Managers You Want Better Candidates? Then Help HR With “Your”Job Descriptions

According to a recent WSJ article, the way job descriptions are written may be the cause for managers saying they can’t find talented people. Oh really?

Traditional job postings represent about 40 -50 percent of what most people see when it comes to their job search. By traditional, I’m referring to the job description which insists on five years of experience for a technology that has only been around for two. Is there any wonder that people don’t apply with this sort of job description?

Interestingly, the article mentioned that companies should discontinue overloading their job descriptions with requirements, even dropping education requirements as they are not really a predictor of success. As informative as the information from the article was, it was a bit shortsighted on the need for managers to be more involved in the process.

Traditionally, when a manager needs to replace someone, or is hiring for a new position, they tell HR their requirements and sit back and wait for the candidates to come flocking in for the interviewing process. When they start rejecting applicant after applicant, they complain that HR isn’t doing their job and putting forth capable candidates for their precious position. Since HR has limited knowledge of the job requirements, they use traditional approaches, which result in less than desirable outcomes, for the applicant, hiring manager, and the company.

The article presented some interesting suggestions on what could be done to correct the situation, such as adding livelier text in the job description, reducing the job description down to 300 words, dropping education requirements to hiring companies to help with putting more life into their job descriptions.

All the above suggestions have merit, but, the key component in any good job description requires the hiring manager to be a significant participant in the process. After all, she is the one who will have to manage and evaluate the performance. She knows they type individual who will work well with her team. I realize that managers are busy individuals and they would like to have the luxury of being able to hand a replacement or new hire requirement off to HR and feel comfortable that a bevy of candidates would come through and they would have the pick of the litter. However, that’s not reality.

Managers own the responsibility of providing meaningful descriptions of what their people do, and it’s up to them to work with their HR folks to insure that they get they type of candidate in for review. As previously stated, they know what does and doesn’t work in their environment. They know what skills sets are needed to perform the work. As such, they must be an integral part of the developing job descriptions. Once HR has them, they can be about the process of finding capable candidates based on the data they have and presenting those who will bring value to the organization.

If it sounds like I’m advocating that management and HR find a way to work together to develop job descriptions that are more reflective of the type of talent a hiring manager needs for the good of her team, then I made my point.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

Managing Gen-Y Oh My!

Is the technical advantage that millennials have starting to dissipate? You know, their skills with technology which are supposed to give them an advantage over their Gen-x and boomers colleagues in the workplace.

Read any of the myriads of books and articles about millennials to a fault these authors touted their skill and expertise with technology as their advantage to those who weren’t as proficient with the mastery of world of technology. But, a funny thing happened on the way to their predicted rise to the top, the recession.

The “great recession of 2008” threw a monkey-wrench in their plans to transform the workplace. If anything, the recession has forced many millennials to improvise and adapt and take on characteristics of both the boomers and Gen-Xers they are looking to replace.

The Recession Forced Boomers To Adapt! Faced with major losses in their retirement funds, Boomers, did the only thing they could, they used their political skills and organizational savvy to stay in their jobs. Long ago, they figured out how to create the persona of a valued employee as such it allows them to exercise certain skills that millennials have yet to acquire. In certain instances, a boomer’s seniority allows them to “bump” a person out of their current position. In other situations, they call in “favors” they’ve accumulated over time. In other words, they’re not going without first exhausting everything in their bag of tricks, a bag I might add that many millennials have yet to develop.

Technology Isn’t the Boggy-Man! There is a lot of hype around millennials ability to use technology because they grew up with it all around them. Granted they may and are good at using it in ways that are impressive and astounding. But, let’s not forget who invented much of the technology that is being used today. Not all Boomers are afraid of using technology. Maybe they’re not as fast at texting as their younger counterparts, but they text fast enough to be effective at work, and that’s what counts.

Formidable Competition in the Marketplace! Ok right now it’s tough for everyone who’s job hunting. When speaking to college students who are about to enter the job market I ask them a simple question, “Who do you see as your competition?” Invariably they respond back by saying their graduating class. They forget about the class the year before them, not to mention all the people – which includes – boomers who have the experience that companies are seeking. Most hiring managers will error on the side of proven experience over untested potential. There are companies who will take a risk on newly minted undergraduate or graduate students with the idea of molding them to their way of doing business. But, they would be hard pressed to pass up a more qualified candidate who has already proven they’re responsible and dependable, along with demonstrating they understand how to operate effectively in the work environment.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no ill feelings toward the millennial generation, as they do represent the group of individuals that will ultimately occupy many of the positions that will be vacated by their predecessors. They bring with them a level of inspiration and belief that they can make a difference and they have the tools ability to affect change. Unfortunately, they were gob smacked by the recession. Which has put a serious crimp in they’re upending the work environment as predicted by all those who wrote about the change that would come about from this group.

Millennials do come with a set of desirable skills which can have an impact, but, it doesn’t necessarily translate into any significant change that companies haven’t managed when other generations entered the workforce.

Perhaps the key to dealing with all the hype around the how the millennials will bring about change is to understand as skillful as they may be, they still have to adapt to their work environment. For them to do this successfully, you as a manager, will have to make some adjustments in how you manage, coach and guide those under your tutelage. As a manager it’s you responsibility to find a way to effectively utilize all the assets under your control. By assisting them through a process of guided discovery, they will adapt and use their talents productively just as those who came before them have. Also, they will realize why it’s called work and not play as they will be glad they have a job.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

Willingness to learn: Are you?

I was sitting outside a Burger King having lunch and I noticed a mother and her two young girls. Her girls were between 4 and 18 months. What struck me were the questions they were asking their mom as they were entering the Burger King. Like why was the motorcycle so loud, what was the crow saying? They wanted to understand what was going on around them they had a willingness to learn.

Children do have a way of teaching us in ways we least expect. In the example, these young girls’ minds were open to take in new information that would be used later. Perhaps in helping to identify the call of a crow, or making the distinction between a loud car and motorcycle, this future ability will be the result of asking their mother questions to help them understand what was happening around them.

Watching these young girls interact with their mother I thought of those individuals who are managers and found myself asking, “Are managers willing to learn?” If you’re a manager, you may often feel like a parent. You have to juggle multiple project deadlines, intercede with employees who may not get along, or provide answers to questions that appear obvious to you. So if someone (like me) where to ask “are you willing to learn?” and you responded with a “are you kidding, when am I not learning, or when do I have time with everything I have to do? Your response would be understandable, but, shortsighted. Managers today have a responsibility to be willing to learn, if they don’t then they won’t be in management very long. Let me explain.

Collectively the people you manage know more that you! The group you manage will know more than you will when it comes to doing their jobs. The knowledge they possess is what makes them valuable to the organization. For you to be able to manage them, then you have to commit to making learning a habit. Managing knowledge workers requires that you understand how to manage valuable assets, which knowledge workers are. Meaning, that you need to develop the various competencies required for the group you’re working with. The willingness to commit to continuous learning is important.

Willingness to learn will present you with numerous opportunities! Effective managing requires you to grow and expand your knowledge around managing. You have to deal with the practice and application of management principles and practices. Meaning there will be days when you need to be the philosopher, psychologist or the economist. Other days will require you to be the teacher, the designer and implementer or salesperson. Your willingness to learn how to develop these skills allows you to see a bigger picture thus affording you greater opportunities for mobility and advancement.

Part of being willing to learn means being willing to listen! Hemingway said, “When people talk listen completely. Most people never listen.” Too many of us are not good listeners. Listening is hard to master. Many think they are good listeners, but, in actuality, they’re not. Learning to listen and allowing them to fully express their thoughts out on a subject without, a) interrupting, or b) thinking about how you’re going to respond. If we train ourselves to really listen, you will be the recipient of a great deal of useful information that can help you out later.

Willingness to learn means learning from your mistakes and you will have them! Not everything you do will work out the way you want or expect. There will be times will some things will just crash and burn. It’s what you do when that happens. Mistakes provide a good way of learning. Remember what we said earlier, being a good manager means committing to a path of continuous learning which means, as you, travel this path mistakes will happen when they do they should be seen as lessons learn. Hopefully you won’t repeat them.

If you have the privilege of being a manager, then, look at it as an ongoing learning experience and open yourself up and be willing to learn.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

CEOs Lousy At Managing People, Really?

“A New study shows the CEOs are doing a lousy job when it comes to people management.” This was the opening sentence in a recent Forbes article entitled, “CEOs Are Terrible at Management.” How is this possible with mountains of information that stresses the importance of customer service, servant leadership, and promoting employee engagement as the keys to having a successful company?

It emanates from an old adage, “what gets measured gets managed.” As this report points out that, the CEOs directors place little import on what they consider non-financial metrics. According to the study conducted by The Miles Group, these areas “are less than 5%” of a CEO evaluation done by board directors. So, its simple, if directors don’t see it as a metric worth measuring, then why should the CEO? After all, if it only counts as 5% of their evaluation, and the directors are placing more emphasis on how well their CEOs do in the areas of all things financial shouldn’t they focus on what is going to give them the best possible evaluation by their directors? Too many CEOs would agree that their focus should be on what the directors deem important. But they would be wrong and here our three reasons why.

1. Most directors don’t know how to evaluate a CEO until the CEO tells them on what they should be evaluated.

  •  Most directors really have no clue on how to evaluate their CEO. They focus on the area that is important to them, the financials. After all, it’s easy. The stock price is either up or down if it’s down, push on the CEO to get the price back up, if it’s rising, push them harder to get it even higher. So the CEO needs to point out to them there is more to the job than just keeping the stock price high. CEOs care about their legacy and want to be known for much more. They understand that focus on having a stable stock price is a key component of their job, but, it’s just one of many.

2. Most CEOs don’t have and honest discussion with their directors about the evaluation process.

  • It’s simple, CEOs are people too, and they don’t necessarily desire to talk about areas they need to work on, so they’re not honest with their directors when it comes to discussing what and how they should be measured. So both take the default setting of financial results. An open and honest discussion would be inclusive around and including how the CEO can improve in areas not directly related to financial management. Seeking assistance from the board on developing a talent management program, how to better handle conflict, or dealing with nagging customer satisfaction problems lends itself to a more balance approach to the evaluation discussion. It also, opens the lines of communication between the directors and helps them provide better guidance and direction to the CEO.

3. Both CEOs and Directors suck at the evaluation process.

  • According to The Miles Group study, there is a failure of some directors to evaluate their CEOs and there are those CEOs who don’t believe the evaluation process is a meaningful exercise at all. In other words, both the directors and CEOs suck at the evaluation process. Since they both suck at it they do the wink and nod at evaluation time. If the numbers are good here’s you envelope with your new compensation package, see you on the golf course this afternoon.  If the numbers are bad, get them up and here’s your envelope with your new compensation package, see you in Bermuda in two weeks.  Both the directors and CEO can benefit from the example of Stephen P. Kaufman former CEO of Arrow Electronics when he was surprised at how his evaluation was handled by the chair of compensation. 

While The Miles Group report points out that CEOs are lousy at managing, it doesn’t have to be that way. When the Stephen P. Kaufman CEO of Arrow Electronics received his 10 minute evaluation with the chair of the compensation committee he changed the process. That quick pop in meeting caused him to realize that if he was making his management team provide input from multiple sources, he should also be held to a similar standard by his directors. He instituted a process by which his board to improve how he would be evaluated. Through it, he learned about leadership and benefited greatly from the process. Mr. Kaufman would be part of the 12% of CEOs in The Miles Group study that felt they were rated too high or too low. (See October 2008 issue HBR Evaluating the CEO)

As the Forbes article stated CEOs might be lousy at managing, their directors are bad at the most important aspect of their job, which is giving their CEO real feedback during their evaluation process. Yes financial metrics are important, but so are, leadership, strategy, people management, and relationships with external constituencies. These combined with operational metrics (which finance is but one of several) are what Mr. Kaufman had his board evaluate him on and it resulted in a much better evaluation discussion that allowed him to get a better insight to areas he need to improve, which in turn allowed him to be a successful CEO for 14 years at Arrow Electronics.

Board of directors have a responsibility to ensure that the CEO performing at a level that will benefits the company throughly, and that means evaluating them not just on the financials, but, as pointed out, leadership, strategy, people management and development, and customer and community service. Both the CEO and board need to be engaged, Mr. Kaufman has provided them a template, perhaps they should follow it.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

The Elephants Are Dancing At Dell

The elephants are getting ready to dance at Dell. You see when elephants dance in the corporate setting, a great deal of damage is the result.

Michael Dell is trying to take his company private and Carl Icahn is trying to take it over and replace the current board and move Dell out. This dance will affect employees and customers and if Icahn wins, Dell may go the way of Digital Equipment Corporation, Data General, Gateway and Compaq.

The first two companies I cited (Digital & Data General) had their founders pushed out and replaced. A similar fate seems to be on the horizon for Michael Dell. In the case of Digital and Data General, the boards of both of these companies ousted their founders.

When elephants dance, they pay little attention to their surroundings after all they’re the biggest thing in the room and care less about the damage their dance will create. This type of dance is about who will control the company not about the impact it will have on the employees. The other elephants who are concerned are the major stockholders and they don’t much care as they win regardless of who ends up the leader.

The fallout from this dance first will be subtle then like the ripples from a stone dropped in a still pond they will have a long lasting impact throughout the company. It will start with some key people quietly living to the more expansive company wide downsizing.

As Michael Dell fights to keep his company, Carl Icahn is fighting as hard to take it away from him. Dell employees are trying to stay focus but in the pit of their stomachs, they’re very concerned about how this dance will end. No doubt, management is telling them to focus on what they do best, but the focus on the customer will rapidly drop as employees will focused internally concerned about their future with Dell.

This is an expensive dance happening inside the boardroom at Dell. There will certainly be winners and losers. Dell’s stockholders will win regardless if Dell goes private or taken over by Icahn.

Two groups will lose. First, the employees as they will have to contend with the constant set of changes that will result in from going private or a takeover by Icahn. If the company goes private, Michael Dell will have to make changes to differentiate itself in the commodity PC market. On the other hand, if Icahn wins whole scale management changes will cascade throughout the organization. Second, customers will be on the receiving end of employee’s dissatisfaction with the internal workings of Dell. This may range from antipathy, to incompetence to Dell going the way of Digital, Data General, Gateway and Compaq the results of elephants dancing.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

Hey Ron, You’re Not At Apple Anymore.

For many the departure of Ron Johnson former CEO of JC Penney’s has gone unnoticed. But, not in my household, not because we’re a frequent shopper at Penney’s it’s because my wife works there part time and was (as colleagues of hers) the recipient of the numerous changes Johnson put in place. During his tenure, I heard about the constant confusion brought on by his incessant ready aim fire change process.

Normally, I would listen (as a well-trained husband is supposed to do) to her concerns, (I told you I was well train, it’s always concerns not complaints) and just move on about my activities. But, his name rang a bell and then I realized this was the same Ron Johnson from Apple. I had recently finished Walter Isaacson’s book, Steve Jobs. The changes she was voicing her concerns about were similar to what Isaacson wrote about in chapter 29, especially when he described the customer experience.

Johnson tried to turn Penney’s into Apple. He thought the Apple store success would easily translated into the world of discount apparel and home good products. Common sense and his pre Apple experience should had sent his Spider senses tingling, but, he was still under the influence of the “reality distortion field” prominent in the Apple Culture. It was Jobs way of getting people to believe they could get things done in extremely short timeframes.

Think of it as Scotty the engineer, telling Captain Kirk it would take fours to fix the warp engine and Kirk giving him two, and Scotty would complete the task with only minutes to spare. Johnson was making Jobs like demands for changes and imposing short timeframes expecting that people would rise to the challenge. Unfortunately, he miscalculated on several levels.

His first and perhaps the most damaging, he failed to know his customer base. He was trying to convince Penney’s customers they didn’t know what they wanted until he showed them. He conflated Penney customers with Apple customers. The only thing they have in common is the word customer. People, who purchase Apple products, are cult like in their obsession. They go to an Apple store to purchase an Apple product, the only thing that an Apple store sells.

His second miscalculation was he didn’t learn from his Apple experience. Based on what Isaacson wrote, Jobs created a prototype store to test ideas, and when he brought Johnson on board, he spent many hours discussing ideas and made changes, to Johnson, surprised on recommendations he had made to Jobs. It was reported that when asked if he was going to test his change on the coupons, he replied, “no of course not.” He didn’t listen to his management team. He thought Jobs didn’t listen, and just ploughed ahead, but Jobs just pretended he didn’t. When one of him managers came up with a good idea he would use it.

His third miscalculation he allowed his most recent success (Apple Stores) overshadow his collective experience in the retail field. Another way of saying this is he believed his own press. Much was made of JC Penney’s management getting him from Apple. They saw him as their savior, and fully believed he would turn the company around and guide them to greater profitability. Sadly, so did Johnson. His rapid rise in the retail industry and his successes at Target and Apple no doubt were contributors to his demise.

Trying to make JC Penney’s as successful as the Apple stores was the goal. They hired the right individual who played a major part in the success of the Apple stores. It could have been successful if Johnson had a malleable Apple like board and Apple like customers.

Which he didn’t and which ultimately lead to his short tenure.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

What’s In A Title? It Depends On You

What’s in a title? Apparently, quite a bit according to a recent Wall Street article on how real-estate brokers may have to stop using the title of vice-president or executive vice-president if they “weren’t elected or promoted to that position.” The ason according to the Real Estate Board of New York, “Brokers who identify themselves with business titles they haven’t received are being “dishonest” and “misleading,” according to the letter sent to the board’s legal counsel, Neil Garfinkel of Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson.”

This article is interesting on a number of levels but the two that jump out are, there is actually someone who worries about what real-estate people call themselves, and the other is people in the real-estate industry care about what they call themselves according to the article, “A title to a broker is very important,” one brokerage-firm spokesman said. “Even though they’re not voting titles, it designates a sort of level of achievement. How would you present yourself in the industry without a title? People would be very upset.”

The last part of the statement reminds me of story I heard attending a seminar on family businesses a few years back. The person telling the story was consulting to a family hardware business. It seems this business had gone a bit over board with the assigning of titles to mollify various family members who worked in the business. They finally figured out that they needed to do something about it, when, a call came in from a customer who wanted to talk to someone about purchasing some ladders, the receptionist asked, if they would like to speak with the VP for metal ladders or the VP for wooden ladders. We all had a good laugh, it did show how some people got carried away. People are concerned about having a title. I realized this when I walked into the administration office of my Alma Mata to register for classes. The person assigned to help me handed me his business card with the title of “assistant to the assistant dean of registrar.” I looked at the title and looked at the individual who seem to be pleased that I was absorbing the all-powerfulness of his title, because he had a big smile on his face. Which quickly turned to a frown when I asked him, “does this mean you’re almost a dean?”

In his book, The Fifth Discipline Senge described it as people becoming their position. In becoming their position it immobilizes them, it prevents them from taking action outside of their position. Give people a title and they behave and perform in accordance to their title and the position it represents in their mind. Take it away from them they fall apart. Tell someone she is the senior accounts manager she operates in a way she believes a senior account manager should. Take the senior away, and you will see a decline in performance even with no change in responsibilities.

Why is this important? As mangers, it helps you understand that performance at a high level requires people to think beyond title and position. When employees impressed with their title it limits them. It limits their ability to find causes of problems and solving them, because they don’t see it as part of their job. Remember the FedEx commercial, where the office manager comes over to the newly hired employee and asks him to help with a problem in shipping. He stands up puts on his suit jacket, smiles and says he would be glad to help. Only to find out the problem in shipping is getting the packages sent out using the easy to use FedEx shipping system. When he looks on in dismay, she asks, if he knows how to do this, and he responds, of course “I have an MBA.” Whereupon she responds saying, “oh you’re an MBA, so that means I’m going to have to explain it to you.”

He was thinking his MBA title imbued him with some knowledge and expertise the office manager would amazing. His MBA title immobilized him. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to demonstrate he was a team player willing to his expression suggested disappointment for the non-recognition of hi MBA. The WSJ article was dealing with titles in the real estate industry, specifically brokerage firms, but it’s applicable in any industry. Titles do covey where a person is in the organization structure and imply certain responsibility and authority. Giving out titles just to pacify employees is never a good idea. Rightly or wrongly, people will make assumptions and do everything they can to play the role the title suggests often to their own determent and the determent of the organization.

As a manager, you want people working for you who won’t limit themselves to the boundaries and limitations of their title or position. You want people who won’t confine themselves to the limitations of their title, but people who are willing to take on greater responsibilities for the benefit of customers and the company.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

How Not To Manage

By now, everyone has seen the video of the Rutgers Basketball coach abusing his players. What Rice was doing wasn’t coaching. It was outright bullying of his players. Do it my way or you’re get a ball tossed at your head, get in the right position or you’ll get kicked move faster or I’ll call you names. In no way was this coaching it was just plain bullying.

However, there are those who will look at the video and not see anything wrong with Mike Rice’s method and style of coaching. For them it’s all too familiar as they may have been the recipients of similar treatment. It wasn’t too long ago that Rice’s coaching style was acceptable behavior, but times have changed unfortunately some people haven’t.

Mike Rice was fired for how he treated the members of the basketball team. But it was only after the video went viral. Had this not happen he would still be coaching at Rutgers. His conduct isn’t dissimilar to how many managers and supervisors treat those who report to them. A recent study has reported that between 35 – 50% of workers have been subjected to some form of bullying or harassment on the job. Just as all the yelling and ball, throwing didn’t improve Rutgers win/loss record similar tactics in the work place only serve to be disruptive and counterproductive.

Far too many people like Mike Rice and Tim Pernetti are in management and supervisory positions. In too many organizations, you have a supervisor with a personality like Mike Rice and an enabling manager like Tim Pernetti which is a destructive combination. The supervisor with the Rice personality will continue his flawed supervisory style, resulting in low morale, loss productivity, not to mention a higher than normal turnover rate. As long as his Tim Pernetti like manager believes him to be a superstar, and is unwilling to rein him, he will go unchecked until it’s too late for both of them.

Rice and Pernetti they both lost their jobs, but, the damage to Rutgers reputation has already been done, and, it will be sometime before they recover. Not unlike what happens in the workplace. Any company that has a reputation for poor management will struggle in the war for talent. Talented people can pick and choose where they want to work for one major reason, they’re talented.

They posses the desired skills managers want in employees. So if they have a group of managers who are impacting their ability to attract and retain talented and highly skilled employees, both current or future, it incumbent on them to address the issue and make some major management changes. In the case of Rutgers, they fired Mike Rice as the head basketball coach, and more than likely, demanded the resignation of the Athletic Director Tim Pernitti.

But the question hanging in the air is will they be able to recover from the damage done or is additional change needed?

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

Management Lessons from The Prince

I was reading several accounts about Marissa Mayer’s decision to discontinue Yahoo’s working remotely for many Yahoo employees. Her decision to discontinue this policy has caused a bit of a firestorm in the high-tech arena. Some see it as another indication of Yahoo’s decline. Those supposedly in the know feel that allow employees to work from home allows them to be more creative, and productive. But, that depends on whom you talk to and what recent study on telecommuting you’ve read. The employees of Yahoo who have been working remotely are not happy and they are complaining about the unfairness of the decision.

Overall, Yahoo is facing a series of problems, failing revenues for the past three years, six CEO’s in as many years, and complaints about those who work remotely are taking advantage of the system. After reading several articles about Mayer’s decision, I started thumbing through my copy of The Prince by Nicclò Machiavelli, I know what you’re, thinking, Machiavelli the avatar for manipulation and evil, who believed the end justifies the means. How could anything he wrote be applicable to working from home? Before you cast him aside, consider that many have taken much of what he has written out of context or they misapplied his writings. If you spend, some time reading and reflecting on what he wrote you would find he has some valuable insights on a number of situations.

Consider this, “A ruler mustn’t worry about being labeled cruel when it’s a question of keeping his subjects loyal and united; using a little exemplary severity, he will prove more compassionate than the leader whose excessive compassion leads to public disorder, muggings and murder.”

 Put aside the latter part of the quote and consider the first part and replace ruler with leader. No doubt, those employees who will no longer be working from home feel this is a cruel and sever decision. But as Machiavelli said, a leader mustn’t worry about being labeled cruel when it’s a question of keeping his people loyal and united. Yahoo had no formal arrangement on working from home. Without a structured arrangement for working at home, one is subject to anything goes. This will cause problems as indicated by people complaining remote working milking the system.

Then there are the critics who are chirping that she will lose their talented employees with her decision to curtail working from home, saying that Yahoo can’t figure out how to collaborate remotely. Let’s say there is some truth in that statement, so what people leave for all types or reason talented or not. If she doesn’t turn, the company around it won’t matter as Yahoo will be forced to do some wholesale downsizing and with the type of cuts they may be forced to make everyone will be on the chopping block regardless of their talent level.

What Mayer is doing may well “prove more compassionate than the leader whose excessive compassion leads to public disorder, muggings and murder.” No one is implying that people are being mugged or murdered, but there is clearly disorder among the troops. Many at Yahoo welcomed the elimination of working from home citing instances of people abusing the system, slacking off and people not being available and working on non-Yahoo projects. Mayer’s decision to end Yahoo’s work from home program and bring people back face to face at corporate may just lead to long term benefits down the line. This change handled correctly, could benefice for the company overall.

Mayer has a mess on her hands, and she can’t worry about what the business media is saying or writing about her decision to eliminate working from home at Yahoo. In the overall scheme of things, this decision is just one of many that she will be making as she struggles to turn Yahoo around. Machiavelli wrote, “a sensible man will base his power on what he controls, not on what others have freedom to choose.” Mayer has to focus on what she needs to do to turn Yahoo around not on what the nattering nabobs of negativity are saying about her decision to eliminate working from home.

If she wants to be successful at Yahoo, taking few points from Nicclò Machiavelli’s The Prince might help her along her management path. Because if she doesn’t get Yahoo back to being productive, they will be looking for CEO number seven.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

Office Politics: Quigley Down Under Style

A few days back I stumbled on an article about dealing with office politics. Reading the article, I was struck by the author’s ambivalence toward the topic. The author was treating the topic with little regard offering some sort of simple formulaic method as if by following their simple formula the issue of office politics would magically go away.

I recognize that many people detest the idea of having to deal with office politics. Most people do not hold those who engage in the practice in high esteem. They do their best to avoid interacting acting with them lest they get caught up in their various political activities. But, there are times when it’s necessary and unavoidable. The challenge is learning how to be political without broadcasting that’s what you’re doing. The movie, Quigley Down Under comes to mind.

The main characters is a sharpshooter named Matt Quigley played by Tom Selleck and Australian ranch owner Elliott Marston played by Alan Rickman. Marston fancied himself as the Australian version of Bill Hitchcock, while Quigley was there for a job that Marston hired him for that Quigley found out was not as advertised.

My reason for mentioning this movie was this exchange between Quigley and Marston after Quigley bested him in a quick draw that Marston was sure he would win, because of his mistaken belief that Quigley had no skill with a pistol. As the dying Marston looked at Quigley amazed he had been out drawn and shot, Quigley said, “I said I never had much use for one, never said I didn’t know how to use it.” Marston made an assumption based on a former exchange Quigley’s had no skill with a Colt pistol an assumption that cost him his life.

For those of you who decry the game of office politics understanding Quigley’s comment is essential to your being successful at the game of politics. You don’t have to flaunt your knowledge in this area but you do need to be proficient at the game if you want to survive.

It will do you well if people believe you’re less skillful than you really are. Giving people the impression you don’t much care for office politics, allows the office show-off the false impression they are the only ones in the know. Your faux low political profile will allow you listen, observe, and stealthy gather information while all the game players are doing their best to impress and get over on each other.

Then one day someone in the office will try to get over on you by playing some political office game and that’s when like Matt Quigley you best them at their own game, and to their astonishment when they ask you when did you become politically astute, you tell them, “I’ve said I never had much use for game of office politics, never said I don’t know how play the game.”

Their look of surprise as well as your moving past them in the hierarchical structure will be testimony why you need to understand how to make the game of politics work for you and it’s not something you need to fear and avoid but a skill to acquire for use at the appropriate time.  It’s ok to not have much use for playing the game, but you at least need to know how play.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2013. All Rights Reserved

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