My honest opinion 

Recently a friend who was actively looking for work asked me my opinion on a job she wanted to apply to.

She had me at “your opinion”.

She was struggling with striking the right tone in response to the job posting that included this gem: “able to get shit done”.

I had to laugh because we have all wanted to say something like that in an ad. Come on. You totally did.

However my friend was a bit offended and thought it was unprofessional. She was asking me for ideas on how to respond to that point without going there.

My suggestion was that she either play along or don’t bother. Either you answer in kind and tell them how you are an expert shit handler or you take a pass on the job.  I mean the whole point of using a line like that is to ensure that anyone who would be put off by it would not apply.

I agree with my friend that it was not professional, in the traditional sense; however, it would be less of a shock to see this upfront than to discover after the fact that the “professional” company you just joined was just a front for the Trailer Park Boys fan club.

I am a fan of being honest and upfront, from both the employer and the candidate perspective.  Perhaps we are all so conditioned to play the games, read between the lines of the job ad/ résumé, and hold our cards close to our chest that it is hard to conceive that someone actually means what they are saying.

While I don`t think it`s necessary for employers to have to go so far as to attract candidates by being shocking or controversial, I do think it`s a good idea for them to be honest about who they are, so that candidates can make the right decision to either apply or keeping on walking by.

Of course, that`s just my opinion.





Hungry, Hungry HiPos

‘Tis the season for performance appraisals, evaluations, and incentive bonuses. And whether you like them or not, whether they fall into the pro or the con side of your list, performance management programs are generally a part of most organizations.

Sure some of them work.  Many of them don’t. And some of them work, but not in the way they were expected to.  Kind of like the employees they are meant to review.

I am not interested in going a round on whether your organization, or any organization should have a formal,  prescriped and likely biased way of rewarding…I mean incentivizing your employees.  What I wanted to hash out is the golden snitch of performance: the HiPo.


Can we pause for one second so that I can just point out how the term (and spelling of) HiPo is so obnoxious.  It’s about as annoying as people who text ”k” instead of “ok”. Seriously.

So for the remainder of this post, I will refer to HiPos as high-potentials. Sure it will make the post a little longer, but I am sure you will agree, it will make it slightly less nauseating.

High potentials are what most managers dream of finding.  Even better is a high potential that is nurtured from obscurity. Like the undiscovered and untapped star player that all the other coaches overlooked…under the tutilage and guidance of the new manager…behold the high potential that evolves into a high peformer – the trifecta of “aspiration, ability and engagement”

Of course, there is a change that labelling the employee as high potential might actually be a kiss of death…after all, there is no guarantee that they will achieve this potential.  That is if you actually tell the employee.

There’s an interesting dynamic at play in many organizations that strive to be high performing.  There is a struggle between relying  on the consistent high performers to deliver their characteristic high quality work and giving those select few high potentials an opportunity to take shine and possibly go in a new direction.

The risk that comes with going beyond identying someone on a succession chart and giving potential an opportunity to become reality can leave a manager (or organization) vulnerable.

However, there is also risk that comes with not being open to potential which can leave a manager (or organization) vulnerable.

Ultimately, you need to decide whether you feed your high potential or do leave it hungry?




The attraction of owning it

I was recently asked to consider, as an employee, what I look for in an organization.

I can be shallow at times and my immediate thoughts were: a good cook, great dancer, and an ability to gauge and react appropriately to my moods….uh, I mean, good perqs, willingness to have fun, and flexibility in my schedule.

My filter was working that day and I only thought those things.  What I said out loud (thankfully) was: accountability, communication, and openness.

Do they sound like buzzwords? A bit mothership-ish?  Perhaps, but I stand by them.

Let me reassure you.  I do not have the inclination to write a blog post that covers all  three points.  It’s way too reminiscent of writing an essay and frankly with my tendency to go off on tangents, and an inability to create articulate closing paragraphs, this would be waaaaaaay too long.

So let me focus on the one that resonates the most with me: accountability.

I am a fairly perceptive person and I also have two teenagers, so I am also very familiar with the art of dodge and detract (“Why do you always think it was me that ate the last of the cookies and put the bag back empty?!”  “Nobody told me that I was supposed to feed the cat?”  “I missed the bus because you didn’t wake me up early enough” “The teacher didn’t tell us to do that”)

So when it comes to professionals who won’t accept responsibility or be accountable, I have very little patience. After all, unless I have a picture that you made out of macroni and pipe cleaners tucked away in my basement, I have no instinct to tolerate your shortcomings.

Alright, let’s just get it out there.  We all make mistakes.

We all give the wrong answer, provide inaccurate information, miss a scheduled meeting, forget to do something, or hit Reply All.  Everyone has done these things, but not everyone is willing to admit it.  Well, at least not without making up some elaborate excuse, or worse, blaming someone else, for it.

Repeat after me: I fucked up.  Sorry about that.  (And if possible) I will correct it.

That’s owning up to what you have done.  Now take it one step further…how about owning what you have said you would do and be held responsible for the outcome.

For managers this means that you are not only accountable for your work, but also for the deliverables of your team.  Sound daunting? It can be, but that’s why they gave you the cubicle with direct exposure to natural light.

So when your boss asks you for an update and you realize that someone on your team hasn’t done their part – do not dodge and detract…do not point and blame…accept and admit that you did not follow-up, fix it, and then move on.

And when that really, really innovative program you pushed for and launched finally crashes and burn…do not blame IT…do not blame the consultants that you overpaid to tell you it was a “best practice” (which is essentially the professional version of “all the cool kids are doing it”)…do not fault senior management for not properly supporting it, and last of all…do not suggest that the project team wasn’t committed.  Own it, learn from it, and move on.

When it comes down to it, accountability is probably one of the best ways to attract and retain people.

Because you could cook me the best meal, go all Footloose on the dance floor, and let me sit and read for hours, but none of that would be worth having to listen to you complain about how everyone is out to screw you over or how it’s never your fault.

What the world needs more of: constant reminders and a POP of colour!

Do you know what phrase irritates the hell out of me? ” POP of colour”.  As in, “Hey, do you know what this room needs? A POP of colour!”

Not just a dash, splash or a bit…but a POP of colour!  And yes, the uppercase letters and exclamation marks are mandatory because you have to say it like you’re reading a comic book out loud. (KAPOW!)

Another thing people say that is almost as irritating: “everyone can be replaced”.

I am not disputing the fact that you can replace people in the physical sense.  Ask anyone involved in recruitment…they can have a body in the chair by the end of the week.

I take exception to the fact that some organizations, and by default many managers, feel that this is something worth reminding their employees or openly operating under that premise.  I have heard (and been told) that it’s wise not to get too comfortable in your job because after all… everyone can be replaced.

Well now, that is motivating.  Nothing like knowing that my status is on par with the toner cartridge in the copier.

It’s true, items can be replaced.  Equally true, people can be replaced.    But the impact of telling an office chair that there’s a good chance that it might not be there  next fiscal is probably a lot easier than telling the same to the person sitting in it.

You do not need to stop replacing people when it’s necessary.

What you need to do is stop looking at your employees as though they have dotted lines around their profiles.  You need to stop referring to them only as FTEs, PYs, Boxes, or Seats rather than employees or people.

I realize that in putting this out there, I might ruffle the feathers of a few budget-loving spreadsheet huggers out there who are rolling their eyes about all this  people-loving bullshit.

I’m okay with it if you don’t like it. After all, even you can be replaced.

Drawn to distraction

With the recent stiffer legislation targeting distracted drivers from talking and texting while driving, I couldn’t help but stop to consider is this enough.

We are such an incredibly distracted society.

We have been led to believe and have completely bought the idea that more is better.  Why do only one thing, when you can do two or even three.

Why drive from A to B, when you can do that AND organize a meeting, or go over today’s numbers or referee an argument between your kids or catch up on the latest neighbourhood gossip.

Apparently, at the current rate, distracted driving is set to become the leading contributor to deaths over impaired driving and speeding.

As disturbing as this is, that’s not the part the haunts me.  For me it’s  almost compulsive need of people to always being doing something.  Even when they are doing something.

In a completely unofficial observation during my drives to and from work, I pass quite a few people standing at bus stops or walking along the side-walk.  Well over 50%, and I even want to push this up to like 75%, are talking on the phone, texting or staring at a screen.  My absolute favourite is the mom (or caretaker) pushing a stroller, pulling along a dog on a leash, and talking to whoever is on the other end of her phone.  Now that’s maximizing your time.

Indulge me just a bit more, because it’s not just the drivers and pedestrians who are guilty of this.  I look at my son (and all the other 15-year old boys that he represents). He is never beyond 2 metres of his iPod and/or laptop.  By the way, in case you didn’t know, these are meant to be complimentary devices.  You see, the game on the iPod is very useful in filling the empty void created by the laptop downloading a movie on Netflix.

TV viewers are encouraged to watch shows while simultaneously following on their ipads so they can get the behind the scenes, Twitter feed, and Instagram photos that completely overshadow the actual program.

Lest I sound like some grumpy Gen-X who wants to go back to good old days of Cassettes and Atari.  I love technology, I like the windows it opens (he he), and I have gleefully participated in a FB feed that was 100% more entertaining than the actual presenter we were skewering.

I am not talking about enhancing and get the most out of an event or activity, I am talking about filling space and time just because you can.

What has really made me aware of all this is that I recently got my motorcycle license and have been cruising around the area.  Let me tell you, there is absolutely no room for distraction on a bike.  None.  On a bike you have to compensate for everything and everyone around you.  You have to notice that the person in front of you is staring at their crotch again (people, you are not fooling anyone) and you have to realize that buddy in the next lane who has his phone to his ear does not see you.

But the bonus of all this is that because I am focused solely on driving, it is absolutely liberating and calming.  I can’t think about work, my kids or any number of things that I need to remind myself to do.  Things that I would either try to mull over or drown out with the radio in my car.  Things that I am sure other people try to resolve while they are driving or walking.

We seem to naturally gravitate towards distraction.

Ultimately, distraction has consequences – whether it’s not noticing that your kid dropped their stuffy from the stroller as you discussed what you were going to bring to the potluck, or not catching that you were suppose to finish the draft report and send it by the end of day because you were IM-ing your colleague as you listened to your client on the phone, or maybe it’s blowing through a red light because you had to see who just sent you a text…

You can only hope that what you miss is easily retrieved.

Better yet, you can learn to focus on and enjoy what you are doing.

Negative energy is still energy

You know how there are people out there who are really judge-y and quick to comment when things are going crappy.

Well, it turns out I am one of them.

It’s true.  How sad.

The reality is that my posts were fuelled by all the things going wrong that I saw in the workplace and my personal gripes with all the BS that was floating around.  Based on this, I never had trouble finding material to write about.

However, it turns out that my most recent job move, rather than providing me with a whole new basket of rotten apples to talk about, well…have left me little to nothing to hone in on.

Honestly, I actually found myself internally grumbling about the fact that I didn’t really have anything to externally grumble about.  Work with me people.  Or wait, better yet – stop frickin’ working with me.  Stop being team players and collaborating.  Stop making me feel good about my choices and challenging me. Stop giving me opportunities to learn and most of all, stop with the bloody feedback.

The feedback.

It’s really messing with my mind.  I’m at the point of thinking I know what I am doing that you might actually value my input.  Worse yet, I actually let myself feel appreciated.

This has to stop.  It’s ridiculous.  My blog is suffering for it.

But wait…I guess I do have something to bitch about.

Balance has been restored in the Matrix.  I feel the energy flowing again (but it might be the wine).

Exit Stage Left

Marsha:  John?

John: Yes Marsha?

Marsha: I know that our relationship is ending because you have decided to move on, but I was wondering if I could ask you something…one last small, teency-weency thing?

John: What is it Marsha?

Marsha: John, I know it didn’t work out between us, but I was hoping that you would take a few minutes to tell me why it didn’t work?  Can you tell me what I did or didn’t do that might have contributed to the demise of our love?

John: …

Marsha: And while we are chatting, could you also think back about what I did well, what did I offer you that might appeal to my future partners, and what I need to improve on.

John: …

Marsha: I’m very serious John.  You can tell me.  Was it money? Was it too much attention? Not enough attention?  Did I not tell you I love you enough?  Was my cooking unsatisfactory?  Were the living conditions less than desirable?

John: …um…

Marsha: John, I don’t want you to hold back.  This feedback will be incredibly important for my development – how else will I be able to learn and grow if you don’t share with me.  I know that we are over, but I’m thinking about how I might be more successful in retaining my next partner.

John: …well…

Marsha: I mean think back to when you first met me – what was it that attracted you to me?  Was it my looks, my brains, my reputation?  And when did it change for you…it was after our first anniversary wasn’t it…you told me not to make a big deal about it, but I knew that you were just saying that and that deep down you really want me to go over the top.  I still cannot believe that I embarrassed you, but I had to announce our love publicly.

John: …oh, but…

Marsha: So John…will you do this for me?

John: So let me get this straight – you are asking me now…now that we are finished…what you could have done to keep me? You are asking me to help you be a better partner for the next guy that comes around?  You want me to share all my frustrations and memories now that I am walking out the door?

Marsha: Why yes…

John: And you will listen to what I will say? And you will actually do something about it?

Marsha: Exactly!

John: Yeah, I don’t think so – that’s kind of messed up.

It is isn’t it?