Jack's Buzz


If they don’t know, they will go.
June 10, 2014, 4:05 pm
Filed under: Advancing Career

To stay engaged, your direct reports need to know the specific track to career advancement. If they don’t know, they will go.

Go where? Away from you. They will head where they believe they can advance, and they’ve stopped believing you.

The person you’ve spent time, energy, and $$$$ training hunts greener pastures. Let them know you’re taking them to greener pastures. I once had a guy tell me no one in my position should ever be paid more than $100,000 per year (I was at about $70k). I was disheartened and left a couple years later (God’s grace). It took them months to find my replacement and the process cost the organization at least $180,000 in lost revenue. They never recovered. The discouraging fellow was forced out 18 months after I left. Not because I am all that special, but because that’s just how things work.

Google the question what’s it cost to replace a manger and 213 million articles will tell you “IT COSTS A LOT.” Scholars report that managers carry a 150% replacement cost minimum. Another one shows data that the actual cost to replace a good manager is 250% of their salary. A third study claims a company will spend $58,000 to replace an $18,000 per year customer service rep. Wow!

Biggest source of turnover? Lack of engagement with the job. Biggest reason people disengage? Lack of social support. If their internal conversation sounds like, “I don’t fit here,” that means they have no friends and coming to work feels like sitting alone in the high school lunchroom. You, their upline direct report, can offer them a seat at the cool kids table.

The second reason people disengage is no clear path to advance. That one’s easier for you. Show them a path to career success. If someone reports to you, do not assume that she or he knows how to advance. What they know (or believe) is that you hold the keys to that next promotion. In their mind, you are either boosting them up the ladder or stepping on their hand as they try to climb. Rotten managers kick people below them in the head. Great managers move up and take others with them.

Next time you meet with your direct, ask: “How do you advance in our company?” If they cannot answer the question in two minutes, they do not know. Apologize and explain the path until they can answer concisely. If they don’t know, they will go.



3 relationship yellow flags – real quick
June 6, 2014, 10:01 am
Filed under: Networking

Yellow flags meaning these are penalties. Reasons to stop play and make sure everyone understands the rules.

Whose rules? Yours.

You are the expert of you. If you don’t mind broken relationships, fair enough. If you prefer exclusivity, don’t assume your significant other agrees. Assumption is not your friend. But make your rules known early enough that the other person can agree or move on. Be honest.

Three quick flags.

1. Your family doesn’t like him/her.
2. Your gut feeling isn’t quite right.
3. Old flames still smolder.

1. Unless your family is a bunch of crackheads or otherwise pill-popping emotional wrecks, trust them. Good fam knows you better than anyone and they care for your future as much as you do. They’ve proven their investment by caring for you. Ask for their blunt opinions and pay attention to what they advise.

2. People tend to ignore what they don’t like and attend to what they do like. All of us carry a brain dysfunction that puts observations into categories and sorts those categories. Past experiences and preferred outcomes speed up the sorting with a kind of shorthand. Simply stated, humans hear/see/feel more than they pay attention to a way of coping with all the information.

If something about the object of your affection doesn’t feel quite right, pay attention to it. That “gut feeling” often turns out to be a real problem – especially for women as they tend to hear/see/feel more than men.

Follow the feeling of ick. If nothing, great. If something, better than great.

3. Every Boy Scout knows how to kill a fire dead dead. One does not leave things to smolder in the woods. Nor does one allow old flames to smolder around a new relationship.

That doesn’t mean you have to demand exclusive rights up front. Allow room for the other person some room to sort if they like you or the other, and don’t hand them your heart while they’re sorting. Give them room.

Once you’ve chosen to pursue the new flame over the old, extinguish the old. I mean, no Facebook, no “just a drink after work.” Do everyone a favor, including yourself. Old flames left untended tend to spark and damage things around them. Let ‘em go.



Ask better questions
June 2, 2014, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Networking

If you really want to get to know someone, ask better questions.

I’ve made the mistake of asking someone, “tell me your strengths,” and watched him glaze over or stammer to come up with something profound. “I can drink a barrel of whiskey,” seems to be what some people want to say (according to their Facebook photos), but I never get anything that interesting. More like, “uh…math?”

Maybe I should ask them to imagine writing two books about their greatest victories and “Give me the titles of those best-sellers.” I expect next to learn the strengths that led to those victories, something of how they process their experiences, and their level of creativity.

“How have you worked with managers in the past?” begs me to answer, “Fine.” A weak question deserves a weak answer, don’t you agree? What if we ask them for a couple sentences about their “manager, co-worker, teacher, boyfriend, girlfriend) from heaven” and a couple more sentences on “THE MANAGER [significant other] FROM HELL”? I expect we’ll have a laugh. I also expect I will hear what that person values in important relationships.

Anyone can ask, “What’s going on?” and most of us do without really want to hear the answer. We have so little time these days. Perhaps we could slow down a bit and ask, “What are you looking forward to this week?” Probably not a date with the boyfriend from hell.



Communication is redundant
May 27, 2014, 8:20 am
Filed under: Networking

If that person you’re trying to sell is saying yes while backing away with fear in her eyes, she’s communicating no. People communicate constantly with their words, posture, movement, and facial expressions. If I’m giving you mixed signals, it’s because I’m internally conflicted – ill at ease with your message.

Typically, mixed signals mean a lack of trust. Pay attention to that. Observe all the cues. If the eyes, words, and posture don’t say yes, ask for feedback. And be nice about it, “It seems you’re unsure. How can I help?”



Maybe it’s ok to let go
May 22, 2014, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Networking

What’s the first meaningful response when someone says, “I have cancer”? Not the first thing. The first thing is always something we regret like “Oh” or “No” or my stupid go to line, “You’re kidding” like that’s something someone would kid about.

I’m thinking of the standard meaningful response. “Fight it.”

We’re Americans. We fight. If you’re like me, TEXAS Americans (lucky!). We start the fight. We got slaughtered using flintlocks against cannons, but kept fighting. Once you win one like that, you believe you’ll win them all. You’re shocked when you lose.

Fight it! That’s in our veins. Unless there’s killer cells in our veins. I agree with conventional wisdom, cancer sucks.

What if sometimes it’s ok not to fight?

What if it’s ok to let go. Not when you stand a fighting chance. Not when defeat means enslavement. But maybe it’s ok when the other side has cannons and you got … nothing.

I’m tainted by experience. When my grandmother was very old, she got sick and told me she was afraid to let go. She said, “I’m afraid God will be angry with me.” Those are really hard words to write. Editing this, I’ve choked on them eight times. What I said at the time was also hard, “It’s ok to let go. God won’t be mad.”

Somewhere inside, you want me to have been right, don’t you? But, hell, who am I to speak for God? I’m nobody? I’m chosen? I’m a son? Of the King. I know what to say in Sunday School, but it still feels awfully presumptuous.

There’s a really nice lady I worked with who is now fighting cannons. I like her; everybody likes her. I’m praying for her to feel good right up to the last breath. To have time to say goodbye to people who will miss her most. And when it’s time, I pray that it’s easy for her to let go.



Hire yourself
May 12, 2014, 6:34 am
Filed under: Networking

You are the expert of you. Hire yourself for an hour as that expert. Do it at lunch–you can think and eat. Knock off a half hour early and come home a half hour later. DVR Mad Men and watch it as a reward for your work with yourself.

Use the time to write your preferred outcome to a specific issue about which you care. Do you want to weigh 10 pounds less? Do you want to be eligible for the next promotion at work? Are you glad to get home a half hour later because of the tension you find when you get there? Write a sentence and start having the life you want. You are, after all, the expert.



Praying up a small chicken
May 7, 2014, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Networking

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I took my team out for a prayer retreat yesterday. Way out in the country. There were cows and trees and a river and dust. It was glorious. (Thanks to the kind Oliver family for letting us use the place.)

I decided not to eat all day – sometimes Christians do that, but never during a potluck as that would disappoint the grandmas. Anyway, we started about 9:30 and around 3:00 all of us were hungry for spiritual nourishment and one of us was hungry for the food kind as well. We had all learned a lot about God and had some ideas what he wanted us to do next so we began asking for confirmation.

At 3:05 (I checked a clock), I looked up and saw this sitting on the fence! (See photo.) Sign from God? Maybe. Or it could be that the owner of the place feeds birds and they come around at 3 every day. I decided to write a note, “Dear Texas Aggies. Your chickens are really small. I’m hungry. How do you catch them? Your friend, a Texas Longhorn.”

One of my favorite Aggies, Lyle Lovett had the answer.




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