success

When you think you know what you’re looking for.

In this undated video (probably 2008), Best Selling Author Malcolm Gladwell explains how we have a fundamental mismatch problem in how we assess which people will be successful in a given field. He starts with the differences between NBA scouting combine results and how players actually wind up fairing in the league and then goes on to point out all sorts of other gaps as only Gladwell can

The whole talk is fantastic as Gladwell may be the greatest storyteller of our time. I could listen to the man read a Swahili phone book and I would swear it was Les Miserables.

Gladwell’s point here is that we absolutely suck when it comes to using criteria that will give us a meaningful incite to the how well a person will perform in a given role. For Teachers, we require all manner of certificates only to find these have virtually no impact on the actual performance of the teacher. Job interviews are generally only good for finding out if you’re attracted to someone, it turns out. Or perhaps they’re only useful for discovering if someone is very good in social interaction, but for all sorts of other jobs, how well one does in an interview translates poorly to the ultimate role they’ll have should they be hired.

Around ten years ago we had a major issue in a tough market where our newest Community Managers were getting their clocks cleaned. Their teams couldn’t sell to save their lives, and these new Managers were grossly incapable of teaching them how to sell as they’d never done it before themselves. How did this happen?

It turns out that we’d been promoting “Rental Managers” aka “Assistant Community Managers” who were responsible for collecting rent, running reports, and that’s about it. They avoided sales related work like it had two types of the plague. So, of course, when they got promoted to their own ship they had no idea how to hire for sales ability or how to teach it.

Why would we do this? Because the people in charge of minting the new Community Managers were people who lived in glass offices and who dealt a lot with reports. Guess who typically had great reports? Rental Managers. They were two peas in a pod. Of course, the Brass new that sales mattered, but they overlooked this factor when hiring because they liked the cut of the RM’s jib. They could see a bit of themselves in these up-and-comers, and did you see how clean their reports were? Plus they tended to LOOK like Community Managers.

The most vital component in a Community Manager at the time (in the toughest student rental market in the country) was the ability to rent units, the ability to hire people who could do likewise, and the ability to train the uninitiated on their team. And here we were hiring without any real regard for that fact. The people we should have been promoting to these roles were our best salespeople who lacked any of the care or ability for the paperwork reporting. That’s a relatively easy problem to solve – at least far easier than a whole team at a community that can’t sell ice water at noon in Phoenix.

Maybe the answer would have been to split the job into equal halves; give two nearby communities to a pair of Managers. One would be in charge of the sales and training for each while the other handled the books and reporting. The two would compliment one another and with any luck, some of their skills would rub off on each other. Maybe an Area Manager would have been the way to go, with a couple of executive salespeople put in place to cover the selling and training. There’s any number of solutions, but we were wildly wrong on our criteria for assessing a simple promotion and it cost us big.

I’m sure this mismatch is all too common for you as well. How many times have you experienced one in your life, where you or your organization made decisions on things by assessing criteria that mattered not a bit in determining the outcome or the best course of action? What blinded you? How did you eventually see past it, or have you?

Advertisements

If you don’t execute, you don’t eat.

If you don't execute, you don't eat.

This sums it up perfectly. EXECUTION is ALL that matters. Apologies to the delicate sensibilities out there, but all the warm fuzzies of best intentions won’t sell SQUAT. Positive thoughts and “hard work” alone won’t move product or make a difference if nothing actually, HAPPENS.

If you make a difference, a REAL difference, then something should be DIFFERENT because you were there. Sounds simple, right? Are the material conditions on the ground different because of something you DID? If so, you made a difference. If not, hate to break it to you, but we’re still waiting.

I’m flummoxed and fired up when a solid sounding strategy never makes waves. It stays perfectly conceptualized inside the minds of the creators and on the tongues of the braggarts and blowhards – but never encounters the harsh light of actually being birthed into the world.

I get it. The world is messy and there are question boxes to outnumber those in the Mushroom Kingdom. There are as many threats, too. If you’re scared, if you can’t get over those fears to bring something to life, please do the rest of us a favor and politely move out of the way. There are things to make and worlds to conquer and markets to impact.

Repeat after me: “If you don’t execute, you don’t eat.”

You can’t sit around talking about how cool it would be to kill a wholly mammoth, and survive. At some point, one of you is going down. Stop talking and pick up a spear. Stop telling me about your responsibilities and tell me about what you changed – what DIFFERENCE you actually made.

Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation TED talk

This is an absolute classic and one that has helped me decide what kind of work I most enjoy doing. The three keys towards fulfilling, cognitive work, are (summarized briefly):
*Autonomy – Do you control a majority of your time at work and what you’re working on?
*Mastery – Are you doing something you can get better at?
*Purpose – Do you feel like you’re a part of something larger than yourself?

These have been guide posts for me for the last three years since I first saw Mr. Pink spell out what I’d long suspected. My quarterly bonus of thousands of dollars as a Regional Manager wasn’t nearly as motivating to me as was the joy of helping one of my Managers succeed, or creating some new metric/model/marketing platform that would help propel our success. Sure, I love money, but I love my team and the thrill of winning a lot more. Especially when I get to create and collaborate in order to get there.

Give this a view and really check your current motivations for why you do what you do. Are you propelled by your bonus potential, or possessed by your passion?

You were in Vietnam?

As usual, Seth Godin’s blog delivers succinct brilliance. Today’s is about the quickest way to bring about change, which he relays within three points. Spoilers: the answer is not electing someone to the Presidency.

Coming up in the Student Housing Industry in Gainesville (Go Gators), I worked as a Community Manager for an outfit that had 24 other such managers in the same market. We all managed similar assets (more or less) and were nearly exclusively in our early/mid-twenties. As such, we were eager to make names for ourselves and vault up the hierarchy. Competition was rampant and ruled the day – though it was nearly always friendly – akin to sibling rivalry. Read: A fun place to work.

As you’d expect; a few of us were terrible each year, most were average, and a few were incredible successes. I’m happy to report I was always in that last group – the ones who won every single year, in the country’s toughest Student Housing market.

To put it in perspective: if Student Housing is the Vietnam war – working in Gainesville is being in the shit.

When we’d get together after hours or at events, other Managers in the second group (average) would lament to me that I always got whatever I asked for – in regards to permission for certain types of promotions or money for improvements.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. I learned after the first year to never ask for anything. When you ask permission you give people the chance to say no. After all, saying ‘no’ insures you don’t screw something up and waste time or money by doing something new – and by definition – unproven. Saying ‘yes’ means you could fall on your face and they’d be blamed for authorizing your blunder. Guess which response got chosen almost reflexively?

That’s when I let them know that I just did what I thought best for the company and for my asset.

If I knew a “Cooler-Scooter” was going to draw attention on campus and actually make my Leasing people want to flyer (thus increasing our success in leading traffic to the property) then what was the big deal? Spend the $500. But what if someone got hurt? Are you kidding me?!

That was the part that they couldn’t get comfortable with. They wanted the blessing and the political cover to do what they thought best without any possible blow back if it pulled a giant Hindenburg. No risk – all reward. Life doesn’t work that way.

Here’s my spin on Seth’s advice:

Don’t demand the power or ask permission – just do what needs doing and make sure it falls in line with your company’s culture and beliefs.
Take the Responsibility for what happens next – if you decide to spend money on a marketing venture and it doesn’t bear fruit, own that and state what you’d do differently.
If you succeed in your venture you won’t be alone. “Success has a thousand fathers, Failure is an orphan.” Share the parentage with anyone who helped or assisted and be gracious. People will let you get away with being the Maverick if they know you’re not going rouge and losing touch with the greater team.

Probably the biggest thing I’ve failed to mention is that you have to believe in what you’re doing, overpoweringly so. If you owned the company and this was your money at play, would you do the same? If you hesitate even an instant in answering that question, slow down. Stop. There’s always tomorrow.