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    Notes from the Road #24 - The things you see/hear during 8 hours in the Sky Club

    The details don't matter, but let's set this up that due to a flight delay and some inflexible travel plans, I spent about 8 hours or so in the Delta Sky Club in Detroit yesterday.

    The Sky Club is awesome, by the way. If you travel more than once a month, I think the expense is worth it. Nice place to sit and work. Food and snacks options are getting better. Decent selection of complimentary booze (we will come back to that one in a minute). So making the disclaimer that the rest of this is not a knock on the Club or Delta (who I love). It is more a commentary on what happens in these kind of environments where people seem to drift in this weird, 'I am working but not working' pattern combined with 'I may or may not be drinking Jack Daniels while I sit on this 1PM conference call.'

    So presented to you in more or less chronological order - the things I saw and heard after spending essentially an entire workday in the Sky Club.

    11:00 AM - Not technically in the Sky Club, but just outside the door to the Club, is a currency exchange counter. The person on line in front of me requested almost $10,000 worth of Philippine Pesos. The exchange rate is about 54 pesos/USD. So $10K is a lot of pesos. So much so that the currency exchange counter tapped out at about $2800 worth of pesos. The dude basically walked out of that counter with every peso in Detroit. Kind of a bummer for the next person on the 5:30PM flight to Manila who is going to be out of luck trying to score a couple of pesos.

    11:30AM - This particular Sky Club as a self-service bar area. You walk up, pour yourself a beer, or a glass of wine, or something a little stronger from the collection of booze. The self-service Coke machine is in the same spot too, so as I was waiting to fix myself a nice Diet Coke, an older gentlemen in a suit was pouring himself a scotch on the rocks. He then took a sip of said scotch, said something like 'Smooooooth', and proceeded to try and convince the woman behind him in the drink line to have a sip of the drink as well. He was for real trying to convince a total stranger to sip off of his scotch at 11:30 in the morning. For the record, she declined.

    1:00PM - Airline clubs are getting more and more crowded these last few years. Maybe it's the booming economy. Maybe corporate travel budgets are expanding. Who knows. But on a weekday the Sky Club in Detroit is packed. I was sitting/working, (I promise), at one of the few desk/office chair setups in the back part of the Club. Nice and quiet, comfortable spot to work. Near the self-service bar too. A prime spot. Only four desks here and all are taken. So what happened? Two or three guys were literally lined up near the space waiting to pounce at the sight of someone packing up their stuff and exiting the space. For one person, the wait was getting too long and he tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how much longer I was going to be, like the desk was a treadmill at a too-crowded hotel fitness center. How much longer? I am going to be here all night, pal. I'm moving in. I am putting up new wallpaper I am so moved in.

    2:00PM - Phone job interview! Not for me, but the person right behind me was doing a phone interview with a candidate. So tell me about yourself? Why did you decide to go to MIT? What else do you like to do for fun? (Are we even allowed to ask that?). Interviews are the worst. I bet he/she went to MIT to get an awesome job with great perks like a corporate Sky Club membership.

    2:30PM - Guy sitting near me has been on a conference call for about 15 minutes. He has said the word 'Omnichannel' five times. I am pretty sure no one knows what that word means. Including him.

    3:00PM - Just remembered to set up my 'Out of the Office' email auto-reply. FYI - I am out of the office. I am in the Sky Club. I may be here a long time. Thankfully, the supply of carrots, celery, and ranch dip seems unlimited.

    3:15PM - My fitness tracker app on my phone just buzzed me to let me know I have not been active in the last three hours and it is probably time to get up and stretch. Probably a good idea. Nothing like sitting in the Sky Club for 8 hours before getting on a 7 hour flight. I wonder how many steps it is to the self-serve bar?

    3:18PM - It's 47 steps to the self-serve bar.

    3:30PM - Getting up to walk about the Club a bit. Leaving my laptop open to the BLS 'Jolts' report page just because.

    4:00PM - It is right about the time when many of the Sky Club road warrior types stop even pretending they are working. Guy near me has solitaire going on his laptop, some kind of a movie or video on an iPAd, and is talking to one of his buddies on the phone. Yes I agree, Aspen will be EPIC this winter.

    4:10PM - Nothing to do with the Sky Club, but this trend of people doing 'selfie' LinkedIn videos has to stop. These are horrible. You are actually making LinkedIn even worse, which is not easy to do. 

    4:45PM - Admittedly, I have wound things down a bit and have fired up a replay of the Milwaukee Bucks v. Charlotte Hornets game from the other night. Got what looked like an evil eye from yet another Club member who wanted to take over my prime seat/desk location. How do you know I'm not working? I could be a sports writer or something. Yeah, that's it.

    4:48PM - The 'Ford Keys to the Game' for the Hornets were 'Control your emotions' and 'Don't freak out'. Decent advice. Probably more generally applicable beyond the Hornets game.

    5:00PM - The food and beverage area has two large TVs mounted to the wall about 20 feet apart. One TV is playing Fox News while the other is tuned to CNN. I think that is a smart move by Delta. Like Michael Jordan once said, (I am paraphrasing a little) - 'Both Democrats and Republicans buy sneakers.' And airplane tickets.

    5:05PM - I like Brook Lopez on the Bucks. One of my favorite players. Giannis for MVP this season. Lock it in.

    5:15PM - BANDWITH CRISIS! So many people pounding the Sky Club wifi that people are having a hard time getting connected. Hell hath no fury like a Regional Assistant Director Manager who is not able to access the Penske file. if I were a better person I would stop streaming games from NBA.com. If only.

    5:45PM - Have to admit, I am getting a little punchy. Maybe I should have scheduled some kind of phone interview or a call where I got to say 'Omnichannel' a few times. But if all goes well, I am nearing the end of this stint in the Club. One more 47 step walk to the bar and maybe a few more cubes of cheddar and a couple of carrot sticks and I will be good to go. It's a marathon, not a sprint. A marathon with a self-serve open bar. Which, if they had that in more marathons, would spike the popularity of the sport.

    6:00PM - Observation: 74% of people in the Sky Club like to call someone they know and tell them they are, in fact, in the Sky Club. I can't really think of many other places that drive people to alert someone else of their current whereabouts.

    6:15PM - Finally leaving the Sky Club to head to the gate. Not quite 8 hours in the Club, more like 7 and a half. Felt like longer. a lot longer. Hopefully there lays ahead a nice flight, maybe one movie, and sweet, sweet sleep. Let's hope.

    Have a great weekend!


    n = 1

    1. Beloved footwear brand Crocs is in a bit of trouble. Might want to stock up on some just in case. I did the same move when I learned that Twinkies were being discontinued a few years back.

    2. There was some really interesting coverage on what auto manufacturer GM is doing to try and better control employee healthcare costs and improve outcomes. It is clear that all of the traditional strategies they have been trying up until now have not moved the needle.

    3. One of the biggest stories in college sports was recently broke by a reporter that ESPN laid off earlier in the year. Tough to get 'scooped' by someone you decided was not essential to your business.

    4. From Academia - 'Compensation and Incentives in the Workplace' by Edward P. Lazear. "A sample of some of the most applicable papers are discussed with the goal of demonstrating that compensation, incentives, and productivity are inseparably linked."

    5. Still more from the market for truck drivers from Fortune. Between automation influences, labor force demographic changes, and increasing regulatory pressures, hiring truck drivers has never been harder.

    6. Infographic (are they still a thing?) 'Debunking 8 Myths about AI in the Workplace'

    7. The English Premier League season kicks off this weekend. If you need a team to support, I recommend Liverpool. This is our year for sure.

    8. Trish McFarlane and I did a great HR Happy Hour Show earlier this week with guest Erica Volini from Deloitte on the 2018 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report. You can listen to the replay HERE or on your favorite podcast app.

    9. Speaking of the HR Happy Hour Show, our new version of the show for the Amazon Alexa platform just crossed the 50 episode mark. To listen to the show just add the HR Happy Hour Skill to your Echo device's Daily Flash Briefing.

    10. It's one month until the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. Check out the agenda and register here. Use my code STEVE300 for $300 off your HR Tech Conference pass.

    Have a great weekend!


    Fourth of July Rewind: The Best Introduction Ever

    NOTE: Reprising a post from July 6, 2016 - enjoy before you fire up the grill!

    This is the best speaker/performer/sportsman introduction that you will hear all year - maybe ever.

    It comes to us courtesy of the Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest held on July 4th and delivered by Master of Ceremonies George Shea, as he introduced competitive eating legend, and former champion Joey Chestnut.

    Forgive the very shaky quality of the video embedded below (email and RSS subscribers click through), as it was recorded by me with my phone from a DVR replay of the event.

    Trust me, you want to give this a minute and a few seconds to watch/listen.


    Here's the full text of the intro, in case the dodgy audio was tough to decipher:

    Two years ago on this stage he asked his girlfriend to marry him. And then last year one week before the contest the wedding was called off. And then on the 4th of July he lost the title of World Champion. And he was beaten and he was broken and he was alone. And nothing that he owned had any value, and his thoughts had no shape and no meaning. And the words fell from his mouth without sound. And he was lost and empty-handed, standing like a boy without friends on the school yard. But then he remembered that he is Joey Chestnut. And there is a time for pain and there is a time for punishment. A time for doubt and a time for dominance. A time for forbearance and a time for fury. And there is never, ever a time for submission. Ladies and gentlemen, the former champion of the world here to take back what was once his  - Joey Chestnut!

    Did that bring chills down your spine, or what?


    Why write about this, or bring attention to it at all?

    Because it is a perfect example of someone, (Shea), going the extra, extra mile. It is a master class in combining facts, context, emotion, and excitement to make his audience interested in and excited about what is about to happen.

    Because it is an amazing 1:15 showing a person (Shea) at the absolute top of his game. And not for nothing, shortly after this introduction, Chestnut went on to reclaim his Nathan's Hot Dog Champions title, (and Mustard Belt).

    The next time it is your job to introduce someone for a speech or a presentation you'd do well to watch Shea's introduction of Chestnut a few times to find some inspiration. 

    And the next time I get introduced for a presentation, I am going to demand that George Shea gets the job.

    Happy 4th of July!


    Please don't follow this email advice

    I don't know why I still keep the Inc. site in my feed reader, (remember feed readers?), because about 80% of the articles are inane '5 Ways to Crush XYZ process' or 'Celebrity ABC in one sentence gave us a master class in leadership'. Awful. 

    So it was with a kind of hate read perspective that I clicked through my Feedly link to this latest gem from Inc. - A study of 386 million emails says this is a perfect time to send an email'. As I mentioned, I clicked ready to hate the piece, and hate it I did.

    Here are the four pieces of Email advice which drive increases in email open and reply rates that Inc. gleaned from a study of 386 million emails sent by the provider Yeswar. I will list each of the four, and because you demand no less, provide my thoughts one by one.

    1. Open with a short, direct informal greeting. 'Hey' seems to work best

    SMB - Short and informal seems fine to me. But I don't like 'Hey' unless it is with someone you have a fairly deep work history with. I know this is quibbling, but can we go with 'Hi' instead? And never, ever lead with 'Greetings'.

    2. End with gratitude. The three word phrase 'Thanks in advance' had the highest response rate.

    SMB - I am pretty sure 'Thanks' would do. I actually prefer the slightly more formal 'Thank you' as it also feels more personal at the same time. And the 'Advance' part also feels a little like you are trying to guilt me into doing something - responding, taking some action, etc. Again, I know I am quibbling here. But it is my blog, so so there.

    3. Save your important emails for the weekend, if possible, when there is less competition 

    SMB - Now you have gone and done it Inc. You have ticked me off. Your advice to get more attention and get noticed is to pile in to the days when most folks are taking a sanity break from the incessant demands of email. Sure, the data may tell you this is the right thing to do in order to get a few percentage points increase in open rates, but is that worth infringing on most people's days off? Does anyone really want to read even more email on the weekend?

    4. If you can swing it, send emails between 6AM and 7AM, or else around 8PM

    SMB - Assuming they still mean to send said emails on thw weekend, to me, it doesn't really matter what time on the weekend you hit 'send'. For most folks, weekend emails are just going to accumulate into a mass of 'unread' stuff that you have to wade through on Monday morning, (or I suppose, on Sunday night, if this data can be trusted). 

    A few year ago someone advised me to send 'important' work-related emails, at least to people who are tough to get to respond to messages, on Sunday nights, for the same kinds of reasons that were pointed out in the Inc. piece. While the advice, at least according to this data, might be good, I didn't follow it back then, and I am not following it now. 

    I just don't want to be the person who hits you up with an email.at 7PM on a Sunday night, a time where for most of us we are taking a little break, spending time with friends or family, working on our own projects, or even just zoning out with some Netflix. I just don't want to assume that my message is valuable enough to infringe upon 'your' time. Your Executive Time even.

    Ok, that's it, I am out. Time to have a look at the unread email that came in over the weekend. I will admit to not checking it over the weekend. Take that, Inc.

    Have a great week!


    Steve's 12 Rules For Life

    Apologies if this '12 Rules for Life' meme is a bit worn out (I confess to have only just seen it in the last week or so here and here and since I am pretty much absent on most forms of social media these days I have a feeling these kinds of things come and go and I usually don't catch them), but since it reminded me a bit of blogging say, 10 years ago when these kinds of themes were passed around in blog 'tags' and comments, I thought I would give it a shot.

    So here goes - in no order of importance, relevance, research, or general applicability. 

    And, there are lots of more important rules - like the ones concerning family, relationships, etc. that I have no desire to even try to offer advice, let alone rules. Consider these the most unimportant, but somehow vital 12 rules for life you will ever read. If you read them that is.

    And now here goes...

    1. Pick up the tab - You don't have to do this all the time, just sometimes. There is nothing more awkward than handing a server or bartender seven different credit cards to try and settle a $132 check. Pick up the tab and you just made six friends. And made a deposit in the bank of good karma. You may need that one day.

    2. No talking in a public restroom - with the exception of someone in authority if they need to shout 'The building is on fire, everyone evacuate!'

    3. Do whatever you can to control your schedule. Most of us will end up with some kind of job or career where bosses, colleagues, customers, clients, etc. all have some kind of claim on our time. The more you can limit the number of people who can lock up your time and the amount of time you have to be available to others, the more you will be able to focus on what you truly want to do, and I bet you will be happier overall. Call it your own 'Executive Time' if you have to, and block your own calendar.

    4. Don't stress over the dessert or the third slice of pizza or the french fries or whatever you consider your dietary weakness. No one ever looks back on their life and says 'Gee, I wish I drank more water and ate more salad.' 

    5. Jog/walk/move a little bit more. Sometimes when I travel I have to take two pretty long connecting flights in a row. And sometimes I see the some of the same people get off the first plane, where we had all been sitting for three hours or so, and immediately park themselves down in another seat to wait an hour just to get on another three hour flight where once again, we will all be sitting. It baffles me. And while you are at it, you don't need to find the closest parking space to the grocery store or post office or theater. Park a little farther out and walk for two minutes. It's fun. 

    6. Never place a bet on any animal that can't talk. Betting on ones that can talk is also advised against, but it is fun. Except for tennis. Don't bet on tennis, it is pretty likely the match is fixed.

    7. Don't spend too much time on social networks. I know, that 'rule' is everywhere. But even Zuckerberg has admitted that Facebook (heavy use of Facebook anyway), is not that great for you. Check it like you check your snail mail - a quick scan for a minute as you bring it in from the mailbox and then maybe for 15-20 minutes later as you sort out what is important, what can be trashed and what you need to read. Reading long lists on blogs is, however, very admirable and good for you. So keep doing that. Well done.

    8. Sign up for TSA Pre-check. Even if you only travel a few times a year it is worth every cent. 

    9. Figure out the three things or types of work that you like to do the most, (or which you want to become more proficient), and make sure you reserve time every week to work on these three things. Keep (loose) track of the time you spend on these things and do a kind a self-audit every few months to determine two things. One, are you actually making time to do the things you really want to do? And two, are you getting better at these things? I think the thing that holds us back the most at work and maybe even in life, is that we are not good or comfortable with self-examination and making an honest assessment of things. If that sounds like a bit of a confession/admission you are right.

    10. Set expectations (where you can). In a project or a negotiation or even just 'normal' business, people are generally going to be happy or at least satisfied as long as they are not disappointed or surprised. If you have to, set an email auto-responder during your busy times, (maybe all the time), that lays out when people can expect to hear back from you or the time it will take for you to take some action. If you email me today, (it's a Thursday as I write this), and I auto-respond I will get back to you by Monday COB, then at least you understand not to expect a reply on Friday. This is also a confession/admission of sorts.

    11. It's ok to be a snob about something, (wine, beer, cheese, movies, books, etc.) but not everything. Popular culture is called that because it's you know, popular. Lots and lots of people drink Coors Light, eat at Taco Bell, and go on Dunkin' runs. Jumanji grossed about $340M in 2017. And the people that drink Coors Light and hit the Taco Bell on the way to catch Jumanji? You have to work with them, serve them as customers, and socialize with them. You are not any better than them because you like some triple-hopped craft IPA that was brewed in someone's backyard. 

    12. Don't listen to anyone's rules about how to live. Except for number 8 above. You will never regret not waiting in the 'regular' line at security.

    If you decide to post your '12 Rules' somewhere let me know in the comments, or add a rule or two of your own there. 

    Have a great day!