Forcing Kids Backfires Big Time

Kids

Fascinating article in the Sunday New York Times today on how the stress we are putting on our kids is making them sick. 


With testing of High school students showing incredibly alarming rates of mental illness:


– 54% with moderate to severe depression.


– 80%+ with moderate to severe anxiety.


And 94% of college counseling directors “seeing rising numbers of students with severe psychological problems.”


Even pediatricians are reporting 5-, 6-, and 7-year olds coming in for migraines and ulcers!


Another teacher said with all this, “We’re sitting on a ticking time bomb.”


Under the pressure to get into great schools and get a foot in the door in excellent careers and attain high-paying jobs, we are making our kids work longer school days, do more homework, take more Advanced Placement (AP) exams, participate in numerous extracurricular activities, and achieve, achieve, achieve. 


We’ve taken away normal play time–the fun out of life growing up–and the imagination, exploration, and discovery away from kids just being kids. 


The paradox is that “the pressure cooker is hurting, not helping, our kid’s prospect for success.”


Especially for parents who themselves grew up poor or lacking, maybe they are trying to do the “right thing”and give their kids more than they had and a “better life.”


But maybe even the best intentions to mold children to be what we want them to be, or think they should or could be, is misplaced.

 

If only we could all take a little (or BIG) chill pill…you can’t force success–with forcing you get the opposite results.


Back off people–instead of pushing and endless disciplining–how about we listen to the children, guide them, show unconditional love, and be excellent examples–show them integrity, a strong work ethic, along with an appreciation for work-life balance, then perhaps we will get not only the success of the next generation that we all need, but also happier, better adjusted, and healthier children. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Wrong Way To Test

Test
As educators are pushed to improve students’ test scores, sometimes they run afoul.



In Atlanta, 8 former public school educators were sentenced to prison–three were sentenced to as long as seven years–for a conspiracy inflating student scores by “changing answers” to the tests. 



Interestingly, in another article today, we see that not only are students put to the test, but so are job applicants



In fact, “Eight of the top 10 U.S. private employers now administrator pre-hire tests in their job applications.”



While testing can certainly show some things, they can also miss the point completely. 



I know some people that test wonderfully–straight A students, 100+ on all exams, 4.0 GPAs–and for the most part, they are wonderful at memorizing and prepping for the test…but sometimes, not much else. 



Some of them have no practical knowledge, little critical thinking or creativity, and are even sort of jerky. 



And others who test poorly may be well thought, articulate, hands-on, and good with people–I’d take a million of them. 



“Failing the test” is not necessarily getting it wrong…it may just be errant to the current prevailing educational and professional testing system that values memorization and spitting back over insight, innovation, and practical skills. 



The challenge is how do we compare and contrast students and professionals competing for schools and career advancement, if we don’t easily have something standardized like a test to rally around. 



Maybe there is no getting away from more holistic assessments–where we look at bona fide life and career experience, a wide range of recommendations from teachers, coaches, and supervisors, hard and soft skills (including communications and interpersonal), professional and personal ethics, genuine interest in the pursuit, and the motivation to work hard and contribute.  



Tests–students cheat, educators game the system, memorization and robotic answers are the name of the game to get the A, and boring homogeneity–but it’s often the easy way out to evaluating candidates for a phony success. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Live To Live or Live To Die?

Angel

In The New York Times today, David Brooks presents “two sets of virtues, the resume virtue and the eulogy virtue.”


The resume virtues are the skills you need to get ahead in the marketplace, and the eulogy virtues are “whether you were kind, brave, honest, or faithful.”


While we’d like to believe that most feel that being a decent human being is more important than how much money we earn, unfortunately our education and economic systems are geared far more toward the latter, where it’s widely acknowledged that “money makes the world go round!”


In fact, many will often sacrifice the moral high ground for landing on a bigger, cushier hill of worldly possessions and pleasures. 


Interestingly enough, my daughter asked me last week, whether it is better to personally live a happy life but die with a horrible reputation or to live selflessly, struggling with life challenges, but be revered after you die?


To me the answer was simple–live, learn, and grow regardless of momentary personal happiness. Do what’s right, period–honor and chivalry is alive and well. 


But my daughter told me that over 90% of people polled chose their happiness in life as their #1 goal.


I suppose it’s easy to say what’s the point of leaving a legacy if you were not happy living your life every day, but I would counter with what’s the point in chasing life’s daily pleasures, if you were a bum and everyone knows it?


The point isn’t even what people say about us when we are alive or dead, but rather that we know that we tried our best to live as decent, ethical human beings and that hopefully, we left the world a better place than when we got here.


Sure, there is no blessing in being poor or unhappy–but living purely to satisfy one’s voracious materialistic appetite is just being a selfish little pig–come on admit it!


On your deathbed, will you wish you that in your life you had more money and status or that you had been a better, more giving human being? 


I say forget the resume and the eulogy, just think about what will really gives you peace of mind and inner happiness and it’s more than any amount of money can buy or any seduction you can imagine.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Disease Of The Ordinary

Disease Of The Ordinary

Wow, I love these glasses–red, big, and with wings!

I asked the store owner about them, and he said he gets these mostly for (window) display purposes.

But one lady actually bought a pair similar to this for a big event she was going to.

I think these would certainly make a statement (however crazy) when someone walks into the room wearing these.

Maybe that’s the point for many people–to stand out!

People want to be noticed, special, and be thought of as something or as somebodies.

Being 1 of 7 billion people is not very satisfying–so how do we differentiate ourselves?

  • The fancy house and cars we have
  • The clothing and accessories we wear and carry
  • The trophy wife or husband that hangs on us
  • Our own physical good looks, fitness, and skills
  • The prestigious university we went to and the degrees we possess
  • Climbing the career ladder and our titles and offices
  • Our pedigree from kings, clergy, hollywood, rich, or otherwise famous or successful people
  • The children (and grandchildren) that we rear to be smart, successful, well-integrated, etc.?
  • How religious we are, how much charity we give, the kindness we show others?

This is something that we all struggle with as human beings–what is a life of purpose, meaning and how do we know that we’ve achieved it?

I think the problem for many is that we measure ourselves by what we have and not who we are. Perhaps, this is a clear mistaken case of quantity over quality.

Down in Florida, I see so many “haves” and “have nots”–but it’s not enough for the haves to have, but if they aren’t showing it off, getting stares, having people talk about them, then they seem to feel uncomfortably ordinary.

What is this disease of the ordinary that people must ever run to escape from–and even with the reddest, wildest, wing glasses or whatever–will they ever feel truly happy and satisfied inside?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Live Stress Free, Almost

Live Stress Free, Almost

As we all know, stress is a killer–so you want to minimize it (if you can)!

There is a great little piece from CareerCast on the most and least stressful jobs out there in 2014.

From least stressful–audiologist.

To most stressful–enlisted military.

Anyway, to avoid stress–keep calm like the picture says, but also consider jobs with the following attributes:

– Desk job

– High growth potential

– Fewer strict deadlines

– Less travel

– Greater congeniality

– Non-hazardous

One question from the list of jobs…why be a taxi driver earning an average of almost $23,000 a year in one of the top 10 most stressful jobs, when you can be a hair stylist earning about the same and have the 2nd least stressful job out there?

So trade in your driver’s license and learn to give a great hairdo! 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

The Backlash Against Performance Reviews

The Backlash Against Performance Reviews

So there is big backlash against employee performance reviews.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek declares the annual performance review to be “worthless.”

The performance review ritual is traced back to the 1930’s with Harvard Business School Professor, Elton Mayo, who found that productivity and satisfaction of workers improved when they were measured and paid attention to. This was referred to as the Hawthorne Effect because the study was conducted at the Hawthorne Works of Western Electric outside Chicago.

Later in the 1950’s, the Performance Rating Act institutionalized mandated performance reviews for federal workers,

But studies in the last 2 decades have found employees (42%) dissatisfied with the process and even HR managers (58%) disliking the system.

Clinical Psychologist, Aubrey Daniels, call the process “sadistic!”

The annual reviews are disliked for many reasons including the process being:

1) Arbitrary, subjective, and personality-driven rather than objective, meaningful, and performance-based.

2) Feedback that is too little and too late, instead of real-time when good or bad performance behavior occurs.

3) A power tool that managers use in a “culture of domination” as opposed to something that really helps employees improve.

4) Something used to punish people and build a case against employees to “get rid of you” rather than to reward and recognize them.

At the same time, this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft and other companies are getting rid of forced employee rankings.

The ranking system was developed by General Electric in the 1980’s under Jack Welch and has been referred to as “”Stack Rankings,” “Forced Rankings” and “Rank and Yank.”

Under this system, employees are ranked on a scale–with a certain percentage of employees (at GE 10% and Microsoft 5%, for example) ranked in the lowest level.

The lowest ranked employees then are either let go or marginalized as underperformers getting no bonuses, equity awards, or promotions.

“At least 30% of Fortune 500 companies continue to rank employees along a curve.”

Microsoft is dumping the annual quantitative ranking and replacing it with more frequent qualitative evaluations.

UCLA Professor, Samuel Colbert, says this is long overdue for a yanking at companies and managers’ jobs is “not to evaluate,” but rather “to make everyone a five.”

While this certainly sounds very nice and kumbaya-ish, it also seems to reflect the poor job that managers have done in appraising employees fairly and working with them to give them a genuine chance to learn and improve, before pulling the rating/ranking trigger that can kill employees career prospects.

A bad evaluation not only marginalizes an employee at their current position, but it limits their ability to find something else.

Perhaps, this is where the qualitative aspect really comes into play in terms of having frank, but honest discussions with employees on what they are doing well and where they can do better, and how they can get the training and experience they need.

It’s really when an employee just doesn’t want to improve, pull their weight, and is undermining the mission and the team that performance action needs to be taken.

I don’t think we can ever do without performance reviews, but we can certainly do them better in terms of providing constructive feedback rather than destructive criticism and using this to drive bona-fide continuous improvement as opposed to employee derision.

This is possible where there are participants willing to listen to a fair critique and work together on getting to the next level professionally and for the good of the organization. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Mediocre2010)

Hiring and Marrying Great People–Is It Random or Predictable?

The Atlantic (21 June 2013) has a startling article about hiring at Google–“It’s a complete random mess.”

With all the Google information genius and the brainteasers they test people with, all the rounds of interviews they put them through, they found “zero relationship” between how people scored in tens of thousands of interviews and how they performed in their jobs.

No only didn’t the interviews predict good hires, but “colleges didn’t matter, GPAs…didn’t matter.”

Only one guy who was the world’s leading expert in something, and was hiring for a very specialized area seemed to be able to weed out the wheat from the chaff in interviews.

“People are complicated, organizations are complicated, matching people with organizations is complicated.”

This reminds me of what it’s like to match people for intimate relationships…very, very difficult. Sort of like, men are complicated, women are complicated, and matching men and women is complicated.

Whether matching people to organizations or to each other, getting a good Shidduch is a big challenge and hard to predict the outcome.

Perhaps that is why the average person goes through seven careers in a lifetime and “50% of all marriages in America end in divorce.”

Making a good match with a company or a person is hard–because as I heard as a teenager, “you never know what the person is really like until you wake up with them in the morning”–morning breath, hair messed, bad dreams, pissy moods, and all.

Similarly, with a company, until you work there and actually have to live the culture and deal with the people, policies, and politics, you won’t really know what it’s like just by asking around and reading up about them on Glassdoor.

Also, not only do you have imperfect information about the people and jobs when you try and match them up, but people change (organizations do to, but much more slowly–it’s a bigger ship to turn around).

Yes, while past performance are predictors of future performance–good skills and bad habits, they do stick around–at the same time, people do learn, grow, mature, and change–hopefully for the better.

As the old Jewish saying goes, “with age, comes wisdom”–and hopefully, more mature and better ways of dealing and coping with challenging and complex people and situations.

So what should you look for–whether in a new hire or a marriage mate?

Start with a good heart and a good fit; look for a track record of success in life, a hunger to succeed personally and professionally, someone willing to learn and grow, and not be afraid to work hard, have some failures, and get back on their feet again–that’s life.

Say a prayer and don’t be fooled by the superficial things or what people just say to get the job or the mate–look for what they do (action speaks louder than words) and remember, personal beauty is more than just skin deep. 😉

Adapt and Live!

Train

The Times, They Are a-Changin’ is a song by Bob Dylan (1964), it is also the reality of our times today, and how we react to all the change can make or break us.

Like with Agile Software Development, one of the main values is “responding to change over following a plan,” to improve the success of software development, similarly in the world today, we need to be able to rapidly and flexibly respond to change in order to successfully compete.

Fast Company (February 2012) has two important articles on this topic–one is called “Generation Flux” and the other “The Four-Year Career.”

Generation Flux is about how we are living in a time of “chaotic disruption” and that this is “born of technology and globalization.” Generation Flux is a mindset of agility versus a demographic designation like Gen X or Y.

All around us we see the effects of this rapid change in terms of business models and leadership turned upside down, inside out, and sideways.

Recently, we have seen:

– Mainstay companies such as American Airlines and Hostess declare bankruptcy

– Some titans of the Fortune 500 companies ousted, including Carol Bartz of Yahoo, Leo Apotheker from HP to name just a few

– Others, like RIM and Netflix have fallen from grace and are struggling to regain their footwork–some will and some won’t

At the same time, we have seen the ascension of companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon becoming the “kings of the hill”–driven in part by their agility to get in and out of markets and products:

– In 2010, Google was getting out of China; today Google is expanding its presence once again. In addition, Google continues to start up or acquire and discontinue services regularly; just last year they closed Google Desktop developed in 2005, Google Health Service started in 2008, and Google Aardvark purchased in 2010 (and more)

– Amazon, once an online book and music retailer has now become the premier e-Commerce company as well as the No. 2 in tablets and in the top 3 in cloud computing.

– Apple was slick in developing the navigation wheel on the iPod only to get rid of it completely with the touch-screen of the iPad.

– Facebook continues to adapt to security and privacy concerns, but still has more to do, especially in terms of simplifying choices for their users.

According to Fast Company, to survive, we need to be profoundly agile and “embrace instability, that tolerates–and enjoys–recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions.” The article points out that this is just as Darwin has professed, ultimately it is the agile that will survive–not the strongest or smartest.

For organizations, change, agility and adaptability is the name of the game, and they are depending on petabytes of information and the business intelligence to make sense of it all to make the right decision every day.

For individuals, “the long career is dead” (U.S. workers have a medium job tenure of only 4.4 years and have an average of 11 different jobs over a lifetime) and “the quest for solid rules is pointless” (with automation and robotics atrophying low- and middle-skill jobs and part time, freelance, and contract work all on the rise). Now, in an agile marketplace, “career-vitality” or the continuous broadening of individual capabilities is encouraged and expected, and the “T-shaped” person with both depth or subject matter expertise as well as breadth in other areas in becoming more and more valued.

Moreover, hard skills are important, but social skills and emotional intelligence are critical to get along, share information, and collaborate with others.

Of course, not all change is good, and we need to speak up and influence the direction of it for the good, but in the end, standing still in the path of genuine progress is like standing in front of a speeding locative.

While the quiet and serenity of maintaining the status quo is often what feels most secure and comfortable in uncertain times, it may actually just be the forerunner to the death knell for your career and organization. There are no short-cuts to continuing to learn, explore, and grow as the world around us rapidly evolves.

Adapt and live or stagnate and die.

(Source Photo: here)

Bringing The Marriage Back Into Our Jobs

Federal Times (11 Sept 2011) reported on a human capital study done by the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) and Deloitte that found that “after the three-year [employment] mark, employee’ satisfaction scores plummets” from 77.2 the first year to 66.2 after the third year.

Tim McManus, the VP for PPS underscored the significance of employee dissatisfaction on productivity and retention, when he stated that “it’s more than just the end of the honeymoon period; your marriage is on the rocks.”

For sometime now, we have been hearing about the high frequency of job changing for Gen Xers and Yers; this week, I actually heard of someone who had changed jobs literally 50 times before the age of 30!

Certainly, I would imagine that living in a high-tech, fast-paced culture that we do now, contributes to the number and rate of job changes, where people are looking for lots of responsibility and recognition in short order or they simply move on. There is a notion that life is too short to waste it in an unproductive or unfulfilling job.

Further, the poor economy, where layoffs have become commonplace has likewise contributed to an employment culture where employers and employees no longer feel beholden to each other, and each is looking out for their own best interests rather than their mutual success.

Unfortunately, what is getting lost in this employment picture is the notion of career. To employers, a person has become a human capital asset–kept on-board only as long as they remain more of an asset than a liability. And correspondingly, to many employees a “job is just a job” now-a-days–it is a temporary phenomena for X hours a weeks for “as long as it lasts,” rather than a long-term place for personal and professional growth.

In a class this week, I had the privilege of hearing a terrific career development officer discuss the lifecycle of a job, as follows:

1) Steep Learning Curve — We all go through it…can anyway say, “how do you use the copy machine?”

2) Strong Expertise — This is the point where we are really excelling…we have become subject matter experts and are valued for that expertise.

3) Losing Your Edge — At a certain point, people start to lose interest, performance, or get out of sync with their boss or the organization.

4) Hitting Rock Bottom — If there is no course correction, employees who have “lost their edge” go on to become restless and dissatisfied and risk a precipitous decline.

Picture step 4 as a potential big SPLAT.

Most people start off their careers “bright eyes and bushy tailed,” but at some point, if they are not well-managed, they become discouraged, disillusioned, demoralized and so on.

Obviously, this hurts the organization and the employee–both suffer when the two are out of sync. However, employees may change jobs at any stage in the lifecycle of a job, but the later stages become more painful for boss and employee.

So as leaders, are there things we can do to keep job satisfaction scores high or does the very notion of a lifecycle of a job mean that eventually “all good things must come to an end”?

I think we certainly can do things to make for a longer and more fulfilling job life cycle–training and career opportunities, ethical management, good communication, recognition and rewards, mentoring and coaching, work-life balance, treating people fairly, and more.

At the same time, even in ideal situations, people, organizations, and markets change, and we must change with them. It is important to recognize, when things have changed inside ourselves and our organizations, and when it’s time to make a change outside in the job market. This is healthy when it’s done for the right reasons and when it results in new opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute.

Every situation brings new challenges and opportunities and we need to meet those head-on striving for job satisfaction, working through times of dissatisfaction, and recognizing life cycles are normal and natural–we are all human.

Good luck!

>Where Do You Want To Work?

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Top_10_employers

The Wall Street Journal (21 March 2011) published an article on the results of a study by Universum of over 10,000 professionals with between 1 and 8 years of work experience identifying who their ideal employers are and these are the results.

Interesting–from the top 10 employers…

– 4 are well-known, exciting technology companies (Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft)

– 4 are federal government agencies (Department of State, FBI, CIA, and NASA)

– 1 is a childhood sweetheart…Walt Disney

– 1 is a non-profit dedicated to “eliminating educational inequity”…Teach for America

The complete ranking of all 150 employers can be found here.

The results were derived from young professionals picking up to 5 ideal employers from the list of 150.

Respondents could also write-in employers not listed and the top one’s requested were Facebook (with 600 million members are climbing, no surprise), Department of Homeland Security (critical mission, don’t know why they weren’t on the original list of 150), and the United Nations (the “great melting pot” as they say in NY).

The list provides some food for thought for those thinking about their own career aspirations–whether just starting out or looking to make a change.