Outrageously Unsuccessful Companies

Outrageously Unsuccessful Companies don’t set out to crash and fail.  But they land up failing because they don’t have a clear vision of what success looks like and therefore what it will take to get them in that shape by the time they get to the finish line.

I have a favorite company in my local geography that in my humble opinion has achieved monumental success because they recruit with the tag line of “Join Our Outrageously Talented Team.”  How could you go wrong if the marching orders are to seek out the very best talent the market has to offer?  And can you imagine the engagement and the empowerment you are giving to every single employee if they understand that to be working here means that I am outrageously talented?

As a recruiting tool, folks that are “outrageously talented” are seeking this company out to join them, so they are attracting some of the top talent across the country because of this mindset.  Their vision and mission statements are just as positive and motivating, so the company has a target to hit, and everyone can understand how they individually make things happen.

Now while vision, mission and motivation are all part of the process, so is living up to those principles.  While it is vital to set a good target, it is just as important that you follow through with everyday actions to support the goal.  Can you imagine if this company started to hired one untalented person after another what would happen?

Years ago my home town did a face lift on the front of the downtown stores to create the illusion of new and modern.  This is a city well over a century old, so when it came time for these upgrades it was thought that new facades would be the most cost-effective way to update the city look.  And while it did look better, when a year later it was hit with a 5.5 earthquake, not only did the facades fall off, but so did the old structures.

Companies like to create facades, and it is ever-present in companies that compete with the same products and services.  They will spend bucks on new marketing materials and websites in the hopes of looking like a professional operation.  Some will create impressive bios of senior managers that look initially as a team of solid highly experienced professionals.

I was contacted by one of these companies recently as a potential client of theirs.  I was encouraged to review their website and financials and recognized four of their senior leaders from past work experience.  While I was initially impressed with what I saw online, the slick professional photos and marketing design, I fell out of love when I began to read.  The four people I knew had impressive written bios.  Now the fact that most of it was made up and the fabrication was worthy of an Oscar for the marketing department, I realized if this was a lie, what else was a lie?  I reviewed the financials and realized that the numbers were being marketed differently in their materials to look better than reality.  Not a lie, just a façade.

This company will land up being “Outrageously Unsuccessful” because they lack the talent to pull it off, and have too much ego to change.


Age and Experience

I listened to an interview that Hillary Clinton gave yesterday where she was asked about a person in her new book that was not given due consideration for his experience because of his age.  This gentlemen worked in her State Department, and White House aides dismissed his participation because they had not experienced his world view.  She however, found his experience of value because it aligned with her world view and experience.

It got me to think about how much age and experience plays into our current problems in a lot of companies today.  We recruit with a wish list that is 50 pages long of applicable experience, and yet we hire the person that will accept our low ball offer.  Most of the time, you get what you pay for.

There are a lot of Baby Boomers retiring, and yet there are many with another 10 years to go before retirement.  Many are unemployed and if they are employed are working in jobs that require half of their talents or all their talents with half the compensation.  For companies that can get experience and not pay for it they feel like they are winning, but in the end will land up losing.

While it is illegal to discriminate based on age, it happens all the time.  The company that wants experience, also wants youth.  Hello, you cannot get both at the same time!  It takes time (older) to obtain experience.  Experience is what prevents problems, and it does not mean that they are not current.

I was told 9 years ago when I started a consulting business that I was not old enough to be taken seriously as a consultant, that I should bleach my blonde hair white to signal age and experience.  Yet now that I am 9 years older (still blonde) I am told that my experience means I will cost a lot of money because I have worked with more than just a couple of companies during this time.  But I have a different take on this age and experience issue.

I see that many companies are being led by inexperienced people, and they don’t want their ideas challenged.  Hiring inexperienced people keeps them in a safe and secure position.  While hiring a former trainer to be your new corporate training manager, rather than someone who has done the job before, saves money yes, but it also creates a no conflict relationship at work.  This inexperienced person has nothing to lean on and they must accept what they are being told to do.  If I was the training manager, I might see options because I come with experience.

Bottom line, if you want to increase the odds of success you hire experience.  Experience comes with age, so to be successful you just might have to hire someone who knows more than you do.  It won’t kill you, and in fact it might promote you instead!


Results-Only Work Environment

I read this week with quite some interest an article in the June edition of Talent Management Magazine called “Riding the ROWE Wave“.  ROWE stands for Results-Only Work Environment, which caught my attention straight away!  Imagine working in an environment were the focus is on only the end results, not the road taken to obtain those results.

While this type of work environment calls for unlimited vacation, flexible schedules and working locations, its focus is on individual accountability, team dynamics and evaluating performance based on results.  Unlike a lot of work environments where being busy is a sign of productivity and worth, in a ROWE it doesn’t matter how busy you are as long as you obtain results.

Being a training guy, I was particularly intrigued with how this company in the article used training to change the culture.  Not to take away from the details of their story (you really need to read it for yourself) I had not even thought of the challenges to changing to ROWE.  I am by nature a very productive person, and I use my time effectively to get a lot of work accomplished.  Yet if I had a frustration with the corporate environment, it was that it was very restrictive to what time I needed to begin my day and when I was allowed to go home.

For many workers, this kind of structure is necessary to minimize the excuse for not getting things done.  And when management is monitoring hours at work, and not how much is accomplished, people spend a lot of hours at the job trying to appear busy.

The motivation this company cited for switching to ROWE was their desire to attract top talent and generate better business results.  It would appear they have been very successful so far, much to the credit of their Chief Human Resources Officer.  This was never going to be a simple transition, but she was able to pull it off because she was also focused on results.  Imagine!


What Does It Mean to Volunteer?

As a consultant I learned years ago that work is a feast or famine proposition.  The hardest part of moving out of a corporate job was learning to live with the ups and downs.  I found though that being a volunteer allows me to remain engaged all the time because I can volunteer more hours when I’m in between consulting work.

Volunteers are needed in just about every venue of interest and can sometimes be a great way to do what you love if you just happen to have a job that pays the bills but is not necessarily the work that makes you sing.  I love to cook for big groups, and although I don’t have the professional background to cook in a restaurant, I do have the ability to prepare meals for large groups at my church.  It is a lot of work, but the satisfied looks on their faces is enough for me.

But what does it mean to volunteer?  It means giving your time and talents to a cause for no monetary compensation.  Rewards for your time and talents must come from the work and/or the outcomes.  It should always be a win-win for both you and the organization you are working with.

I preface all this up front to show my support for volunteering and for the best use of volunteering talent.  Because corporations are now creating volunteer groups to avoid paying salaries.  This is not honorable or ethical, and yet it is gaining traction.

Once such health care organization in my community has hundreds of volunteers performing thousands of hours of service a week for free.  This organization is using a volunteer program to provide numerous services, taking credit for community service and saving a ton of money in salary and benefits annually.  Because if they couldn’t get volunteers, they would have to hire people as employees to perform the work.  It is a sham and a shameful part of their business.

There is a time and place for volunteer work, and there is a time and place for paid compensation for work.  The more the lines get crossed, the fewer volunteers will be available for real volunteer work.