Friday, October 23, 2015

A Daily Waste of Time

During the often referred to 27-year gig I put the company on the email track long before our vendors and customers.  There was considerable executive talk about "who asked for this,"  "how much did this cost" and all the other standard questions asked by those maintaining the status quo.

By 2005 or so I started to think about collaboration opportunities as the limitations of email became apparent.  Certainly many of the social media and collaboration tools have shown their benefits.  People have trouble changing.  By 2009 I'd dropped most print publications focusing on digital forms, quickly moving to content pulled by me rather than pushed.

Despite that change I found myself sludging through a lot of email which was increasingly of little value.  Today I have at least six or eight email accounts only two or three of which are used.  I've understood the weaknesses now for almost a decade but still spend time daily looking through my inbox.

Gmail has good spam filters.  Today I received an email from someone letting me know that the federal program to which I'd applied (I'd not) was no longer available but I could call.  Uh huh.  I learned the unwise use of Groupon and the knockoffs but still get three of those a day.  Despite a respite from gardening in 2015 I get four emails daily offering 'deals that won't last.'  The New York Times sends me a dozen emails daily on topics I'm sure to like.  It takes me a lot of time each day to ignore or delete the messages that I don't even want to receive.

I do like to receive Seth Godin's emails.  A recent issue spoke about all the great podcasts but how there were becoming so many that it was impractical to listen.  I cannot even get on any kind of schedule to watch Ted Talks.  It goes without saying that I've also 'Liked' so many things on Facebook that any contact with real friends there is lost just as it is in email.  With texting and snail mail and electronic feeds, email, etc., I'm pretty much working full time without even having a job.

About twenty years ago I  made a conscious decision to cut back on TV news, some newspapers and a bunch of print magazines; it was all too much.  Now I want to be informed, to learn and to grow but it's time to revisit the digital intake.  No one is going to starve moving from a tablespoon to a teaspoon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How to select employees and Presidents

Presidential Candidate Ties
During the 30+ years that I hired employees I learned a couple of things.  You need to make an evaluation quickly.  Resume's went into the 'reject' or 'look again' piles after about 90 seconds...sorry.  Interviews that took a while were good.  Candidates need to ask questions that show they understand organizations and business relationships.  Without treading into the forbidden topics (gender, age, gender preference, race, marital status, children, etc.) you need to find out how they communicate, what they like to do in their work (e.g. management styles appreciated) and a bit about their personal life.  Musicians were typically good hires in technology.  Heavy metal fans were not.

You do spend a few brain cells determining how they fit in.  If it looks like they slept in their clothes it's not going to work.  My clothing guideline once hired was "don't stink," "don't wear clothes with holes" and "try not to wear the same thing every day."  I had to change the last qualification once I began hiring bicycle commuters.

Tassel Shoe
Odd questions are good.  Good employees need to be able to field those questions when dealing with a manager who like to run the bases backwards.  I also make a point of glancing at shoes if the candidates were male.  I never had good luck with employees who had shoes with tassels.  That included subordinates, peers and my supervisors.

It's been a contentious decade in Washington and the ongoing election run has left me watching the debates, following Twitter and Facebook feeds and having many personal conversations, the old days when we talked to each other in person or on the photo...retro dialogue.

That brings this to the point.  The debates and images are all from the waist up, and with modesty panels on the seating provisions the tassel shoe criteria is off (or under) the table.  Yes, this is about male candidates, not because there are not qualified female candidate but because it's late at night, I'm trying to be serious and clever and I'll have to re-think this tomorrow.

It's down to ties.  Some of the candidates have official photos where the tie is just not snugged up.  I can see part of the button underneath.  My employees rarely wore ties but for a photo you should really check that.  I used photos for the candidates that were one of the first three yielded by a Google search.  These might not be the tie styles that each wears but it is what people are seeing.

One of the candidates, were I interviewing him, would have heard what I rarely said just two minutes into an interview.  "I think I've seen enough."  That tie should be obvious.  There is also another boldly patterned tie and a solid color tie that would have led to rejection.  The brighter red tie with the small pattern was just too bright..also a reject.  The purple tie person would have been asked back for a second interview.  My suspicion is that he'd have worn the same purple striped tie a second time and that would have led to rejection.  First time, interesting.  Second time...don't you have any other ties?

I do like ties but hope to never wear another one in this life.

The red white and blue tie was nice with a good balance and confidence about it.  Actually it was the best tie.  He also had nice hair (not that that influenced me).  The red patterned tie and blue patterned tie would have also been asked for a second interview.  From my Google search I know that the blue patterned tie must be the guy's favorite; it shows up all the time.  Perhaps he buys them in bulk, getting a good deal.  That would be a good sign.

For me it's down to three candidates without considering their party or shoes.  Later I'll find some similar meaningful approach to selecting female candidates.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"My cat is sick and I have to go home"

There's a scene in the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire" where Robin William is talking about families.  It's something like "some families have a mommy and a daddy, some have only one of them and some families have two mommies or two daddies."

During my career of attempting to manage employees it was clear that mentoring them, knowing a bit about their lives and being a resource and a buffer to the corporate world was the key to their growth and the organizations success.  Talented people have sick kids, unfaithful spouses, dying parents, broken cars, etc.  One worker, a single woman, confronted me and said "I don't have children.  Why should xxxx get an hour off to go to a school play?"  I suggested that she take an hour off and go do whatever she wanted.  The next day I asked about her cat which had been ailing.  This led to a suggestion that she take the cat to the vet.  "Don't I have to take vacation for that?"  Frequently we name our pets after someone we know and we all talk about dogs and cats with the expression "they're just like family."  "Just go to the vet but do me a favor and don't tell our department that you left to get a distemper shot."

You have to find a balance.  New age companies have pet days and strive to make the workplace like the home place.  It's a small risk with a huge reward.

Ethics, Vortex, Failure

As I evaluate organizations, their ethics, their market positioning and their 'brand,' how we recognize them and how they portray themselves, 'mission statements' and 'vision statements' are often suggested for review.  More time has been spent crafting those statements than living those statements.  Companies that ensure that these words are 'etched in stone' frequently have missed the changing of the seasons and probably still deny global warming, each of which is an opportunity for looking forward rather than wishing for the past.  It's a whirlpool (or vortex) of compelling but superficial thought.

During the past week I've woken up two or three times around 3:00 AM from a bad, bad recurring dream.  I'm in a corporate strategic planning meeting.  Ninety percent of the time is spent listening to executive presentations about issues most already understand.  Five percent of the time is spent on lunch.  The remaining five percent is spent wishing that it was over.  Since this was a dream I pinched myself and went back to sleep.  Some companies ban meetings that include more than three people.

Robert Deniro, Anne Hathaway
 Aging gracefully and progressively is good.  In the past I never would have gone to see this film, wishing for the Robert Deniro of "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull," but my better half thought it would be "fun."  He plays a 70 year old phone book executive.  My experience is not yet as pointless as phone book.

I only fell asleep once.

He contribution to her exploding internet fashion business was honesty, solving ignored but annoying problems and listening and observing more than he talked.  Working executives might want to watch this retired executive.
 Nine years ago we purchased this property.  The intent was to have a couple of steers in the pasture that we would not name and then would eat.  I've parceled off part of it for our orchard.  Not that the gate needs repair I'm thinking vegan.
 In the far distance there are twin towers which replaced a single tower half again as tall which came down during construction, no witnesses, bringing seven workers to their death.  There's also a raptor on a rooftop much closer eating a rabbit.  I've pondered the tower workers every time I've looked at the towers for twenty years.

Selfie Selfie
I guess I'm starting a new trend with the selfie selfie.  Being an early adopter is of little value unless you make money, get to name the process or thing or it leads to world peace.

Not making money is not a failure unless your only goal is to make money. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Emotional Detachment...Various

About jobs...
Slowly finding answers
During my career positions where I had to lay off employees or terminate them...I guess 'terminate' is a pretty bad word...all the work was the preparation to do it.  Typically the meeting was pretty scripted.  You describe what would happen, simply did not negotiate or engage and described what nice things you were doing as part of the 'exit package.'  Usually an HR person was present; my goal is to some day have the opportunity to fire an HR person.  HR people provide some standardization to the flow of people in and out of organizations.  Good CEOs and COOs ensure that HR people do not drive the organization to 'industry standards' in practices, compensation, benefits, etc., where 'standard' is unfortunately 'average.'

Having been gone two years it appears that I've gone through my grieving process.  I miss about five people (it used to be eight).  I don't miss the commute, the politics, the wasted time, the opposition, the esprit de corps.  I miss the money but that can be replaced in other income opportunities.  The same work can be elsewhere.  Solving problems for the owners to make money is being replaced with solving problems for me to make money.  If I re-read this paragraph it appears the logical conclusion is that I miss nothing.  That's good.  I did not miss anyone under my management once they were gone I guess the organization does not miss me, either. That's what I'd expect. 

Someone I know via a blog has taken a job to provide 'security' or money that was inconsistent in his private business.  That's understandable.  Right now I'm glad to be rid of the security.  One my co-workers, himself 'terminated' a year or two before I left once received advice from me to perhaps temper his comments and style.  His response was that he would never change, never compromise his self-directed style and integrity (his description was actually more colorful in a Navy slang sort of way).  In the two or three years I worked with him I came to the realization that I'd compromised my character and become corporate.  This guy was an architect so I'll pay tribute to his influence on me with architect Frank Gehry's photo.

Architect Frank Gehry

Back to termination...once someone was gone I did not think about them much.  Some provided value or intellectual diversity and those were a loss.  Strange as it may be I'm friends with a couple of people I terminated on Facebook.  That probably means something.

Car Connection...
My commuter car became terminal with 140,000 miles on the odometer.  A new F-150 was purchased.  No one seems to want to buy the 2004 F-150 with 14x,xxx miles on it.  Is its' death imminent?  In the last month a left rear axle seal has gone bad, the passenger door window motor has failed, it incurred $1500 in damage from flying concrete and now the seat has worn through.  It looks like a rodent-chewed hole.  It's an ass wear hole.  Now I'm driving a truck where small parts of the seat leave with you, adhering to your pants.  I put some duct tape on the hole, first black which looked bad, later replaced with grey (the basic duct tape color) which also stuck to my pants.  My truck appears to not want to leave.  This, too, might be a message.  The plan was to let the truck go and buy a $6-8k vehicle to drive around.  A clearer head would recognize that I have a $6-8k vehicle to drive around.  The F-150 is trying to tell me that.

F-150 Seat Hole

Congress is no longer able to discuss, negotiate, compromise and move forward.  We're becoming a laughingstock.  Organizations (profit and non-profit) clean house when this happens.

Small business...
It's been very busy at the small business.  Fortunately nothing has broken lately.

Job Search...
The arrow points at two things.  The first is a set of double towers about five miles distant.  They replace a single tower fifty percent taller that fell during construction.  Seven workers came down with that collapse.  I think of them every time I drive by, each time I see a base jumper climbing, each winter day as the ice peels off.

In line with the towers is a raptor on a ventilation stack about a block away consuming a rabbit on the roof of a Subway shop.  

Height has it's disadvantages and advantages.

I have just a few more things to work through before becoming more job-aggressive/income-aggressive.