Olympic Notice

Posted by Richard Moran.

The Beijing Olympics were a cauldron of lessons. I am sure junior swimmers, runners and gymnastics gleaned big lessons about hard work and winning or losing with grace. For those of us in the workplace, there was another key lesson: People Notice. We continue to forget that people notice. There was more than a little chatting and blogging about the Mayor of London when he took the stage at the closing ceremony in Beijing.

Before a formal ceremony like that, one would think that Mayor Boris Johnson would take note that his suit didn’t fit and that it would have to stay unbuttoned. Or, one would think that when he asked his staff, “How do I look?” someone would have been able to find a tailor in China that could whip up a larger suit in little time. Or, one would think that before appearing before 90,000 people live and probably billions on TV, one would understand the proper way to dress for such a ceremony. But he didn’t, which led everyone to ask, “Why didn’t the Mayor of London button his jacketIt looked like it didn’t fit.”

It made some wonder, I am sure, if he doesn’t know how to find a suit that fits, how will he pull off the herculean task of leading London as Olympic host? Just as Tom Peters always talked about how, if you spot a bunch of garbage in the seat pocket in front of you on an airplane, it makes you think the maintenance on the plane is shoddy and the plane might crash. What the good Mayor wanted to convey was the excitement that I am sure Londoners feel about the prospect of hosting the games. What he did convey was a guy who doesn’t know that he can’t button his suit coat. People noticed.

When I was a student nodding off in large lecture halls, I convinced myself that the professor wouldn’t notice. When I was an instructor in those large lecture halls full of hundreds of students, I noticed if any single one was asleep.

At work, everyone notices too. Don’t forget.

If you create a Facebook page full of inappropriate content, people notice. If you tell a racist or sexist joke, people notice. If you worry more about your Blackberry than the interactions at a meeting, people notice. If you pick your nose in your car, people notice.

As a venture capitalist, we notice if the management team quibbles during presentations. We notice if entrepreneurs don’t have a real command of the data or product. We notice if they are late, take too much time, or are not committed to making a company successful.

Somewhere along the line a rumor spread that went something like this, “Don’t worry, no one will notice.”It was a false rumor and don’t believe it. Others do notice and it effects much more than you think including your success.

Mr. Mayor, I have some names of tailors in London I can refer you to. Next time you are on stage, people will be noticing.

 

Staycations

Posted by Richard Moran.

A gallon of gas is now more expensive than a bottle of wine, at least according to some senior citizens I know. An entire string of unintended consequences has resulted from this sorry reality. Chief among these stark realities is the “staycation” and all of its implications.

The staycation is a 2008 made up word with more than faint negative implications like disambiguate. To the world in general, staycation means, “I am broke with an adjustable rate mortgage and worried about my job, not to mention the airlines are charging for checked luggage and coffee, so I think I will stay home instead of taking that European trip and feel good about it so I will tell my friends I am on a Staycation!”On a closer to home level, staycation means everyone wants to stay with us.

In the Bay Area we are accustomed to visitors. In general, we like to share this beautiful spot with others.The summer of ’08 and the concept of staycation may have altered all of that forever. The difference between a regular guest and a staycationer is in expectations. A staycationer believes and expects he or she can stay until the war in Iraq ends or until gas dips below $2.00/gallon. A guest brings good wine, helps drink it all at a long relaxing dinner, makes the bed and leaves before lunch the next day.

 

A staycationer invites their friends to stay at your house and doesn’t tell you before the strangers show up.A guest is thankful to receive an invitation. A staycationer believes that someone will show up to replace the laundry detergent, toilet paper, and dirty towels. (That someone would be me.) A guest never uses any of the above.

As we come to the end of Summer of ’08, a casual reader might infer that we had too many guests this season. Like trends in pop culture, business success and voting, we reached the “tipping point” when it came to guests. I was about to start pointing the tips of arrows at the prospect of any new guests. So for those who are considering a staycation, here are pieces of advice that will make the stay better for you and your host:

 

  • Never use the word staycation. In fact, the word “stay” should always be avoided. Uses phrases like “stop by” or “brunch”.
  • Bring no dogs or other pets. That spidoodle or labrapug may be cute on a walk with a leash down the street in Palo Alto but it is more like dog hair and poop to your host. Bringing the dog can look like a potential long stay.
  • Wear work clothes and bring gloves. You might be welcome longer if it appears that you are willing to clean the garage or move the firewood pile.
  • Read the audience. If the host doesn’t offer coffee in the morning or says the fires are approaching and we need to evacuate even though you smell no smoke; it’s time to restuff the backpack.
  • Yellow police tape that makes most of the house off-limits is always a warning sign that you have encroached. If you are not welcome to use the bathrooms leave as fast as you can.

These are just a few of the tips for visitors gleaned from the staycation summer. No doubt, anyone with that “spare” bedroom knows of what I speak. If I could determine who invented the word staycation, I would redirect some visitors to his house for a good long stay. I hope the summer word next year isHawaii.

 

Talking Talent

Posted by Richard Moran.

I once had a boss tell me that business wouldn’t be difficult if it wasn’t for people. He was right. People are what make organizations interesting and difficult at the same time. What is more, people are the key part of organizational success, or not, so we might as well get used to it.

Harkin back to Management 101, remember when you wrote that paper on the famous Hawthorne Experiments? For those who copied someone else’s report, experiments at the Western Electric plant in the 1920’s proved that short term improvement is caused by observing worker performance. Things haven’t changed all that much. Talent responds to measurement.

We have great tools now to monitor performance and help individuals be successful. SuccessFactors is all about making that happen in an effective and efficient way. Like the simplicity of the Hawthorne Experiments, I still think that people, no matter what the rank or level, only want three questions answered regarding their work:

 

  1. What’s My Job? A question that shouldn’t be a hard one but too many organizations have trouble with resulting in people wandering around through the bushes and the brambles wondering what the hell they are supposed to do. Should I look busy? I am not talking about a written job description that no one pays any attention to. I am talking about when someone shows up in the morning, do they know what they are supposed to do and is it what they thought they signed up for? My hypothesis is that the reason why so many people spend hours on eBay or Facebook when they are supposed to be working is because they are not sure what their real job is and how to be successful at it.
  2. How Am I Doing? Everyone wants to know an occasional answer to that simple question. Since we are not talking about golf or bowling where score is easily kept, keeping score is a little more nuanced in the workplace. Once again, there are a number of tools, simple and complicated that can help set goals and measure against them but too often, it is not done. I think people usually have a sense of how they are doing but need to hear it from others on a regular basis.
  3. How Does My Effort Contribute to the Big Picture? It is almost never the framed mission statement hanging on the wall that helps answer this question. Almost always, it is clarity about what the organization is trying to accomplish and how any individual can help make that happen. Not that different from the signs in the locker room that ask, “What Have You Done Today to Beat USC?”

Three simple questions, that’s all. By allowing people to answer them you will attract and keep talent. By disambiguating (I heard that word this week and am pleased to be able to use it so soon) the answer, talent will keep moving until they find a place where it can be answered.

For more insight on this topic be sure to check out a webinar with SuccessFactors tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM PDT/2:00 PM EDT.