX - JFK flight in an economy class middle seat. You want us to think that actually trying to talk to you is such a burden and will somehow ruin your 'flow'. Give it a break, it won't kill you to take off the headphones once in a while and act like a human being.

    3. The 'community candy' lady - This story is 100% true, (small details changed to protect everyone, especially me).  Think massive, Fortune 100 type tech company housed in a giant high-rise. On each floor there is a central reception desk manned by one or two people throughout the day. On said desk on Floor 29, there lied a large candy bowl with the expected assortment of treats, chocolates, twizzlers, whatever. Everyone coming and going from that floor would take a treat or two from the bowl as they walked by. No one really 'asked' if they could have a piece, it was just understood that the candy was for everybody. Then one day one of the company employees, who was wearing a visible company badge, actually asked the lady at reception if it was ok if he could take a piece of candy. And the reception lady said 'No'. for whatever reason, she refused to allow this particular employee to take a piece of the community candy. The rejected employee proceeded, (irrationally for sure), to freak out, accuse the receptionist of racism, shout a few choice and unprintable words in her direction, and knock the candy bowl and its contents to the floor. This exchange led to a series of urgent emails, executive meetings, HR interventions, written warnings and literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of managerial time to sort out. The bottom line: Community candy is terrible.

    2. War story guy - This is the guy who shows up to work every Monday in a splint, with a soft cast, with some kind of bandage over the eye, or a noticeable limp. He then has to regale you, (because you feel like you have to ask), with some crappy story about how he totally rocked it on the side of some cliff or shooting the rapids or playing on the 40+ rugby team. Hey doofus - once you hit say 35 or so, it is time to grow the hell up and quit turning up for work like it is the first day of 5th grade. And no, we don't want to see your killer Go Pro footage of that radical tumble you took on the Black Diamond slope.

    1. Nothing is good enough for my high standards guy - The standard issue office chair? Not going to work. The whiteboard that fits on the wall of each office leaving room for the door to open? Not big enough. The pens and pencils that are stocked in the office supplies drawer that are used by everyone else? Not going to cut it. Basically nothing in the way the office works is good enough for this guy who needs a special version of EVERYTHING. I am not talking about any real accommodation issues here, no, this guy just has to be different. This is often accompanied by bringing personal supplies like staplers and binders, and frequent references to former employers, something along the lines of 'When I was at ACME Company, we had the nice pens.' You know what? Go the heck back to ACME company, and take your stupid stapler with you.

    Ok, that is it...

    Who did I forget? Let me know in the comments.

    Sunday
    Jul122015

    At ESPN Product beats Talent

    Recently cable sports behemoth ESPN, which likes to bill itself as 'The Worldwide Leader in Sports', announced on its website that it was not renewing the contract of well-known personality Keith Olbermann, who has had a long and checkered relationship with the network.  This announcement follows fairly closely on the heels of ESPN deciding to not renew the contract of perhaps the network's most high-profile individual talent, Bill Simmons, editor of the sports and culture website Grantland, and host of the most popular sports podcast, The BS Report. In both cases, the network executives elected to move on without these high visibility, high maintenance, and high compensation performers for a couple of reasons, one more interesting than the other.Simmons, enjoying his time off

    At first glance these moves are straight up cost-cutting measures. It has been widely reported that ESPN's parent, Disney Corp, is looking for significant cost cuts at ESPN, as the sports division has seen a pretty dramatic increase in costs, primarily the rights fees it has to pay to sports leagues like the NFL and NBA for the rights to broadcast games. Increasingly in the heavily fragmented and competitive world of entertainment, particularly TV, live sports games, (along with awards shows), remain one of the very few types of TV shows that require and generate 'live' viewing. Therefore the value of these games has skyrocketed, the leagues recognize this, and are justifiably getting literally billions of dollars of fee increased from cable and broadcast networks for the rights. So, ESPN costs are going up, people like Olbemann and Simmons represent lots of salary costs, so simple math makes (and made), them both vulnerable.

    But the other reason the two personalities were jettisoned is perhaps more interesting and instructive to the rest of us. ESPN, as we can see from the sports rights fees issues above, is essentially in the business of broadcasting live sports events - NFL game, NBA games, MLB games, etc. That is the 'product' they provide to their audience and sell to their advertisers, and as we see above, pay tremendous and increasing fees to acquire. Everything has to be about generating an adequate return on those investments. People like Simmons and Olbermann, (and hundreds of others at ESPN), exist mainly to enhance the product - talk about the games, analyze the strategies, provide insight to the outcomes, and be entertaining while doing all of these things. But none of those things are the actual product - they only support the product. Simmons and Olbermann are more or less the back office, while the folks that acquire and produce the games, (and sell the ads), are the revenue generators. 

    Simmons and Olbermann are (mostly) Genral and Administrative costs to be trimmed, not significant Top Line drivers, (it has been reported that Grantland has never been profitable and podcasts, even Simmons' are notoriously difficult to monetize, and Olbermann's show was not a big revenue producer).

    And when you are G&A, no matter how funny and glib and well-known, your heads are always going to be first up on the chopping block when budget cuts are looming. You have to understand where you fit in the organization, not just on the org chart, but on the Income Statement.

    At ESPN, and I suppose where you work too, Product drives the Top Line. Not all talent does however. And good luck to folks who can't tell the difference.

    Tuesday
    Jun232015

    We don't ask you for free iPhones

    In case you missed it, pop star Taylor Swift laid the smack down on one of the world's most powerful corporations, Apple, when her pressure made Tim Cook and company back down on their plans to not pay artist royalties during the three-month free trial period for the new Apple Music service.

    For more details, here is the gist of the issue, from a recent piece in The Atlantic:

    Swift had intervened in a struggle brewing for weeks between Apple and the independent music labels, publishers, and artists it was negotiating with to license songs for the company’s forthcoming on-demand streaming service, Apple Music. The sticking point: To lure customers to sign up upon launch, Apple would offer a free three-month trial period, during which, it proposed, it would not pay artists when their songs were streamed. Swift took to Tumblr on Saturday to explain she would withhold her most recent album, 1989,because Apple’s terms were “shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.”

    After digesting Taylor's take, Apple relented, and stated that they would, in fact, pay streaming royalties to participating artists during consumers three month free trial period. 

    So Taylor was able to win, to make the corporate behemoth blink, and get them to change their stance on paying artists for their work, even as they were themselves giving away that work during the three month free trial period for Apple Music.

    What can we learn or at least consider more generally from the Taylor v. Apple drama?

    Three things that I can think of...

    1. People just can't be expected to work for free. It doesn't matter if you are Taylor Swift and would not really be impacted by missing three months worth of streaming royalties or if you are an emerging artist that is looking to make there mark, giving away creative content to giant corporations is not sustainable for most artists. In a world where corporations of all kinds are desperate for ideas and content, the idea that creators should just give away that content is insane.

    2. Individuals can amass tremendous influence - if they work for it. Sure, Apple is the largest company in the world. But Swift, even as an individual, has earned influence and leverage from her smart development and cultivation of her fans. She interacts with them, gives them significant attention, values them, and thus has created a fiercely loyal following. Even one person can match the power of a massive, global brand like Apple.

    3. The only way for anyone to have power and security is to be a creator. Apple and Spotify and Tidal all rely on the creative output of thousands and thousands of creative artists for their product. Most of these artists individually don't have the popularity and power of Swift and thus can't wield the power of Swift. But, together they collectively comprise all of the product that Apple and Spotify are trying to monetize. And beyond that, being a creator, a creative, is one of the only ways that anyone has of ensuring their own long tern sustainability and viability. Your creative work is the only thing that distinguishes you from everyone else, and even the robots. Guard your work carefully.

    I am pretty sure I would not be able to recognize a single Taylor Swift song. But I do recognize her smarts and her foresight.

    Nicely done, Ms. Swift.

    Friday
    Jun192015

    LISTEN: A classy way to make a career move - SVP's 'One Last Thing'

    Take seven minutes sometime this weekend and listen to ESPN Radio Host Scott Van Pelt bid farewell to the radio audience on today's final episode of the popular SVP and Russillo Show. Van Pelt is moving on to a (on paper) bigger role at ESPN, with his co-host Ryen Russillo set to take over solo host duties next week.

    In just a short seven minute monologue SVP hits all the right notes; he thanks and recognizes the team of contributors and behind the scenes folks that helped make the show possible (singling out specific and personal areas to highlight), he admits that bringing on a talented and creative co-host in Russillo forced him to be a better host himself, as he didn't want to be outshined on his own show, and is honest about realizing that in just about any successful career, there is a combination of luck, good timing, a great team, and hard work necessary to achieve whatever dreams and goals that one has.

    The clip is embedded below, (email and RSS subscribers may need to click through). It's worth a listen even if you are not a fan of the SVP and Russillo show or a fan of sports at all. 

    Great message on reflecting, caring about your team, and looking forward to the next thing, all in just seven minutes.

    Have a great weekend!