Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Light of Day Test

"Perceptions are real to those who hold them."

I don't remember where I first heard this phrase or even if it was a quote from someone, but in my experience I have found there is great truth in it.

How one measures the "value" of someone to an enterprise is like talking about "quality." It is a subjective term, and obviously means different things to different people.

It has also been my experience that if someone is judged to have significant "value" to a business and is recognized for this by way of title, compensation or otherwise, the real test for those who have made the judgment comes when the decision is made public.

When I was in the corporate world we used to call this "the light of day test" and on more than one occasion it was a good notion to apply to actions before deciding whether or not to take them be they personnel moves or otherwise because once made public, it didn't take long to see and sense if the person's peers as well as the rest of the organization agreed or disagreed with the action.
We still seeem to live and work in a world where "score" is kept on lots of different criteria and AIG, etc. notwithstanding I doubt this sort of score keeping is going to go away anytime soon, and as speechless as I am at what we have all heard and read over past few weeks, I am not even arguing that it should.

At the end of day, if the decisions that senior leaders make in terms of handing out kudos (monatary or otherwise) pass the light of day test first, they are probably not going to find themselves the lead story on the 24/7 news cycles for weeks at a time.

Someone much smarter than I am taught me a long time ago that as managers we really get paid to do just three things: hire, fire, and evaluate.

Translation: We are paid to exercise judgement and what makes that so uncomfortable at times is that subjective judgement is just that. I can't defend it other than to say "after considering all the factors, this is what I feel is the right thing to do (i.e. this is my belief).

Beliefs come from personal value systems and where value systems are absent or broken we get the Madoffs of the world.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Would Your Mother Say?

One of the features that ExecuNet members have and make great use of is our Roundtable discussion groups.

I still think that the most powerful learnings on almost any subject come from peers, and when I get my daily digest of these discussions it does nothing more but add to that feeling. It is just great stuff.

One of the topics a lot of members have been talking about, not surprisingly, was the AIG stuff and the perceptions thereof. Obviously it made most of us sick and for all the right reasons.

In reading through the discussion thread on our GM Roundtable, one of the posts struck me to the point where I wanted to reach out to its author and ask if I could share it here. Fortunately, member Bill Jackson told me it was okay and once you have read it, I hope you'll agree that what he had to say makes all kinds of sense.

First we have no idea what the contracts said. Were these retention agreements put in place years ago to keep people from bolting that guaranteed the payments regardless of performance? Were they performance based contracts? Were they earn outs as part of an acquisition? Since we don't know, we really can't comment.

That said, if I were running the place I would have taken every one of the people who were going to get these bonuses into a room and said the following:

"Look, I know you have contracts and you are entitled to these payments. I understand that you may have even based plans on these payments coming. In fact, I'm sure that you may even be able to legally force me to make these payments. But, if we pay these out we are going to create a firestorm in the public eye, congress and the political arena that none of us may survive.

It is in our best interest to not do this now. When we turn this thing around, I can ensure you that your decision to not take these payouts now will be rewarded in the future.

Thus, I've made the decision to not pay these bonuses. I hope you can support me in this, now let's get back to work to making this company great again."

Any good leader needs to understand both the legal and moral responsibility but also what the "optical" view of what you do. If it's not going to look right in the eyes of people who can make your life miserable, you need to deal with that. AIG didn't, and we're seeing the results.
It reminds me of the well known "light of day test" where if you need help in making the right decision just ask yourself "what would your mother say?"


After more than 45 years of being attached to the world of career managment in one way or another, it is pretty easy to think that you've heard it all and in some respects maybe you have. On the other hand, that doesn't change the fact that more often than you might imagine when you hear someone talk on a subject about which you feel you not only have "heard it all before" but think you know a lot about it yourself you realize yet once again that neither is true.

What I mean is that while the subject matter is not new to you, the way in which the presenter conveys a point all of a sudden resonates in a way that sharpens your focus on some critical concepts and helps you to internalize those concepts in a more impactful way.

Such was the case for me when I tuned into Peter Clayton's Total Picture Radio podcast that featured Judy Rosemarin talking about The Magic of Storytelling in a Job Search.

In the interest of full disclosure, I initally wanted to tune into this because I know Judy so well. We have been lucky enough to have her as our point person and facilitator for our networking meetings in NYC for 15+ years as well as a frequent presenter for both our FastTrack and Coffee Break webinars. Point being, as a "fan" I wanted to hear what she had to say.

What blew me away and prompted this post was the "learnings" I got from listening to her talk about "value and values" and "storytelling" in the interview process.

Peter's interview with Judy runs just over 20 minutes, but it is 20 minutes well spent whether you think you have heard it all before or not.

As the Brits would say, at least from my perspective, she was, as usual, "spot on."

Monday, March 09, 2009

Half Full or Half Empty

With the 24/7 "downers" that we all have been hearing for what seems like forever, I was both surprised and pleased to have recieved this video from a friend.

I am guessing that many readers of this blog may have also been fortunate enough to have seen it already but for those who may not have, here's an opportunity to check out something that is not only in my opinion very clever but which also delivers a very powerful and positive message - both of which we could use more of.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Serving Or Selling - Giving or Getting - Me or You

Patty Azzarello's blog is called The Desired Outcome.

In case her name is new to you, here's a brief bio:

Patty was the youngest person ever to become a general manager at Hewlett Packard
at the age of 33. She ran a $1B global software business at age 35
and became a CEO for the first time at the age of 38. With a scorecard like that, one can't help but say "this feels like someone I should pay some attention to" which when I read her recent posting called "Serving or Selliing" was exactly what I did.

While the post that she wrote was focused on sales and sales strategies, it seemed to me that one could easily overlay much of what she was saying to the job search experience and process.

That by itself would probably not come as a revalation to many. After all, most of us know full well that a job search is, in fact, a sales process. What struck me about this particular post was the emphasis she placed on "serving" vs. "selling."

Naturally, we all like it when we find others who support our beliefs, so maybe this is another reason why I wanted to expose

knowing full well that there are thousands of executives in this economy who are in the middle of a job search and are working as hard as they know how to bring that process to a successful conclusion just as fast as humanly possible in reading the post I thought a great deal of what she was saying.


Now is the time to be serving/giving.

You will get more business in the short term, and you will be building a foundation of good will, which will pay huge dividends in the future. People remember who helped them in tough times.

And people do business with people they are currently engaged with. Stay engaged. Help.

Even if you are not a sales person, now is a good time to help people.

You build value in your network by putting value into it.

Think of always maintaining a balance of giving more than you take. Then when you need something you will find that help is abundantly available.

In your sales process, anything you give will increase the value of what you ultimately sell.