Tuesday, July 28, 2015

16 Items Anyone Going to College Should Know

My Niece who lives in Upstate New York recently graduated from high school. As much as I wanted to be there thinks just didn’t work out. I wanted to do something meaningful, so I figured I would write her a letter. She worked really hard to get into college so I wanted to tell her all the things I learned about getting through college. Included below is the letter and 16 thing anyone going into college should know.         

Hi Sami… I hope you are enjoying your graduation. I really wish I could be there, but lots of things just didn’t make it an ideal situation. :( So I thought I would write you a letter. I want you to know I am so very, very proud of you!!! I know you have put in lots of hard work, effort and persistence, against great odds to get to this point and in a positive direction going forward. Great Job! Be Proud! Smile like hell! You’ve earned it! :D

There were a few tips and tricks that I learned while I was struggling, and I mean struggling (it took me 5 years) to get through college and I thought I would share them with you here… I hope they help.
  •  College has nothing to do with intelligence (or at least very little). Collage is all about persistence. So just keep working at it, never give up and you will get there.
  • Start classes early, first class should be around 8 am, and get as many done in the morning as possible. Take and enjoy naps! :D
  • Go to class, sit in the front row, do homework immediately (don’t leave the building until home work is done)
  • Stay after class at least once a week and ask the professor a question (even if you don’t have one). …make sure the professor knows who you are and knows you by name.
  • Know which professors are good… choose classes based on good (great) professors not topics.
  • Build momentum you first semester or two… start with good grades and lots of focus, this early momentum will carry you through.
  • Get involved in groups, pick 3 or 4 groups per semester you are interested in and join those groups… keep adding and dropping until you have a 3 you are really passionate about.
  • Facebook: only add people as FB friends that are family or add happiness to you life. 
  • LinkedIn: create a LinkedIn account immediately. Link will everyone you meeting that can add value(now or in the future)… teachers, guest speakers, friends, older classmates, and especially anyone already in the workforce… always maintain this account it high quality, it will become very valuable later in life.
  •  Create a blog and post once a month… just write about yourself and what you think.
  • Build great friends, these will be your friends for life, put great effort into this.
  • Start off and always be frugal with your meal card… it always runs out.
  • Plan and make at least a 2 spring break trips to Florida or somewhere fun.
  • @Parties: never fall asleep, keep shoes on, know the exits, don’t leave your drink and always be with a friend.
  • In Dorm: Choose bottom bunk, leave door open, don’t leave cloths in washer and don’t study in room.
  • Work hard, Be persistent, Have fun, and Enjoy yourself! 
  •  Don’t schedule classed on Friday if you can help it. (bonus 17, added later)
Great job with high school! Good luck with college and keep on crushing it! :D

Love, Uncle John

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How to Attract Top Talent (it’s not what you think)

What’s the number one thing you can do to make sure your company succeeds? Some say sales or market fit or even a great product, but all of these are simply a market shift away from making your company irrelevant. In today’s knowledge and creative-based economy the absolute single most important thing you need to make sure your company will be successful, is talent!

Agree with me for a moment that talent is the most important thing you need to make sure your company will be successful. The next question is, what are the ways you can attract talent to your company? Personally, I would love to just answer with culture or corporate culture. Unfortunately, culture is not what makes the world go around. Money is. So, there are actually two answers to this question. Talent is drawn to your company by money and culture.      

There has been a lot said about advantages of corporate culture up to this point, and I am happy to say that many organizations are starting to understand that corporate culture is a powerful differentiator for attracting talent. A great culture cannot only attract talent to your company, it can stimulate considerably higher levels and longer bouts of performance from that same talent. I am going to spend the rest of this article talking about the other side of culture: money.

At the end of the day, we all show up to work for money. Yes, companies are getting to the point where they understand that “why” the company exists is just as important, but money still is the first and foremost reason most of us show up to work. Money provides food and shelter, and money allows for things like healthcare and retirement savings. Yet, organizations have done a very bad job of helping people deal with, manage and make the most of the money given to them. The common response to the financial challenges employees are facing is to give them more money, which almost never solves the true cause and might even make challenges worse, especially in the long run.

For most companies, money is a taboo topic with their employees and the topic of financial wellbeing, at least as an open discussion, is highly discouraged. The topic of personal finances is avoided like the plague, in fear of liability from providing advice or the dreaded topic of compensation and current market value. Yet, studies have shown this to be one of the areas employees desperately, need and where they are seeking the most help and support. 

Employee financial wellbeing is not simply offering a 401k or retirement plan with some type of match. Sure, employers can check the box with an optional annual meeting where providers talk to employees about plan offerings, balanced portfolios and covertly push investment products.

When surveyed, 76% of employees are living paycheck-to-paycheck and 31% haven’t saved anything for retirement. One out of three employees would be willing to give up all future raises for a guaranteed income. This just isn’t cutting it. 

How are your employees doing with their day-to-day financial habits? Think it’s not your problem as an employer?  Either way, you are paying for it. 44% of employees worry about finances while at work, 29% spend time during work dealing with personal finance problems and 49% of employees with a financial problem are looking for a new job. Employers are paying the price in lower productivity, lower engagement and higher turnover. For employers, this is directly turning into a loss of talent at a high cost.  

The good news is that things are changing. Companies such as Questis are offering financial wellness as an employee benefit. Using both real people and software, employers can now provide micro level help on everything from tax challenges to budgeting to investment guidance that their employees need. In fact according to a study by Aon Hewitt, 93% of larger employers are going to add a financial benefit in 2015.

As an employer, you need to accept your employee’s financial problems as your company’s problems. Getting employees in a good financial spot will lead to a stronger organization with less turnover, less stress and a more engaged workforce. This creates a gateway to higher performance, drawing more talent to your organization and ultimately a successful business.

While culture is getting most of the spotlight these days, it’s the combination of both culture and money working together that will ultimately draw and keep talent at your company. 

So I'll ask you... is there a way you can help the with the second most important thing on your employees minds or will you just continue to ignore it. :D

Monday, June 30, 2014

The One Thing More Important Than Time

There are so many great books on time management out there. One of my favorites is The 4-HourWorkweek by Timothy Ferriss, though I don’t agree with his premise, I explain why below. Most of these books fall into a handful of categories. They show: 1. How to prioritize / organize. 2. How to say “No”. 3. Tips and trick on doing more. 4. Having someone else do it.  There may be more categories, but ultimately they are all missing the bigger picture because they focus on TIME, as this limited constant and how to jam more stuff into it. Time management, then turns into breaking down this constant and deciding how to manage (what you will do) with those different parts. Really advanced people call this Life Balance… :D

“Its not about time, its about energy.”

Here is the big challenge, it’s not about time, it’s about energy. Manage your energy and time won’t seem to matter nearly as much, in fact with energy you can even create time. We can break down our lives into three areas, not-work, work and sleep. Let's take the last one first.

 Sleep – About 10 years ago I went through a challenging time in my life after a death deifying car accident, where I just couldn’t sleep. I read everything I could on the topic and even had a good run with Ambien (personal note: don’t push through an Ambien while your hungry, you’ll destroy the kitchen) I was up at 3 a.m. every day, staring at the ceiling, worrying about getting enough sleep. I would push on from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. trying to get back to sleep.

“If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It's the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.” – Dale Carnegie

Then I read a quote by Dale Carnegie, maybe one of the wisest people to ever have lived. It was “stop worrying about sleep”, as I remembered it. The full quote is “If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It's the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.” I was so impressed with the simplicity of the idea I just went with it. I started listening to my energy, if I needed sleep, I slept and if I couldn’t sleep I did something. I no longer worried about getting enough sleep. Learn to listen to your energy and it’s need to regenerate, sleep when needed, do something that generates energy inside you otherwise. BTW, the more energy you generate the less sleep you will need. These days I don’t sleep that much… but I am a sucker for a killer nap.

“What kills energy more (much more) then doing things you suck at or hate is not knowing if or when that will ever end.”

Work – work is the time when you are at work or are working. Generally you have less control over your time when you are at work, even if you love your job. Everyone has different schedules and they needs to meet, collaboration and communication needs to happen and it requires time. During some of that time you get to manage your energy. The key is knowing what gives you energy and what takes it away. I carry a list with me at all times that lists my passions, what I do well, what I suck at and what I hate (I call this alignment). I share this list with the people I work with and I try to keep in my passions and what I do well as much as possible. When people want me to do a suck or hate, I simply let them know that, and that there might be someone else who could do that better. If they want me to do it anyway, I seek a deadline or a light at the end of the tunnel as much as possible. What kills energy more (much more) then doing things you suck at or hate is not knowing if or when that will ever end.  You can even, at times, use a suck at or hate to build energy if you know when it will end.

“The trick is to minimize the lows and maximize the highs.”   

Not-Work – Not-Work is everything else when you’re not working or sleeping. Despite obligations (which I understand can be enormous) you do have more control over what you do during this period. You should seek to fill at least the early and transition part of Not-Work with as much energy creating actions as possible. When you wake up read an inspiring quote, say a prayer of thanks, go for a run, do whatever builds energy inside you… especially small things. Do this same thing, as you transition from Work to Not-Work, complete one small thing, play your rock out song, call someone and pump them up, the more and the smaller the better. This deliberate timing of building energy has a tendency to last… then the magic happens. You catch two high-energy days in a row… and things start to build. Most things in life are on some type of frequency, with both highs and lows. The trick is to minimize the lows and maximize the highs.   

I first noticed this direct translation between energy and time when I was training for an ultra marathon. With ultras you are running somewhere between 50 and 100 miles, crazy I know. To deal with that much running for that long, some people do a run-walk method of 5 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of walking. What I was able to notice was that during the early part of the training, when I had good energy that 5 minutes was easy, delightful and flew by. Near the end of training, when my energy was bad that 5 minutes took what felt like a half hour. 

Think of a time you had a full days worth of work due, but you started the day right, good coffee, kiss from the spouse, fist bump from the boss. You sat down and got that full days worth of work done in 2 or 3 hours… what happened? It was energy. Similarly, think of the time you worked 6 hours of doing stuff you hated and went home. How much decompression time did you need… the energy was gone. Compare that with a day you work 12 hours, but on something that inspired you, or even just with the right team members. Were you still ready to take on the world after? …you still had plenty of energy. Managed right energy will create time, or at least make it seem considerably more meaningless.         

So I’ll ask you will you continue to manage your time in the ultimate quest of work vs. life balance or will you create it? :D

P.S. The reason I don’t agree with Tim’s premise is he believes you should only work 4 hours, so that you can spend the rest of the time doing what you love. …I believe you should just make what you love your work. :D

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why People Worked for Steve Jobs?

As I often do, I was having a conversation about culture and leadership, in what makes a great business. It’s a topic I know well and with a beverage involved the conversation started to get quite deep. The local business leader and I were heavily focused on one of my new theories, The Leadership BELs and here is where the conversation took a turn. His question, which came across in a heightened tone and with some demand was one I had gotten before… However, this was the first time I was ready for it! With respect to business leadership and retention of talent, he asked.

“So then, why did people stay working for Steve Jobs? He was a real jerk!”   

I believe he is right, Steve Jobs was a bit, ok a lot brass and tough on people, maybe even a complete jerk. Even with all that you hardly heard about people quitting under Jobs. Jobs had something that most leaders that have these same behaviors do not. Here are the 3 reasons people stayed working for Steve Jobs:

 1.    Part of something bigger – People want to feel apart of something bigger than themselves, bigger than just the CEO of the company. In fact if you consider Tony Hsieh’s happinessframework the fourth and final piece is “Vision/Meaning (Being part of something bigger than yourself).” Jobs believed he could change the world. Apple certainly did and continues to do so. People stayed working for Jobs because he made them feel part of something bigger.

2.     Proud – People want to be proud of the work they do, what they deliver and what they and their company stand for. Jobs was super critical of the people who built Apple’s products, making no detail too small to focus on. He was notorious for making sure leaks about products didn’t get out. When you see the amount of pressure people we put under during this design, build and pre-release phase, it’s hard to understand why they didn’t all get up and quit?  Was anything worth that level of treatment? However, I can guarantee that there was not a single Apple employee that wasn’t “Proud," gleaming with pride, when Jobs introduced the first iPhone or pulled the Macbook Air from an envelope at MacWorld. People stayed working for Jobs because, in the end, they were very proud!

3.    Always growing – People want to feel like they are always growing, getting better and adding new skills to themselves. Harvard’s Teresa Amabile‘s research found that nothing is more motivating than progress. My own happiness at work theory (Happy @Work = Aligned + Growth + Listened) includes growth. While people might have felt like Jobs ripped them a new one over the quality of their work, Jobs always pushed his people to grow. People stayed working for Jobs because they continued massive personal growth.

Let's be overwhelmingly clear… I am never, ever condoning acting like a jerk. I personally believe that culture begins with civility and simply demanding that people treat each other with respect at all times, especially in front of others. So if you’re a jerk... STOP it, you’re no Steve Jobs!    

“So if you’re a jerk... STOP it, you’re no Steve Jobs!”

When we consider how Steve Jobs, even with his irate behavior was able to draw and maintain such a high quality of talent, it was only with the overwhelmingly, over the top delivery of the above attributes dramatically out weighs his behavior, that this freak of nature was able to be a so successful.

so I’ll ask you… do you really believe you’re the next Steve Jobs (you’re not), and you can outweigh your behaviors or will you just adopt his great attributes? :D

p.s. Personally, I believe that Jobs was an alien or a time traveler… there is just no way one guy delivers all that evolution in just one lifetime. :D