Friday, February 27, 2015

The Underdog

My friend Charlie has donated some fantastic knowledge to the blogosphere as of late. I share his sentiment that the best professionals share a distinct common characteristic:

The Underdog Mentality

People who are great at what they do listen to every criticism and compliment. While we would like to tell ourselves the insults do not effect us, they do. While we would like to say we don't need recognition, we do. If success is in your DNA you work hard, have an inherent ability to learn from your mistakes and put your victories in a very small corner of your mental trophy case.

Doubt is Fuel
My dad hired thousands of people. The proudest professional achievements of his 50+ year career are supplanted in the times when he took a chance on the less-obvious choice. He will admit that those who were under-qualified were more motivated and possessed a greater sense of hubris. Which is why they exceeded expectations without entitlement.

If you are smart and you work hard at some point some one will give you a shot... then it's your turn to score!

An Inability To Stop Caring
The strange thing about possessing underdog mentality is that the input of the less-talented still gets under your skin. No matter the intent or credential... you take opposing viewpoints to heart and grow from them.

The underdog also has the ability to recognize other underdogs and as they hit their stride they will invite strays into the pack.

Act Like You've Been Here Before
Most people hire the candidate who is more qualified on paper. That way, if your hire fails, you can cover your ass....!

The moment you begin to settle, you lose the underdog mentality. Experts are often wrong, the safe choice is never the right choice and predictability is the kiss of death.

I have won more than I have lost in my life. I've earned every victory and I was seldom the favorite in any fight. I am very proud of that. I'd like to think that each time I defied the odds, I disqualified my opponent from a life of presumption.... and helped them rediscover their underdog mentality!

"Your playing small does not serve the world...There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you" - Marianne Williamson

"You've got no fear of the underdog that's why you will not survive" - Britt Daniel

"Be Humble in Victory and Accountable in Defeat" - Me

There is someone out there who cannot live without you. Don't compromise until you find them.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More Bad Advice

I had recently told a group of students that validation in life is not always vocalized so one cannot wait for applause. It seems those at the beginning and end of their careers might need confirmation of effort more than others. One will ponder if they are aligning themselves with the right people, if they are displaying their commitment through sacrifice and/or if their effort has been validated with results.

A person who I looked up to once gave 3 points of advice for career advancement:
1. Always Hit Your Number
2. Be Willing To Relocate
3. Align Yourself With People (who are climbing the ladder)

I'm here to tell you why the aforementioned 3 points are the WORST advice I have ever received!

Numbers Lie!
Any sales organization will tell you to call the #1 Sales Person to get advice on how to get to where he/she might be. Terrible Advice!

Top sales people are extremely busy, totally focused on their personal goals and unable to articulate the front end precision of the sales trade.

No matter what you do in life, hitting your number is the expectation. There will never be a time when you raise your hand to offer an idea that will not be dove tailed by a survey of where you are on the ranking report. The best sales people I know have never been the #1 sales rep in their organization...some of the worst people I know... have!

The best in any profession are those who you remember after one conversation (in a good way). They have an ability to convey their investment without knowing a ton about you. Unfortunately, most people are faking it.... which is why we all hate sales people.

Do You Really Think I Have No Options?
At this point in time in professional history, first year employees have far more opportunity than middle managers and executives!

Yes, your chances of advancement as a 23 year old are far better than those of your father!

Yet and still, middle managers and CEO's still think they can rule with an iron fist. It is as thrilling to see Millennials take power as it is to see a bully get punched in the face.

The Last 90 Days!
A long time ago it was brought to my attention that a guy wrote a book about how to act during the first 90 days on the job. The suggestions are in step with the 3 points above and equally as ineffective.

Do your fighting in the ring! NO ONE appreciates a new employee who speaks too soon, seeks to align themselves with leaders and/or asks questions in group settings (only to display that they know the answer to said question).

Ease your way in. Let your results speak for themselves.

People are remembered not by how they start the game but by how it is finished.

The best example of making a first impression was conveyed to a group by my friend Kevin Costello on his first day on the job....

"I am not naive enough to think I can succeed without the help of others. So I will be reaching out to you for advice."

Those who are remarkable professionals are remarkable people. They are vulnerable, receptive to advice and always willing to laugh at themselves.

Our legacy is determined by the times we've dried the eyes of our employees and the promotions we have passed up so our daughters could continue their soccer careers with their friends.

Technology has it's limits and advice from management is always mired in corporate neutering.

The bully will only believe that she is still in charge if you feed the ego that keeps her alive.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Fathers Fallibility & Divine Lessons in Forgiveness

"...Hello Mari, How You Doin'? I Think The Storm and All The Rainy Clouds are Movin'...."
~ Kanye West

I have been writing a blog before it was cool to do so, I've been a sales guy who advises the seemingly rival population or Human Resources professionals for nearly 10 years, but my proudest distinction is that of Husband and Father. There is not a title or a social ranking for the most important things we do in life and that's a good thing.

I'd like to think I'm a good father but I would be insane not to admit that I drive my sweetheart crazy! So, who am I to cast dispersions on anyone. It is a fact that the best men are so because of the women in their lives, I'm honored to have a cast of a amazing females in my corner! I'm a proud husband, an honored father, a coach of young women and a feminist. I've earned the aforementioned distinctions and I am thankful to be incapable of dishonoring them!

I also possess an uncontrollable creative spirit which makes me impossible to categorize and insanely difficult to be around on a daily basis.

As a father the only advice I can give to other soon-to-be fathers is:

If I can do it, you can!

.... I stand by those words! A life without a creative spirit is not a life at all and no one reserves the right to judge any one.

So many times in my life I have been unfairly categorized based on limited interactions... so, as Lebron James said in his forgiveness of Dan Gilbert....

Who Am I To Judge?

I know a man who writes like Kanye West has far more intelligence than he tends to display... it also seems he has a lot of sorrow in his heart. What good does judging the actions of another do for you? Are you happy that for once it is not you who did something stupid?

It may be time to reflect upon the things we bitch about.

Part of being a man is accepting greater responsibilities and limiting the behavioral traits more characteristic of boys than men. Dudes have trouble with that. We feel the need to hold on to our youth by acting immature. Sorry ladies, this is a bad habit that is hard to kick. There is no room to preach and forgiveness should be the first thing we think of when judgement crosses our mind.

We are here for a fun time not a long time. We've also got too little time to waste acting stupid by adding fuel to the fire of another man's missteps.

Perfection is a result of effort and intent, the results don't always add up! That's life. Frustration is most often avoided when you try your hardest doing something in which you believe in.

What do you need to more of? What do you need to do less of?

Before you judge another, get to work on yourself!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

All That Wasted Energy

I would be hypocritical to disregard the power of the inkless pen. It has, however, become increasingly clear that we are running out of ideas.

Social media is not a forum to attack others, karaoke performers should not call themselves artists and the inability to manage effectiveness at the peak of critical performance should be punishable by dismissal.

We are running out of ideas for a few reasons:

The above is the first rule pronounced by Dale Carnegie in his book, "How To Win Friends and Influence People". Good Ole Dale has been dead for a long time but his lessons in Human Relations are as true to life as ever.

I am mesmerized at the behavior of "respected authorities" in social media. Experience does not earn you the right to be arrogant and people refuse to evolve the craft of social interaction because bullies hold their amount of posts as a badge of achievement. Just because you have played guitar every day for 10 years doesn't make you a rock star.

The people probably remember Beck's song "loser"... that is the worst song he has ever written. If you have a moment to visit the albums "Sea Change" or it's recently rewarded companion "Morning Phase", you will understand the meaning a person feels pouring their heart into a microphone while strumming a guitar.... Nothing is more holy! 

Those who are truly committed to their craft do not require trophies or accolades. They are comfortable enough putting their heart in a box with the hope that someone might make the effort to open it.

I cannot imagine the frustration Seattle Seahawks fans must feel. In the biggest game, in the biggest sport, at the most critical moment.... they fucked up famously!!!! The sports talk rivals of common sense have tried to pontificate on what was the worst play call in the history of sports. 

There is simply no excuse!

The six year old girls soccer team I coach are more deserving of a Super Bowl ring. Without a dog in the fight I am appalled by the lack of execution in the biggest moment in sports... and startled by the lack of outrage.

If you participate in social media to denigrate others, you are going to hell. Kanye West is a bitch. Pete Carroll should be fired. 

But, we are too polite to avoid the elephant that is about to sit on our collective faces. 

If you strive for originality you should celebrate the ideas of amateurs. In my opinion, they are much better than the pros.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Before The Torch Burns Out

For at least 10 years we have been stereotyping generations in the workplace. There are those looking up at irrelevance and those looking down upon it. In reality, our need to categorize one another by our date of birth is intended to create a system of assigned relevance. We are given to believe that at certain milestones in our life certain goals should be accomplished. Life is messy so we seldom achieve all that we desire. Our natural reaction to time passed with our goals incomplete is to hold our seniority over the young. Which is why Baby Boomers created the term Millennial in the first place.

I'm fortunate enough to coach grade schoolers, to mentor high schoolers, to help College men find jobs and to provide career guidance to those new to the workforce. I cherish the act of helping young people because engaging their perspective helps me stay relevant. 

... In the end, we all just want to remain relevant!

Don't Let The Past Define You
We all want to make a great first impression so we practice hard, show up to work ready to take on any task and do what it takes to catch the herd. Our on-boarding process always includes a state of the union from the self-elected Mayor of Discontent. The aforementioned Mayor has been in the same position for 10+ years and is intent on telling you how things are done around your new company. This is a person who's torch has burnt out and because he/she has nothing to contribute they will do what it takes to diminish your flame. 

Ignore those who do not have your best interest in mind. No achievement is possible without besting what was.

Find Informal Advisors
So you get to your new company and your ambition becomes the envy of those who tried, failed and gave up. Take to social media, strike up a conversation at your kid's soccer game, find a bartender who is a good conversationalist, call an old friend, or search the company directory. Your next mentor does not need to be assigned by your company and he/she may not walk into your life with open arms. I've been mentored by people I've never met in person and some I've never talked to. 

Great advise is everywhere. If you wait to be inspired by your office mates, you might end up like Ron Swanson.

Don't Destroy The Magic By Worrying About The Color of the Rabbit in the Hat
People hate over-analysis. Keep your initial conversations high level. Ease your way in. Trust is built by earning one's comfort. Let them engage you instead of pretending to know everything and making sure everyone knows it.

One Certainty: Hard Work!
More than your level of education, the credentials you have amassed or the trophies on your desk; hard work matters most. 

If you show up first and leave last, success is immanent. Work ethic is the one skill that everyone can learn and is completely within the individuals control.

Be Humble In Victory & Accountable In Defeat
When you win, act like you've been there before. The only thing worse than showing off in the shadow of victory is complaining when you lose. Don't point fingers, those who have fucked up know it and they do not need to be reminded of their failures.

Find Your Beach
I've never had the patience to stop and watch the sunset. But, knowing that it is there keeps me moving toward it.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, January 26, 2015

The Cost of Contempt

"They hate us because they ain't us" - Dave Skylark

To be truly great one must possess talent, the tenacity of hard work, creativity, and a network of loyal supporters. It is hard to be successful because it us so easy to give up. People fear commitment, they quit when they feel pain, they are not bold enough to try unproven tactics, and are incapable of unique expression. It is also much easier to criticize than to risk failure.

The New England Patriots have been the benchmark for greatness in the NFL for nearly 2 decades. They have the best players, the best coaches and the best organizational leaders. They draft better than any other team, they develop players better than any other team and they never stop accelerating. Their Coach and Quarterback are among the best of all time yet they are consistently complimenting teams of lesser talent while looking for areas in which to improve. In a world filled with critics, all those blogging from their Mom's basement can do is find ways to denigrate the Patriots lifelong commitment to quality.

There are two realities in life:
1. You can try as hard as you want but the more talented almost always prevail.
2. Regardless of your talent, hard work is a necessity.

My friend and Human Resources Icon, John Hudson, recently hosted a conversation paralleling the world of sports with the world of work. The topic could not have been more timely. There is a lot organizations can learn from the New England Patriots and a lot employees can learn from the haters out there.

Talent First!
I coach 6 year old girls in soccer. If you think this sounds like a flower picking affair, you are wrong! These girls have been playing since they were 2, have played over 50 games together and have an ambition that any organization would die to have in their talent pool. You can game plan with 6 year olds all day and it will not matter, if you have the best talent, you win. Organizations are no different.

Recruitment is a term that to me means an active search for the best possible talent. Organizational development means the bold commitment of an organization to develop every employee to the top of their potential. Yet, we fill jobs for the sake of having a max head count and we cancel organizational programs that develop talent. We think it is cheaper to hire B players and are afraid that if we teach our employees too much they will take their talents elsewhere.


The Skill We Can Teach!
I've seen so many people squander their talent because they were improperly engaged. I've been infinitely fortunate to have great parents, coaches and professional mentors. I've also had a million people advise against my ability. Fortunately, I was never very good at listening to my critics because my supporters talked a hell of a lot less and said so much more.

Any company you join will roll out the red carpet for you during the recruitment process but at some point the shoes switches feet. The things you can control are your level of commitment and your ability to ignore the less talented. You should also understand that she who wears the shoe is always in charge. If you work hard and possess a mind capable of producing evolutionary ideas... no one reserves the right to judge you, your choices are your own.

The New England Patriots don't need deflated footballs or the other team's signals to win. We simply live in a world where people who fail to try feel they are entitled to an explanation for greatness......

If you need someone to explain it to you, you will never know.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dare To Care

It's a new year... people are talking about industry trends and habits to debunk. Are we playing a commodity game? Having recently attended the Consumer Electronics Show, I couldn't help but realize that this product driven showcase failed miserably in differentiating. Every "vendor" had 3D TVs, Wearables, Robots and Drones. As a casual observer, I was unable to find an understanding of the subtle nuances that made one smart watch smarter than another (and no one was willing to teach me).

Sales people are competitive. The one job that is always available is that of a sales person. So, most people who are bold enough to attempt a life in sales have the ability to choose the company they wish to represent. Job qualification for sales people may come down to the widget and it's features. This career assessment has created a polarizing perception of sales people. I visited 20 different booths at CES and 20 different people told me the same thing. None of which intrigued me.

Features do not paint a sustainable picture. People want to engage with one inarguable element that is consistently overlooked.....

The Truth!

If the challenge of your sales job is convincing someone that your product is the best, you probably suck at what you do!

Customer service in America is at an all time low. I've never seen more people care less about what they do. With so many people caring so little about their profession there is an abundance of opportunity for those who possess one capability:

The Ability to Care!

The greatest people I know have a vision they are incapable of abandoning. It is easy to give up on our dreams to choose the safe bet. I want you to imagine yourself at the conclusion of your career and to ponder the following:

- Have you been bold enough to help someone change their life?
- Have you walked away from opportunities that did not call upon your unique skill?
- Will your retirement party be packed with teary eyed supporters or obligated observers?
- Will you know when the game is up?

In my life, I have misjudged many things. There may be one common element in my misgivings:

The Fear of Irrelevance!

We all want to help others... to solve problems.. to be trusted.... to make a difference.

If you believe that your duty to your organization is to memorize a product function.... you believe in nothing and your life has been reduced to a duty.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Is Policy The Enemy of Trust?

For several years, Human Resources has battled perceptions of administrative qualities characterizing skill sets. With all the developments in Employee Engagement, Performance Management, Succession Planning, The Navigation of Generation Diversity and Cultural Enhancement; how can less-than-strategic characterizations exist? Unfortunately, a few people can validate a stigma which fuels the fire of the opinionated. People like to be proven right and they will ignore 90% of the information to validate stereotypes. This way, we can disregard change and blame Executive motives when we fail to evolve.

Performance reviews will not go away, we need them as a receipt of failure in the event someone has to be fired. Allowing Executives to use their better judgement can be toxic and turning a blind eye to wrong doing could land us all in court. Regardless of the advancement of HR's pivotal role in change management, someone has to hold the fort down.

What does HR need to do less of?

We should stop using policy as a front-end strategy.

I conducted a seminar recently in which an attendee explained their organization's policy on work/life balance: Employees could work from home until their performance metrics were deemed unacceptable. At which point, they were forced to work from the office (every day).

The aforementioned policy sounds fair enough but it never works because performance metrics are not always the result of work environment. Even if employees needed the regiment of the office to keep them productive, they would fight an unwilling return to the office and move on to another company. People want to dictate their own terms.

You know what trumps policy?


Our top performers are not concerned with minimum requirements and they only contact HR when they want to increase their stock options. Can we not agree that if all our employees ignored HR as the policy police then everyone would be more strategic. In actuality, our employees cry wolf when they fail...and then HR gets involved.

The above proving that the very people who characterize HR as administrative, force us to be.

If we hire the best people (and give them the tools to succeed) we develop transparency. In a transparent culture there are no office politics, no back stabbing and no one masking the behaviors that indoctrinated their failure.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could ALL be more strategic? Don't we all want to do what we do best?

Work can actually be fun if we are not forced disprove the stereotypes of our occupation.

Developing trust is a two way street.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

52 Open Letters

In 2015, the DFTR blog will be dedicated to the people who have influenced my life...

I often write about Human Resources in this blog. I am proud of all my friends who have taken that profession from policy writing... to strategic organizational partnership. It's simple: Human Resources is the most important aspect of any organization. With all due respect, most of you fuck it up!

In 2014, I had a health issue, it turned out to be insignificant. It made me ponder my existence. I can tell you this, there are 52,000 people who have influenced my life... unfortunately, I can only tell you about the best of the best.

It would be my divine intention that one day my children will read this blog and know about the people that made my life important. The reader is more important than the writer....

We've been together a long time. I owe  you better!

Here we go....

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why Would 2015 Be Any Different....?

"I gather all the news I need on the weather report" - Paul Simon

I had heard somebody say recently that he got more insight from the songs he heard than in the daily news. That the revelations in music spoke to the larger issues and that the news was just noise. This is a premise I resolve to embrace in 2015: To read more and scan less. I've been blogging for a long time... we bloggers are a lazy bunch: we take a current issue, apply it to the business we are in, and highlight a few points. Most of us who read blogs spend two minutes scanning the headlines and move on (more informed). We live in a time when people buy singles not records. Our sources of information are quick to make a point. Our patience has waned because our bullshit meter is more acute than ever. While that is not a bad thing, it is the easy way out!

"I might as well resign myself to try and make a change" - Adam Duritz

We all hate to give in to our weaknesses. We want to come from a place of strength... to showcase our expertise and to hide our insecurities. Unfortunately, we cannot move forward if our only coach speaks from within. We have to try new things and get rid of bad habits!

We spend the Holidays buying things for our loved ones... is this an effort to apologize for our lack of availability during the rest of the year? We make New Year's Resolutions that we do not keep... flipping a calendar is not a compelling basis for behavior change. The challenge is not to smile while you are wearing a stupid sweater... the challenge is to be present when there are no presents under the tree.

What do YOU Believe in?
How will you spend your time preparing for the New Year? Will you learn about a product line, take a class in a subject that does not peak your interest, or try to forgive someone who will never love you? Stop wasting your precious time and do what you want to do... I'm not suggesting you quit your day job and join the circus, but you can navigate your motivation.

The song "empty cans" crescendos The Streets extraordinary concept record A Grand Don't Come For Free. It is simply the culmination of life's greatest lesson: Your Perception & Attitude Determine Your Fate!

Are you miserable? Do you even know if you are? 

I live in places where people talk but only interact with them when instigated. I overhear people complaining far more than I do individuals complimenting one another. This may be life's unfair lot: that love is assumed and not necessary to mention... which is OK.... but it's nice to be reminded that you are awesome as opposed to being told your hard work is useless. We tend to forget to celebrate our uniqueness and to focus on our inability to keep up (with the insignificant).

"Heartbreak hurts but you can dance it off" - Craig Finn

Recalling sleepless nights in 2014, I can give you a few pieces of advice:

  • If you prepare, you are far more likely to win.
  • If you are worried, you are probably chasing ghosts.
  • Only YOU know if you have done what you should at the conclusion of each day.

We can fake it and it might get us through the day, but it won't get us through the year. They know all of our secrets: they know if we are cheating, if we haven't done enough, and weather or not the cards we pretend to possess exist. Our secrets are written upon our face.

Don't waste a minute pretending to be someone you are not. Don't expect to win if you haven't prepared. Don't give people who disrespect you another beat of your heart. Don't think this year will be different from the last if you do not commit to release yourself from your bad habits. Don't neglect an opportunity to help someone by being polite. Don't be impolite because you feel your misery should be shared.

I Promise You: We Can Do This... Because We Can! 

Don't Forget to Remember!