If Terror Fits

If The Shoe Fits.jpeg

There is the old saying that “If the shoe fits, wear it” or as this holiday shopping sign says, “Buy it!


I know everyone has their personal filters through which they see the world–many of these come from family, friends, community, teachers, religion, personal experiences, or even innate personality. 


One thing that I think many people are struggling with these days with politics is what possible filters are guiding many concerning policies of our country resulting in:


– The tepid response to terror attacks on this country as well as in Paris, London, and Jerusalem. 

– The clamping down on free speech in the wake of terror.

– The lax immigration checks on refugees.

– The dangerous spread of ISIS after the withdrawal from Iraq.

– The disappearing red line in Syria.

– The emboldening Iranian nuke deal.

– The bias perceived against friend and ally, Israel.

– The unbriddled Russian resurgence

– The lumbering pivot to address Chinese militarization.


We are living in chaotic world times, and we need strong hands on the rudder to safeguard the people and future of the country–for that we need to understand where politics and politicians are coming from that may be leading to either sound or compromised decisions and the resulting return and risk to the fate of us all. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

How To Give Employee Feedback

Poop Free Zone
Finally some realism about how to conduct employee evaluations…



The Wall Street Journal reports that in the past employees could expect that “we would bring them in and beat them down a bit.”



But now, managers are expected to “scrap the negative feedback” and “extol staffers strengths” (accentuate the positives).



Companies are realizing that negative feedback does “more harm than good.”



– You tick off the employee and ruin any positive relationship and trust. 

– The employee feels unappreciated, hurt, and in jeopardy. 

– Employees project their hurt feelings and accuse you of being the problem. 

– The deteriorating state makes them fear that you are working against them and they become unmotivated to try to do better.

– Instead, they spend their time working against you (and the company), and looking for another job. 



There is an old saying that you don’t sh*t where you eat, and so it is with employee performance evaluations.



In over 25 years, I have never seen negative employees reviews produce positive results!



However, I have seen that sincerely praising everyones’ best efforts, leveraging their strengths, and being thankful for what each person contributes makes a high performing team where people are loyal, want to work, and contribute their best. 



Everyone has weaknesses and problems, and frankly most people when they are being honest with themselves, know what their issues are. Pointing their face in it, doesn’t help. (Have you ever told a fat person that they need to lose a few pounds?)



One idea that I did like from the Journal is called “feedforward,” where you ask “employees to suggest ideas for their own improvement for the future.”



This way each person can be introspective and growth as they mature and are ready, but not under threat, rather with support and encouragement. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Motivate, BAM!

Motivate
I took this photo of the wallpaper at the gym.



It has “motivate” embossed under the lady with the sparring gloves. 



They have similar hangings for swimming, weightlifting, cycling, and more around the fitness center.



I like them–they are motivational. 



Would be nice if the place also had some big windows, but this ain’t bad to keep it fresh. 



BAM! Exercise. BAM! Stay healthy and fit. BAM!  😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Be, Be Yourself

Be, Be Yourself

I thought this was a cute sign in the elevator at Safeway.

“Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Why they put this up in a supermarket, I don’t really know.

Anyway, gotta hate phonies, kiss-ups, and B.S. artists–in the store or out.

My wife’s grandfather used to say, “What comes from the heart, goes to the heart”–I really like that!

An ounce of sincerity is worth more than a ton of faking it–even if you’re a good fake. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Take Your Advice And Shove It

Take Your Advice And Shove It

Great piece in the Wall Street Journal today on getting and giving advice.

This was a funny article about how most advice comes not from the wise, but from the idiots trying to push their own agendas, make a buck off you, or bud into your business.

When people try to tell you what to do, “the subtext is ‘You’re an idiot for not already doing it.”

But who wants to do what someone else tells them to do–unless you a robotic, brainless, loser!

Every manager should already know that everyone hates a control freak micromanager–and that they suck the creative lifeblood out of the organization.

The flip side is when you give people the freedom to express their talents and take charge of their work activities, you motivate them to “own it!”

Real meaning from work comes from actually having some responsibility for something where the results matter and not just marching to the tune of a different drummer.

The best leaders guide the organization and their people towards a great vision, but don’t choke off innovation and creativity and sticking their fat fingers in people’s eyes.

The flip side of advice not getting hammered on you, is when you have the opportunity to request it.

People who aren’t narcissistic, control freaks seek out other people’s opinions on how to approach a problem and to evaluate the best solutions.

This doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart and capable people in and of themselves, but rather that they are actually smarter and more capable because they augment their experience and thinking with that of others–vetting a solution until they find one that really rocks!

While decision making by committee can lead to analysis paralysis or a cover your a*s (CYA) culture, the real point to good governance is to look at problems and solutions from diverse perspectives and all angles before jumping head first into what is really a pile of rocks under the surface.

Does vetting always get you the right or best decision?

Of course not, because people hijack the process with the biggest mouth blowing the hottest stream.

But if you can offset the power jocks and jerky personalities out there, then you really have an opportunity to benefit from how others look at things.

While the collective wisdom can be helpful, in the end, all real grown ups show personal independence, self-sufficiency, and a mind of their own, and take responsibility for their decisions and actions.

We can learn from others, but we learn best from our own mistakes…no pain, no gain. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Gaming to Get More Bricks and Mortar

Gaming to Get More Bricks and Mortar

Farhad Manjoo has an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal on the gamification of the workplace.

In office gamification, employees are treated like gamers–they are measured, given points, and recognized/rewarded for meeting objectives as if you are playing an arcade game or Angry Birds.

The problem is that this is really nothing new and also not very motivating to the workforce.

Already in the Bible the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites by giving them ever crushing quotas for gathering straw and building the great pyramids.

And if they didn’t measure up, the Bible tells us that, “They made their lives bitter with harsh labor…the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.”(Deut. 1:14)

You see while measuring performance is a good and important part to managing and maturing processes and the workforce, tracking people in real life with plus ups for every good thing and minuses for every mistake or failure treats this whole thing as one big game, but it’s not.

A mature adult workforce doesn’t need points and bonus time for doing their jobs, and shouldn’t be made to fear losing their jobs for not meeting their daily numbers.

Even Manjoo admits that he dreads working in a work environment where everything is measured and monitored to the nth-degree.

He says that even in a field like Journalism, he feels undue pressure to produce and that “every time I write a story that doesn’t make the paper’s most-popular list, I consider it a tiny failure. If I do that too many times in a row, I begin to wonder if I should look for a new line of work.”

Now perhaps, many of you are saying, that if you can’t perform at expectations, maybe you should be looking for another job, but the point is that performance measurement should be humane–working toward the long-term benefit of the company and the development of the employees–and not one miss and it’s “Game Over!”

Gamification software, like Badgeville, that gives points for everything from creating a sales lead to responding to a lead and converting a lead to sales opportunities is nothing short of childish micromanagement.

Employees shouldn’t treated like children working for points and prizes and titles like “Super Converter” or “Super Dealer” (like in the demo video), but rather should be treated as professionals, who work for the mission and based on an ethos of excellence, where they are committed to doing their best for the organization, and the organization is committed to developing them and making them a ever better and satisfied workforce–not making them feel like they are coming to a surveillance, tracking, and fear-inspired workplace.

Can gamification have a place in creating some healthy workplace competition and fun? Sure, but when it’s masquerading as a serious tool to engineer people to do their jobs and have a meaningful career, then someone in the C-suite has been playing Farmville a little too long.

My father used to tell me, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” and employees will be far more motivated if they know you are working with them as a team to “get to the next level” rather than infantilizing and prodding them with ridiculous amounts of workplace surveillance to force them to collect more straw and build more pyramids. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Recongition Inspires

Recongition Inspires

Thought this was really nice at Starbucks.

A place to show respect and recognize your colleagues.

How often to we take others for granted for what they do–oh, it’s their job or as one boss used to say coldy and harshly that their employees’ recognition is that they get a paycheck every 2 weeks!

But people are not machines–they have feeelings, they need to be motivated, inspired, and appreciated.

And recognition doesn’t just come from the chain of command, but from peers, customers, and other stakeholders.

We can do a good deed simply be recognizing the hardwork that people make on our behalf, for the customer, or the organization more broadly.

Taking people for granted is the easy way out.

But saying a genuine thank you and placing a card of recognition in the pocket of the posterboard or otherwise showing your appreciation with an award, a letter of gratitude, or telling people they “did good”–takes an extra effort, but one definitely worth it! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Target >>> WMD

At this time, there is a massive debate as well as much confusion going on over what to do about Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, and their brutal civil war against a mixed element of fighters (some moderates and many other dangerous fundamentalists).

On one hand, people are saying they don’t want to get involved in yet another conflict (after 10 years with Iraq and Afghanistan) and this is most understandable.

On the other hand, we are talking about extremely dangerous regimes like Iran and Syria that are pursuing, prepared to use, or have used weapons of mass destruction.

Taking out Syria’s extensive chemical weapons facilities are good targets to prevent further use against their own people, their neighbors, or us, except that we have to be careful not to end up helping our arch enemy, Al Qaeda, who is fighting to establish a foothold there, in the process.

Many are saying that this attack on Syria would really be a warning or even a precursor to destroying the proliferating Iranian nuclear sites–which are even better targets due to the regime’s terrorist underpinnings and genocidal ambitions.

As long as Iran and Syria are able to pursue these WMD programs, how can we really be safe?

The red line is genocide, and Iran and Syria are there–one in explicit horrific threats of nuclear holocaust and the other in dastardly deeds with chemical weapons or otherwise brutal slaughter of civilians.

This is a very complicated world situation, and we really don’t know the true motivations of any player, but the stakes are so high with WMD–there is no room for error.

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal with attribution to James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and 1155/New Scientist Global Security)

Why People Spy

Why People Spy?

There is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal (31 May 2013) about why people spy.

The former CIA case officer, who recruited others to become traitors and wrote the article says, it comes down to MICES:

– Money: “We give you cash, and you steal secrets.”

– Ideology: The person no longer believes in their system of government or has been abused by the system.

– Conscience: Someone who is looking to atone for the crimes/sins of the system or of themselves.

– Ego: This is a person who responds to stroking of their self-esteem and sense of purpose.

– Sex: A fifth powerful motivator is sex or a relationship that may address people’s feelings of isolation or loneliness.

Thinking about the motivation for spying in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I have connected the five techniques to turn someone with their basic needs, making the Pyramid of Spying:

– Money fulfills people’s base physiological needs.

– Ideology appeals to someone who has been abused and hates the system and thus is tied to motivations for safety and security.

– Sex/relationships has to do with social needs.

– Stroking someone’s ego fulfills his/her esteem needs.

– Spying for reasons of conscience (e.g. what some would consider becoming enlightened) is driven by the need to self-actualize.

The reason that I turned the pyramid/hierarchy upside down for the motivations of why people spy is that being “turned” and becoming a traitor to one’s country is such an unnatural and abhorrent concept to normal people that they would generally not do it just for the money, revenge, or sex (lower-level needs), but rather they ultimately would need to be driven by reasons of conscience and ego (higher-level needs).

Of course, sprinkling in the money, ideology, and sex makes acting the traitor that much more appealing to some–and helps “grease the wheels” to go outside the bounds of what a normal person does and feels towards their nation–but those are not the primary drivers for committing the ultimate crime against one’s country.

Again, normal people are not motivated to be treacherous and treasonous, but given the wrong dose of motivations, people are turned–this means we know how to use the tools of the trade to our nation’s advantage, but also to be mindful and watchful of those who motivations are being acted on.

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Innovation Made Easy

Dream_by_brito

Innovation is not something that can be mandated to succeed like a quota system, but rather it needs to be nourished with collaboration, motivation, and giving people the organizational freedom to try new things.

While many organizations have played with the idea of giving employees “tinkering time”–from a few hours a week to 20% of their time–to explore their creativity and work on new ideas, according to the Wall Street Journal (18 January 2013), “it rarely works” or pays off.

The reason–most employees have “enough to do already” and most tinkerers are free thinkers and amateur experimenters–and “they aren’t the kinds of employees most big companies like adding to the payroll in the first place.”

The WSJ suggests “better ways to spark innovation” through:

– External partnerships that can “inject the verve of a promising startup into a big company.”

– Public-private partnerships that can leverage government-funded research and development.

– Providing a profit motive for tinkerers to be successful by allowing them “to profit more from their innovations.” For example, tinkerers may “own the rights to anything they develop,” while the company retains “the right of first refusal to invest” in it.

Harvard Business Review (15 January 2013) has a compact guide on “Nine Rules for Stifling Innovation” by Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

These are the absolute don’ts when it comes to innovation:

1) “Be suspicious” of–or I would say competitive with–“any new idea from below”; everyone in the organization can have good ideas, not just the wise owls at the top!

2) “Invoke history”–such as we tried that already and it didn’t work or do you think you’re the first person to think of that? Just because something didn’t work previously under one set of circumstances, doesn’t mean the idea is doomed forever–timing may be everything.

3) “Keep people really busy”–I would call that “make work”–where we treat people so that if they have time and effort to question the status quo, then they have too much free time on their hands. Or as was written by the Nazis on the sign at the entrance to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp: “Arbeit Macht Frei”–[brutal harsh enslaving] work will set you free.

4)  “Encourage cut-throat competition”–organizational innovation is not about critiquing others to death or creating win-lose scenarios among your staff, but rather about sharing ideas, refining them, and collaborating to make something great from the combined talents and skills of the team.

5) “Stress predictability”–innovation while encouraged with best practices is not something you predict like the weather, but rather is based on trial and error–lot’s of effort–patience, and even a measure of good luck.

6) “Confine discussion…to a small circle of trusted advisors”–I would say that strategy is top-down and bottom-up–everyone can provide valuable input. Almost like agile development, strategy gets refined as more information becomes available.

7) “Punish failures”–while we generally celebrate success (and not failure), we must still give people an opportunity to fail and learn. That doesn’t mean incompetence or laziness is given a free pass, but rather that hard work based on good common sense is acknowledged and rewarded.

8) “Blame problems”–while the blame game can just make heads spin or fall, it is far better to hold people accountable in a fair and unbiased way and coach, counsel, mentor, and train professional learning and growth.

9) Be arrogant–we all started somewhere–I served frozen yogurt in a health food store as a teen…we all go through the cycle of life–and everyone has their time.

I would add a tenth, don’t

10) Mistreat your greatest asset, your people–Treat people, as you would want to be treated: listen, at least, twice as much as you speak, empathize with others, and try to treat people ethically and with heart.

So can innovation really be made easy?

It’s never easy to do something new, we all have to crawl before we can walk–but we can foster an organizational environment that promotes innovation, sharing, collaboration, transparency, and teamwork rather than one based on fear, bullying, intimidation, and punishment. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal with attribution of the beautiful “Dream” art to Romero Britto)