Last week my daughter treated me to a day at COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, Columbus’ science museum. It was a belated Father’s Day gift and well worth the wait. The main attraction was a special exhibit: “Jim Henson: Imagination Unlimited”.
We both greatly enjoyed this exhibit, remembering fondly the many things brought to life by this singularly creative individual.
“Singularly Creative Individual”. That is exactly what struck me the most as we went through the exhibit. Yes, these creations all came from “The Jim Henson Company.” Clearly, Jim Henson was the driving force behind them. But the Muppets and all of the rest of these fantastical creations were not done by one singular individual. They were brought to life by a team.
If there is one thing that I took away from this exhibit it is the importance of colleagues, friends, and collaborative partners.
While the Muppets would not be what they are without Jim Henson, they also would not be what they are without Frank Oz and Jerry Juhl and Jane Henson.
It was through the collaborative genius of these colleagues that we have the Muppets as we know them today. “Sesame Street”, “The Muppet Show“, “The Muppet Movie“, and “Fraggle Rock” all exist because of the partnership and underlying friendship of these individuals.
During my time in corporate America, the best times were when I had that kind of collaborative, collegial working relationships. The kind of relationship where you eagerly celebrate your collective successes, while also being able to tell each other when they are full of crap.
I often find myself jealous of those who have been able to sustain that level of deep, connected partnership through decades.
Have you seen the biopic movie about Freddie Mercury, “Bohemian Rhapsody”? There is a scene where Freddie gets back with his “Queen” bandmates after a somewhat failed attempt at going solo. To paraphrase, Freddie says, “I had plenty of studio musicians who did exactly what I asked them to do. And that was the problem. I need you guys to tell me when I’m wrong.”
Like any partnership, I’m sure there were times at The Jim Henson Company when the team did not all agree. I’m sure there were spirited debates and challenging conversations. These were not well represented in the exhibit. But, put more than one creative person together in a room and there are bound to be disagreements.
And that’s OK.
True creative types thrive on different ideas.
Do you have a collaborative partner in your work or life? If so, celebrate!
Do you have the beginnings of such a relationship? Nurture it!
Find a friend. Find a person with whom you can give and take; push and be pushed.
To be a singularly creative individual takes more than one person.
In today’s rambling blog post, we’ll cover the following topics:
Leasing vs buying
Ongoing employee education
Stick with me. They’re all related.
Lease vs Buy
Do you lease your cars, or buy them outright? I’ve never been a fan of leasing. I tend to keep my cars a long time; 10 years is about average. I buy them new, take good care of them (mechanically, anyway), and drive them until they no longer serve my needs.
I don’t completely drive them into the ground, but they are clearly a used car by the time I replace them. I love not having a car payment. Leasing simply doesn’t make sense to me from a financial perspective.
How about your home? Do you prefer to rent or buy?
I much prefer to own my home.
Maybe you own a condo? Maybe when I no longer enjoy mowing the lawn this will be attractive to me.
For now, I prefer as much physical separation between my house and the neighbor’s as possible. I also like to change things in my house to suit my tastes, without needing to negotiate with a landlord for permission. And I like the idea that what I put into the house I will likely get back.
As an owner, I feel I have more to gain from ongoing maintenance and improvements. When I rented apartments, anything I spent on improvements felt like throwing my money away.
Even if you don’t follow professional golf, you’ve probably heard the name Phil Mickelson.
I live in Dublin, OH, a Columbus suburb. Dublin is the home of the annual Memorial Tournament, a regular stop on the PGA tour. As you can imagine, this annual event is the topic of much of the local news media during the weeks leading up to the event, through a final recap once it has ended.
One of my favorite “interest” pieces from years ago was about Phil Mickelson and his propensity to drive his rental cars through the car wash, usually every day. In the article, Phil said it makes him feel better to drive a clean car.
I’ve rented many cars in my travels. I have never once driven one through the car wash. I’m not even that fastidious with my own vehicles.
Rumors abound that Apple is moving to a model of streaming-only for music that it sells. According to these rumors, there will come a day when they will no longer allow you to download music, only stream it.
The idea, like Spotify, is that you don’t own the music. Rather, you pay for access to it. I’d call this leasing. If you stop paying, you lose access.
You’ve probably guessed that I am not a fan of this concept. While I enjoy listening to the music I’ve purchased on my phone, iPod, and other portable devices, I find comfort in knowing that the original CD is still available to me in a box buried in the basement.
There’s something about having the tangible media. Like many audiophiles of my generation, playing a record was a ritual involving meticulous care of the record, cleaning on every use, and careful storage.
Unlike many of my more persnickety music lovers, I eagerly embraced the transition from vinyl to CD. However, I am strongly resisting any effort to remove the ability to “own” a copy of the music I love.
I am warming to the idea of that copy being only in the digital domain, with no physical media to back it up. But, I do require a copy that I can manage. I am not OK with a leasing model that only provides access to the music, and that only works with an active Internet connection. Maybe someday.
Ongoing employee education
And now the fun part – relating all of that to work and ongoing employee education.
Do you lease or buy your employees?
(As an employee, how do you see yourself?)
As with a car, neither leased nor purchased vehicles are forever. Sure, some people drive their vehicles to the point where they have no useful life when they’re done with them. But, at some point, most vehicles need to be replaced.
Likewise, employees. Whether your employees leave to move on to other places, or retire, at some point that employee will no longer be there.
Most people I know tend to maintain their vehicles better if they purchase rather than lease them. Same goes for our homes. If we own it, we tend to take better care of the property.
If you lease your vehicle, do you still perform routine maintenance? I certainly hope so. Maybe you don’t worry so much about minor dings and scratches. But, surely you keep up with oil changes and new tires.
Most employers I have experience with do a far better job of training and providing ongoing education for their employees when they view them as “purchased” rather than “leased”.
In more typical business lingo:
Purchased = Full-time permanent. Long term.
Leased = Contractor. Consultant. Temporary. Short term.
Some employers I’ve encountered treat all their workers as if they are temporary, only guaranteed until the next paycheck. They rarely provide ongoing education that would move people ahead. They often resist doing even routine maintenance that would keep their employees’ skills at par.
Oddly enough, these same employers tend to be the ones who are baffled by high employee turnover. And they are the ones who struggle the most to find what they consider to be qualified employees.
Even if you view your employees as “rented”, do you drive them through the car wash on a regular basis?
My philosophy has always been to provide as much ongoing education as possible. I enjoy working with people who are up on their skills, engaged, pushing themselves and those around them. It’s more fun, like Phil driving a car that has been freshly washed.
Many of my corporate job peers have gotten upset when they made an investment in training, only to have that person leave for another opportunity. Certain employers I’ve worked for have suggested having employees repay the cost of education if they leave within some period of time after the training.
The reality is, changing jobs is a complicated equation.
It is the manager’s job to create an environment that is supportive yet challenging, that makes people want to stay. Ongoing education is simply one part of a supportive environment. It makes people better at their job. It makes them more fun to work with.
How do you treat your employees?
How does your employer treat you?
Rather than ask, “What if we invest money in employee training and they leave?”
What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Where do you spend your time?
Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time working on our weaknesses, while downplaying, if not outright ignoring, where we are truly gifted. In many cases, we don’t recognize how special our particular strengths are.
This pattern of focusing on our weaknesses routinely plays out at work in the annual performance evaluations.
After your evaluation, where does your mind go? What do you spend all of your time stewing over when you walk out? Right. The stuff you were told you need to work on. Your weaknesses.
Here’s a thought. What if we focus more of our energy on what we are doing well? What if we simply do more of that and less of what we don’t do well?
When I was a manager in an office job, this was much easier for me to do. If there was something I didn’t enjoy doing, or was not particularly good at doing, but recognized the importance of it being done, I could delegate that task to someone on my staff.
By delegating, I do not mean dumping. Proper delegation involves assigning tasks to people who are best suited to do that task. Maybe they’re already good at it. Maybe they are looking for opportunities to become good at it. Either way, delegation done right is a gift you are giving, not a burden you are imposing.
Effective delegation tends to be one of the hardest lessons for new managers to learn.
As a homeowner, there is no end to the litany of ongoing maintenance. Many repairs are things I am able to handle and even enjoy. But, there are others I won’t touch. Electrical work? I’m all over it. Gas lines? No way. Plumbing? I’d rather not, but I’ll do it in a pinch.
As a manager, I became adept at delegating tasks for which I had no inclination, sometimes to a fault. I had one particular boss who did not appreciate my lack of interest in keeping statistics in my head. But, I had a person on my staff who loved that.
When it comes to home maintenance, I tend to work around things I can’t handle myself for as long as I can get away with it. In other words, until my wife gets angry.
Why is it so hard for us to accept that there are things we are simply not good at doing, or that we have no interest in becoming good at doing, and move on? Why do we constantly beat ourselves up over the areas where we struggle, while totally disregarding those areas where we excel?
We accept the idea of focusing on our strengths as a natural thing when it comes to sports teams. Let’s talk football.
Imagine listening in on the performance evaluation for the guy who plays center. His primary job is to hike the ball to the quarterback. During his review, he is criticized for not being able to kick a field goal. Sounds ludicrous, right? And yet, that is exactly how we treat ourselves.
We expect ourselves to be able to do everything. Sadly, I’ve experienced performance evaluations in the workplace that were equally ludicrous.
Sure, most of us work in jobs that have broader expectations than “hike the ball”, or “kick field goals”. And, truth be told, most of those guys actually can and do play multiple positions. But, for the most part, typical job descriptions have a fairly narrow focus.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in my business. I love having my own business. This was my desire since high school. OK, this particular business was not what I had in mind when I studied electrical engineering in college. But, the type of business doesn’t really matter.
There are aspects of my business that I love and some that I don’t. There are tasks I am good at, and and those I am not. In most cases, the “good at” and “enjoy” categories align. There are also the ones I enjoy, while not being particularly good at. But, hey, it’s my business. I can do them if I feel like it, even if I do them poorly.
Then there are those tasks I am capable of doing, but I detest doing them so much that they simply don’t get done, or get done so poorly they might as well not have been done at all. Unfortunately, some of these are tasks that do need to be done if I want the business to grow.
The challenge for me is determining which tasks I absolutely must do myself and which can (and should) be done by someone else. Some of these are obvious. Others are not. And some I have simply been too stubborn to let go of.
When you own your own business, the strong tendency is to assume that you have to do it all yourself. Michael Gerber writes about this extensively in the book, “The E-Myth”. He makes a strong case for working on your business, not in it.
What that boils down to is creating an actual job description for yourself. Assigning tasks to yourself, based on your job description – and even more importantly, NOT doing tasks that are not in your description.
There will always be tasks we must do ourselves that we don’t enjoy doing, or that we are not particularly skilled at doing. At work, at home, in life. But, if we can learn to pause, consider if that is a task that we absolutely must do ourselves, and NOT do it if the answer is “no”, we will be better off.
By handing off tasks we do not enjoy to those who DO enjoy doing them, we are giving them a gift. We are happier because we’re not doing something we hate. They are happier because they get to do more of what they love. It’s a win-win.
Are you having trouble finding people with the right skills for your posted job openings? You’re not alone.
I continue to read article after article about companies and hiring managers complaining about their challenges in finding “qualified candidates” for open positions.
Here’s a thought. Maybe you’re not qualified to be a hiring manager.
Yes, I just said that.
Look at your own career. Give it a good serious look. How many different positions have you held? If you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing it’s been more than one. Make a list. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Don’t just count different companies. Include changes within a company when you had a significant change in job responsibilities. You can skip promotions within the same job family (adding “senior” to your title, or changing the classification from “I” to “II”). But, do include significant changes in responsibilities, such as Manager to Director or VP, and moving divisions where the fundamental aspects of the job are significantly different.
Got it? Good. Now, using a 5-point scale, beside each position, give yourself a TRUE ranking of how qualified you were for that position on DAY ONE. Not a year later. Day one, when you walked in the door to start that job. Be honest.
Scale:1=Not qualified, what the heck were they thinking? 2=No experience in this specific area, but have other skills that can apply with a bit of training. 3=Some specific experience, understanding of general concepts, need help with specifics of this job/company/department. 4=Confident. Hit the ground running with some room for growth. 5=Subject matter expert, same job new place.
How’d you fare? How many 5’s did you get? Any 1’s? Just a guess, but I’ll bet you had mostly 2’s, a couple 3’s, and maybe even a 4.
My career has been full of 2’s and 3’s. I had one 4. And that 4? I walked in the door thinking I was a 5. I was wrong.
When I read these articles it is clear that these hiring managers are complaining because they only want to hire 5’s. And yet how many of these people rate a 5 themselves? None. Not a single one of them. I say that with complete confidence. Because if they were truly a 5 as a hiring manager, they wouldn’t be whining about a lack of qualified candidates – they’d be CREATING their own pool of qualified candidates.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again (and again, and again…) When it comes to finding qualified candidates, hire for ATTITUDE and APTITUDE. Train for everything else.
Now go out there and find yourself some great 2’s and 3’s.
Have you seen or heard the ads for Zip Recruiter? They are running a major campaign in my area, with a steady stream of plays on both radio and TV.
Their message is clear: Hiring is hard. You have more important things to do. We make it easier and save you time.
I hate these ads. They perpetuate the belief that hiring is hard (it’s not). They reinforce a belief among so many hiring managers that they have more important things to do than spend it hiring (they don’t).
Hiring is not hard. But, it does require time, energy and effort.
Hiring is important. If you have a position on your staff that truly needs to be filled, then there is no more important task than devoting the time to finding the right person for the job. If you don’t find this to be one of your highest priority items, then you are saying by your actions that filling the position is not that important.
One of my former places of employment had a system for hiring that I came to appreciate. It was similar to the airline model of overselling seats on a plane. There would be a limited number of positions that could be filled, but they would allow more than that number of openings to be posted. It created somewhat of a race to fill your posted positions. It forced you as hiring manager to devote time and energy to the process. If you didn’t act quickly, your posted position could be shut out by someone else hiring faster.
While there were people who complained about this, it did enforce a truism: those departments that had real need to fill the posted positions found a way to devote the time and energy to make it happen. Those departments that dragged their feet and managed to continue to do their jobs as-is, demonstrated that they could get by just fine without filling that position.
When my kids were young, we took them to a local park for the annual Easter Egg hunt. It was more of a race than a hunt. Scattered around a field were plastic eggs filled with candy. The kids would line up on the edges of the field with baskets in hand, waiting. When the horn blew, the mad dash was on. Each kid went running onto the field to grab as many eggs as they could. There were only so many eggs to go around.
Some kids got it. They knew they had to run and act quickly. They walked off the field with overflowing baskets. Other kids were a bit slower to catch on. They stood back, watching. They’d eventually head onto the field, stuck with picking up the few eggs left behind, overlooked by those who went first.
Hiring is like this. It is a race. There are only so many candidates out there. It is your job to rush onto the field, cull through the candidates quickly and select those who will be the best fit for your team. If you hold back, if you spend your time watching, or looking up in the sky at the clouds and the birds, you’ll be stuck with only what is left over.
I am sure that Zip Recruiter, Indeed and their competitors do make the job of hiring easier. I am sure they provide a valuable service. But, let’s not allow their message that you have more important things to do become our operating model. Rush the field. Fill your basket.
In my most recent blog post, I suggested that making sure there is a good cultural fit between the employer and employee is an important consideration. And that during the interview process, it is equally important for both the company and the individual applying for a position to ask questions around this topic.
The very next day, Dilbert started a series of comics making fun of the whole concept of hiring based on cultural fit. I won’t violate Scott Adams’ copyrights by pasting his actual comic strip here, but you can click on this link to see one of my favorites in that series. Or do a search on the Dilbert site. My favorite of the series ran on September 29, 2014.
Some people would say, “Well, he told you!” I would say, we’re both right.
In the comic, a good cultural fit is being held up as an alternative to a competent employee. Understand that competence, to me, is a basic level of qualification. Being competent is your permission to even interview for a given position. This is not an either/or, mutually exclusive decision. Obviously, employers need to find competent candidates.
But, once competence has been established, chances are very good that there will be several candidates still in the running. That is when cultural fit comes into play.
If you’ve ever compared job fairs to speed-dating, that comparison just got more interesting.
eHarmony, the company known for using personality profiling to create the perfect match for those looking for a personal relationship, recently announced they are getting into the job search and recruiting business. And I’m all for it.
Those of you who have paid attention to this blog at all know that I am a huge proponent of finding a good fit between employer and employee. The search and interview process must be a two-way street. The prospective employee should be asking just as many deep, probing questions as the hiring company.
Matching an employee’s personal style to the culture of an organization is a critical component of long term satisfaction and success for both the employee and the company.
I am hopeful for what the eHarmony approach can bring to this field. I am equally excited about other job-matching services paying attention to this and possibly adding more personality and culture-matching algorithms to their search engines.
In the end, we all benefit. Because Work Should Be Fun!
PS – If you are an employer who can’t wait for the eHarmony product launch, consider the services of someone such as my friend, Michael Spremulli. His company provides pre-employment assessments that will help you match the right person to the right job.