Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Putting America Back to Work

Bill George is, as many already know, a professor of management at HBS and the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic. He also wrote the 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis. In short, he is one of those people who as the old E.F. Hutton commercial said "when Bill speaks, people listen." And well they should.

If you didn't see his piece in the past week's edition of BusinessWeek it is well worth the read. If you are short on time, the Cliff's Notes version is that he shared some ideas of what we should be doing as the country keeps moving toward rebuilding our economy and creating sustainable jobs.

Specifically, he argues that we should be focused on "innovation, entrepreneurship, small business and new company formation." which if you believe in history seems pretty hard to argue against.

To prime the pump he thinks that if tax credits for long-term investments were raised along with making the current tax credits for R&D permanent it would go a long way to creating jobs in the aforementioned areas.

Moreover, he points to renewable energy, information technology and healthcare as logical places to start which also may seem obvious to many but these too are hard to argue against.

When I had finished reading Bill's op ed piece and put BW down, I was reminded again of just how important innovation is and how it really is and has been the engine that drives job creation, and if we don't make a concerted effort to provide an environment that fosters innovation far more so than is currently the case, "Do you want fries with that?" could well become our epitath.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Perceptions Are Real to Those Who Hold Them

Our banjo playing Chief Creative Officer, Sue DiAmico, is, among other things, a multi-tasker extraordinaire, so I wasn't surprised when she found the time in her cyber travels to forward a piece that appeared on the eMarketer Digital Intelligence site. The article was entitled: Job Candidates Both Hurt and Helped by Social Networks. As the title implies, the information about you on the Net can be a two-edged sword.

As I continue to contemplate the electronic world in which we live and while I am fascinated with it all, at least when it comes to the "digital dirt" issues that face some of the Gen X and Y folks, I not only feel for them but actually feel lucky that I was born way too soon.

Indeed, once I had read the piece, I could not help but think of the fact that if some of the stuff that I did when I was in college (or high school for that matter) ever made it to the Net, and I was a hiring manager and saw it or read about it, I wouldn't have made a phone call to me, much less hired me.

No matter where you are philosophically, when it comes to the debate over the separation of business lives vs. personal lives, if you are looking to make a change on the business side and whereas you might put points on the board for freedom of expression when the cover of an album on your Facebook page is a picture of you and your buddies standing by someone's VW that you just put on their porch last Halloween, points, not paychecks will be about all you'll get.

I don't know how many clich├ęs there are or ways to say "You only get one chance to make a first impression," and for sure there has been plenty written on the subject (e.g. when I goggled "digital dirt" I got 3,600,000 hits); and yet even in this super competitive market I can't get over how we still see way too many people head out into the market before they are really ready to make sure that the impression they are going to leave be it verbal, print or electronic is at the quality level that they not only would want for themselves but which others would expect.

I am not talking about the crazy stuff that most of us did. If it's out there, it's out there, and while there are still plenty of folks who are at senior executive levels today who have been eliminated by recruiters due to stuff the recruiter has found online, for the most part at senior levels it isn't the skinny dip photos that gets your resume shredded. It is much more likely to be sloppy spelling, poor follow-up, poor communication skills, poor grammar, or maybe a resume that looks like it is a "before" sample.

With the pressures facing organizations these days, they don't have and won't take the time to get a second impression, so taking the time to make sure that "the product" is ready for prime time is not only time well spent, it is absolutely essential.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Biggest Bang for the Buck

If one of your goals as a leader is to become a better communicator, there is no better time than now to do just that. Indeed, given the present economic envionment, if you are a leader there has never been a time where it is more important for you to communicate to those you lead.

As we all plan to spend the balance of 2009 moving beyond the recession and into some sort of recovery, the fact remains that the economy and its instability are top-of-mind for most employees. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open as you navigate your company through these uncertain times. Employees are counting on you for that.

Consulting firm Watson Wyatt surveyed employers about communicating in this rough economic climate. Among the topics employers said they are addressing include company performance and solvency as well as job security — issues employees say are of the most interest to them. Hardly surprising.

How is this communication occurring? According to the survey, the most popular methods seem to be town hall meetings, staff meetings and face-to-face talks. Even email and company intranets are effective tools. Apparently the survey was done before Twitter came on the scene or it probably would have had that as a source as well.

Regardless of the channel, the good news is that the majority (62 percent) said they’re not going to stop. In truth, I was a bit disappointed and surprised that the percertage wasn't higher, but 62% is a good start and hopefully once times improve they will not go back to "business as usual" and allow the "grapevine" to communicate for them.

Why was I disappointed even with 62%? The answer is because if I was the head of HR and the boss came to me and said your budget for the year is $1.00 and you must pick only one item on which to spend it, I would tell him that I was going to spend it on communications with the staff. That's how important I think it is and here's why:

The real driver for productivity doesn't come from the application of technology. The technology is just the tool. The real difference maker is the committment level of the individuals in whose hands the tools are placed and my belief is that committment comes from the motivation that is bourne out of trust and good news or bad (especially bad) the enteprise that levels with its people - wins.

This is not to say that there aren't any number of other elements involved, of course there are, but if these are not bulit on a foundation of trust, long term the organization will find committment replaced by people who are simply going through the motions.

And before you say "Hey Dave, tell me something I don't know," explain to me why more companies don't do it? Maybe it's because as my mother used to say their leaders have the "morals of an alley cat?"