Only Until I Am Thirty Years Old

Posted by Richard Moran.

The same declaration has been repeated to me in New York City, in rural Montana, in suburban San Francisco and lots of other places. The people who make the declaration are all in their early twenties and full of vim and vinegar. The statement is, “I am only going to do this until I am thirty years old”.

The “this” each one is referring to is a job. For the New Yorker “this” was to work as an analyst at a private equity firm where she was tortured by pressure and long hours but the money is incredible for someone so young. “This” for the young man in Montana is to act as a fishing guide in the backcountry. The pay is bad and the work is physically rigorous but he is outside all the time doing what he loves. “This” for the San Franciscan is teaching in an inner-city high school. The pay is terrible but he feels like he is doing something meaningful and “paying back” society for a bit.

Setting a goal of “until I’m thirty” is a good idea but it can also be laden with career traps. Let’s just use our three examples.

For the New Yorker, the analyst role might be rewarding, but why torture yourself? If you are only doing something for the money until thirty, be careful. When it comes to money another statement I hear is, “I only intended to do this until I was thirty and that was twenty five years ago. What I really wanted to do was…..” The danger is, because of the money, you can never leave something that you may not want to do. Conversely, you may learn to like the job as it and you evolve.

For the fishing guide, at the end of each trip he says, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” His assumption is that his body will give out by the time he is thirty. Then what? It can be difficult to move from a role full of excitement to the routine. Ask any professional athlete.  Certain jobs can ONLY be done when you are young. If there is something that is pulling you in, do it. A role in the back office or a less rigorous fishing trip may be in the works later. Or, you might just get tired of releasing fish and complaining clients. Worst case scenario for the fishing guide is to say later that, “I wish I did that when I could have.”

For the teacher who is giving back, a commendation is in order but a plan needs to be in place for after thirty. Serving as a teacher is difficult and could prepare anyone for lots of careers. Like the analyst, however, don’t torture yourself. If you don’t like teaching or the pressure, don’t do it.

The “before thirty” mentality can be healthy. How will you know about something if you don’t try it? The twenties can be the best time to take career risks. You can always quit.

When you hit thirty you shouldn’t be using the words “woulda, coulda, shoulda”. You should be saying, “I am glad I did that, now what?”

About that Reputation

Posted by Richard Moran.

A new job title is being bantered about. The title is interesting and the concept sounds good. The job is – CHIEF REPUTATION OFFICER. I am intrigued.

Someone needs to be in charge of an organization’s reputation. Sometimes it’s not clear who that might be. Sometimes it is clear that it’s not the CEO. In fact, lately, it seems that some leaders are doing all they can to tear down their personal and organizations reputation.

Like some jobs that are created in a hurry, it is not clear what the Chief Reputation Officer would actually do when he or she shows up in the morning. A staff job with an unclear charter is not a real job, no matter how lofty the title. So for those organizations creating a Reputation Officer role, the following is a quick job description. Feel free to edit and use as appropriate.

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Chief Reputation Officer

Description

This is a leadership role designed to ensure that other leaders don’t even think about doing stupid stuff. If stupid stuff happens, the CRO will get involved. He or she will sit at the executive table and ask questions like, “Do we really want to do that?” Instead of pointing to a Values Statement on the wall, the CRO will be the living protector of the values. There will be hell to pay if the values are violated. Why did we spend so much time on creating values if they don’t matter?

Impact on the Business

If the reputation is hurt, the business suffers. (See Uber, The Weinstein Company and others.) If the reputation is enhanced, customer loyalty is enhanced and everyone is happy. (See Apple, BMW.) The fact that there is video everywhere means the CRO can almost always work with data.

Customers / Stakeholders

No one can hide. Everyone is a customer or a stakeholder when it comes to reputation, including the CEO and the maintenance staff.  The CRO should seek opportunities to enhance the reputation and be full of ideas and research.

Leadership & Teamwork

The CRO should have clout and face validity so that everyone in the organization knows that there is a new sheriff in town. Liam Neeson would make an excellent CRO.

Major Challenges

Some people think they won’t get caught and can do any thing they want even if it will hurt the organization’s reputation. Some people don’t understand that inappropriate behavior is not your friend at work (or anywhere). Some people drink too much whenever the alcohol is free, like at company events. Some people think that if the CEO can do that, I can do it too.

Qualifications

A previous leadership roll where you established clarity about “the way things work around here.”

Leadership Capabilities

  • Have an understanding of the difference between good and bad behavior.
  • Be ambitious about high standards
  • Make considered decisions every day.

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Maybe the reputation officer is like a priest or a rabbi who makes everyone feel guilty for misbehaving. It doesn’t matter. If the presence of someone who is in charge of reputation will help eliminate boorish behavior and establish a sterling reputation, then it is a job needed in every organization.

A reputation can change in a second based on someone doing something ill advised. And a tarnished reputation takes a long time to fix.

Don’t snicker. It’s about time for that Chief Reputation Officer, and I am all for it.

Communicating with the Boss (via the Chair)

Posted by Richard Moran.

Communicating with the boss is tricky. If all you ever do is say good things you may enter the world of being called a “suck up” and your colleagues will hate you. Even the boss doesn’t like a brown-noser.  If you are critical, especially in front of others, you may end up “spending more time with your family”.

The suggestion box went the way of the pager and fax machine. All employee surveys are generally too broad to provide feedback at the individual level.  An email is easily tracked. So how do you get that feedback to the boss? The Chair is sometimes the answer for communications.

It is important to distinguish between capital C Communications and communication about the things that the boss should know but no one has the gumption to voice.

Capital C Communications include “the strategy would be better if we expanded in to Latin America.” Or, “the customers are complaining about the lag time in service.” No need to bury that type of information. Say it out loud and often. You might help the company in big ways and even get a promotion.

The messages to the boss that are best served by leaving it on the chair at night are things the boss should know but no one will ever say.  Sample messages include:

  • Screaming at the sales team every day is not showing your best self. It won’t get better results and the team doesn’t like it.
  • Please don’t take a newspaper with you to the bathroom. You can do better.
  • If you say “at the end of the day” one more time I think my hair will catch on fire.
  • Showing favorites is never a good way to get the team to work harder.
  • The team is wondering why your door is closed all the time. Rumor is you’re looking for another job?
  • Communicating via Twitter or email is not as effective as getting us all in the conference room for an update every once in a while.

Messages like these are tough to deliver to someone who controls your future. But these are things a boss should know, albeit through a note on a chair. If the message is helpful and positive the boss might actually welcome the feedback, although maybe not at first.

(Be sure there are no video recording devices that can catch you around the boss’s chair as the messenger.)

Most people in any kind of a supervisory role are quick to say, “I want feedback”. No they don’t. Well, they do if the feedback is positive. Negative feedback is criticism. Especially if it’s about personal behavior, and it’s not what they want to hear.

Using the boss’s chair at night is only a metaphor for somehow ensuring that important messages are delivered for the good of the organization and the boss. Human nature is such that sometimes-helpful feedback needs to be anonymous.

What’s on your chair?