Decoding The Corporate Perks Facade: What It Really Means

Google is the pioneer of offering perks to attract top talent and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

A friend of mine works at Google HQ and describes his situation as “too good to walk away from” even when he gets bored. Free food, snacks, shuttle, laundry, etc will do that.

The startup scene has escalated to the point where if you don’t offer perks, you’re not relevant. But what if I told you it’s all a facade?

I love to eat. What makes food taste even better is when it’s free. But unlimited snacks and catered lunches are a nice bonus, but far from the mission of the company.

Now I’m not knocking perks as an enhancement to the employee experience, but what I am saying is how much does it affect your decision to stay?

Look at it from a financial standpoint: free food for the entire company is cheaper than giving a raise to one (of course you have to factor in size of staff though, but you get the drift).

My point is if perks are one of the highest ranking factors in retaining your services it’s putting your faith in fool’s gold. Perks are like purchasing the newest toy. After a while it gets old, you get bored and want more.

For example when I first started working for my current company the idea of catered lunches twice a week blew my mind. Now I still appreciate it, but I found myself getting pickier with selection of choices. If it happens to be a meal I love, free lunch is great! If not, I wish I didn’t have to sit through the company meeting during lunch.

Culture is a huge factor in retention, but perks shouldn’t be too high on your list of reasons to apply/stay. Times have changed where “what you get” is as important as “what you give,” yet ultimately what your company strives for and what role you play will always outshine any perk offered.

Work wisely.

3 Ways Managing Remotely Made Me A Better Leader

Managing people is hard enough, but try doing it remotely.

On a weekly basis I spend the bulk of my hours at work meeting 30 individuals via Zoom for 30 minute check-ins. During that time we cover a myriad of different metrics that rate their performance, but I choose to focus on 3 things solely:

1. Connecting – technology has widened the talent pool, but also breeds disconnection. Instead of being concerned about physical location as a barrier, I try to immerse myself in a session as if we were in the same room. Human connection is a powerful thing no matter where you are. Relationships are formed over time through trust regardless of distance. Working remotely can present challenges yet with empathy, active listening and genuine care the virtual gap can be closed. Think of having a conversation with a friend over coffee. The same principles of building a friendship apply here. Connection is the foundation for any working relationship to thrive.

2. Community – working from home sounds glorious until you look around and realize you’re alone. If employees can feel isolated in an office full of co-workers imagine how remote employees feel. The concept of a “virtual water cooler” has been talked about, but how do you make it happen? As a suggestion, Slack is a great place to start. The platform you choose isn’t as important as it’s function. In this case it’s to organically build relationships during personal time. Instead of gathering at the lunch table or local bar, it’s responding to someone’s question, comment, photo or video. It’s not something that can be forced, nor in some cases facilitated. It takes several people in the group to take initiative and put in the effort to communicate. In fact the best interactions are when the manager isn’t involved. The voluntary part of it makes it real.

3. Cultivate – the uniqueness of each member of the team makes the whole together special. Most managers try to control employees working remotely because they have trust issues. The problem is the more policies and procedures you enforce, the more anarchy is created. Trust is built via connecting so everything grows out of that. Don’t try to mold everyone to be the same, celebrate their differences. When each person brings their unique talents and strengths to the table, why would a manager quell them? A manager’s role is to bring out the best in each person by leveraging personal strengths. If you’re not developing people as a manager you’re crushing their spirit. It’s not enough to have the right people on the bus. Each person has to be on the right seat in order to reach the promise land. My job is to allow my team to shine by getting out of their way.

As a leader managing people remotely is challenging, but a true test of your abilities. Similar to organizing volunteers, when you are stripped of power, money and resources all you have is your relationships. My belief is if you can lead others remotely, you can lead any team anywhere. If you want to test your leadership capabilities manage people from a distance. You’ll be forced to give up control, ego and certainty…and that’s not a bad thing at all.

How Bad Examples Fuel Change

Every moment is a learning opportunity, even the bad ones..

When I started as an entrepreneur I knew networking was crucial to success so without hesitation I joined my local Chamber of Commerce. The first event I attended was in the patio of a local eatery dressed with free food and drinks.

There were two types of people there: veteran members who stood on the sidelines talking to each and newbies like me introducing myself to anyone who wasn’t in conversation. Reciting an elevator pitch, handing out business cards and trying to sell myself was my approach. I remember it being quite loud there so 50 business cards later I left forgetting who was who and quite hoarse from the night’s interactions. After I got home, decompressed and evaluated the event I questioned the purpose of it.

A month later I figured maybe I just had a bad experience and went to the next event in an office space. Less food, quieter ambiance and more intimate. But the results were the same. As I introduced myself to members, I felt judged. Did I need to earn their respect immediately by telling a recent conquest? It seemed like it would take a while to penetrate the walls of folded arms, so I decided to leave.

I said to myself, “If this is what networking is, I don’t want to do it anymore!”

A few years later I was in a slow season of business and knew I had to drum up some new contacts, but didn’t know how. As someone who loves to organize events, I knew what components both needed to be present and absent for actual “connecting” to happen. I met with a friend and shared my vision for this new type of networking event and he encouraged me to try it…so I did.

Career Synergy was a 90-minute, monthly networking event hosted at a local coffee shop after hours on the first Tuesday of the month geared towards young professionals. How did I decide on these details? Surveys and market research.

What I wanted: speakers rich with life experiences they wanted to share, scheduled small groups times during the meeting and a dedicated informal “connecting” time after the event (not before).

What I didn’t want: loud music, free food/drinks and unstructured networking before the event.

How I measured success: 25 events total ranging from 10 – 45 people. 90% of attendees stayed 30 minutes after the events to mingle with each other. I made friends and partnered together in events to this day.

The shift for me happened when I stopped complaining about past examples and created my own solution.

Once networking became a lifestyle instead of an “event” the quality and quantity of my connections increased.

To this day I set a goal to connect with at least one person a week over the phone or in-person (that’s with a full-time job, plus email is too easy of an option).

Your career is more about who you know than what you know, but if you focus on improving bad experiences there might actually be a business idea waiting to be launched!

Bad examples will occur, but the question is: will it sour you or fuel you to change?

A Manager’s Secret Weapon (Yet Rarely Used)

Most bosses don’t get it.

Middle management’s main job is to manage people, not tasks.

Tasks need to be completed, but it’s how you manage your people that makes all the difference.

If your workers aren’t getting things done, the first finger pointed should be at you (the manager).

Have you clearly communicated your expectations? 

Are your people properly trained?

Are you putting them in a place to succeed?

Most managers don’t understand when the role changes, your responsibilities do too. If you don’t want to spend the majority of your time and energy dealing with interpersonal issues, don’t take the job!

I truly believe leadership skills can be taught to anyone, but that doesn’t make an effective leader. There are many traits that make a great leader, but the simplest one with the greatest ROI is:

Positive feedback.

Did you know it takes 5 positive comments to cancel out 1 negative one?

I wouldn’t worry too much about the ratio, except by saying your workers evaluate you. Performance reviews are held for employees all the time, but what about managers? Is your boss held to the same standards as the people they lead?  

If not, that’s a culture problem. Hypocrisy is the most visible sin in a business. It’s the one fault that causes morale to plummet and turnover to skyrocket.

If you work for someone else, you’re supporting another person’s dream. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that since not everyone can run a successful business. But when people don’t feel heard or treated unfairly it can signal the beginning of the end.

Managers who rarely dish out positive feedback are both insecure and focused on the wrong things. They haven’t bought into the fact their impact is determined by the team’s output, not theirs.

Being positive is similar to active listening. It can be taught, but usually if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.

The best leaders know metrics and data can only measure so much. Just like companies create a brand experience, managers create employee experiences. With power comes great responsibility; a willingness to model service to your team so it’s passed down to customers.

A positive comment can go a long way, but only if you actually say it.

The 1 Word That Changes Entrepreneurship

The difference between failure and success as a business owner can be minuscule.

Being an entrepreneur for 10 years I’ve had to learn a lot of hard lessons, but one concept has been clear-cut lately.

Systems beat sweat.

That doesn’t contradict hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, instead it signals that “smarter” refers to systems when it comes to efficiency.

The simple shift from “my” business to “the” business can be the difference between being profitable and a hobby.

A lot of entrepreneurs describe their business as their baby (as did I) which can be a huge mistake.

If you watch a lot of business shows on TV like The Profit, Shark Tank & Restaurant Startup the common theme you’ll see is a clear system in place. The term scale is thrown out like common lingo meaning to strategically plan for exponential growth.

For myself I didn’t embrace this theory early on because my reasons for owning a business had more to do with flexibility than money. If you fall more into the lifestyle entrepreneur category like me, scaling is still very important.

Most people who leave Corporate America do it because they want to be their own boss. What you don’t realize is you’re leaving a systemized company that has already figured out how to scale. Besides now figuring out how to make money, the challenge of creating a repeatable, predictable system falls on you.

Once you start looking at your idea (pre-business) as a business, not your business, it becomes less personal and more objective. Ever wonder why it’s easier to give advice to other business owners than to your own? It’s because it’s not yours!

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be invested and passionate about your business, but less attached and more determined to make it run without you.

Successful business owners almost seem a bit detached from their business and that’s actually healthy. They are more focused on strategy and automation than having their hands all over it. In fact, similar to most authors, once you start a business there’s a good chance it won’t be your last (regardless of the success of failure of one).

Serial entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. It’s being obsessed with ideas and figuring out how to monetize them. I can’t say I’ve figured it out, but it’s a ride I hope I never get tired of going on.

One word makes all the difference.

Benefits of Remote Work

The Millennial workforce is working from home more and more. It is a trend that has been growing for years and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. A recent study from Polycom shows that almost a full third of employees around the globe are regularly working remotely, and almost two-thirds have some sort of flexible work schedule. Clearly the concept of the workplace is changing both rapidly and dramatically. The new challenge then becomes: how do you keep your employees connected and engaged as part of a cohesive team? Check out the graphic below for some great solutions on staying connected in a work from home world.


Smart Office Solutions graphic

Smart Office Solutions from Nucleus

With almost 80% of employees working on a team with someone based in a different office, developing inclusive communication strategies and workflows is essential to ensuring your team is up-to-date. Chat apps like Slack or Skype have become essential office tools regardless of whether your employees work remotely or not. Many companies are now using online collaboration apps like Google’s G Suite to increase productivity and coordinate document organization. Hardware can be a great route as well. Installing something like a Nucleus home intercom system in conference rooms can keep workers at home connected and maintain face to face communication.

What I’m Learning, But Don’t Enjoy It

I like to move fast. I hate waiting.

In an instant gratification world I’ll take the hare over the turtle any day.

If patience is a virtue, I don’t have it…yet.

Since no job or business is perfect, when things go wrong jumping ship is a regular thought, but rarely more than an emotional reaction.

Whatever obstacle you’re facing at work could be worse. #truth

A wise leader once said, “Don’t come to me with your problems, only come to me with solutions.”

That’s it: love the process.

When there’s a problem at work it’s easy to complain and blame others. You may be 100% justified too, but even if you’re right it won’t change much.

Instead, focus on what you are learning.

If you are being micromanaged, think about how you will lead differently given the opportunity.

If you are treated unfairly, do your best to take the higher road and respond with integrity.

If you’re given a task outside of your job description, develop a skill you can use in the future.

Loving the process doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. In fact you may NEVER love the process, but you can still learn from it.

If life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it, then there’s plenty of opportunities to learn from the process.

I get so focused on what’s next I forget to enjoy the present. What’s going on may not be fun, but there’s always something you can learn from in any situation.

In the past 6 months I’ve fired someone, put someone on probation and called out my boss.

Were they uncomfortable experiences? Yes.

But am I thankful I have them under my belt now? Yes.

What you go through prepares you for what’s next. It’s like collecting little nuggets along the way that will help you pave the road in the future.

Growth doesn’t feel good. It’s not supposed to be comfortable, but the opposite is being stagnant and slowly dying over time.

You may never love the process and that’s ok.

But at the very least learn from it and you’ll be better off for it.

How To Spot A Secure Leader

The title leader can be given to anyone.

But the term leader and manager are worlds apart.

Most managers were promoted because of seniority or selected because of their technical prowess. Two of the many wrong reasons to become a manager.

Micromanagers are so rampant because the wrong skill sets are glorified. Individual performance isn’t a clear indicator of potential leadership. Using a sports analogy, the best player on a team isn’t automatically the MVP.

The difference between a secure leader and an insecure manager is encapsulated in the following statement:

How willing are they to implement other’s ideas?

Working with youth was my first introduction to leadership development. I remember planning a 6-week summer camp. I came prepared to share the weekly topics I felt were best, but then it hit me, “in order for the youth to feel empowered I should choose their agenda (ideas) over mine.”

At the time I thought it was a subtle gesture, but it turned out to be the difference between recruiting teenagers and developing young leaders. Because I let them choose the topics, they put way more effort, creativity and were much more motivated to run a great program.

Back to the sports analogy. Imagine you’re the coach of an individually talented team. You’d think your job is to throw your team out there and just let them figure it out. Although that’s not a bad strategy, the better one is to identify the strengths of each player, then put them in a system that allows them to shine in a customized role. The coach’s job is less about managing talent and more about governing egos. Leaders allow their people to thrive because they’re focused on eliminating distractions so they can maximize performance.

A manager’s role isn’t to puff his/her chest out trying to be the best. It’s about serving the people under them by trusting their ability to make the best decisions. In the age of infinite information what gets lost is people are your greatest asset, not data.

The simple act of hearing your team out and choosing their ideas over yours will increase morale and retention tremendously.

Why is this act so powerful?

Because it takes a secure leader to know he/she doesn’t need to be the smartest person in the room, only smart enough to empower the ones who make you look good.

What’s At The Core Of A Micromanager?

If you work under a micromanager (most do) it’s a matter of time before you leave your job.

But in order to cope and make the best of your current situation, it’s helpful to understand what makes a micromanager tick. To help lengthen your present tenure learning to manage your boss is key.

Micromanagers rarely ever change, but knowing how to deal with them provides some daily sanity.

Micromanagers have trust issues. Requesting autonomy from them as an employee is purely a nuisance. Micromanagers view freedom as a threat. Releasing power is a micromanager’s kryptonite. They want to know, communicate and oversee everything. Don’t expect praise, support or early information. Micromanagers view that as weak.

If you view micromanagers as bulldozers it’s because they are. Micromanagers see people as the vehicle to accomplish their tasks. If you’ve ever felt “talked-down to” or with a condescending tone that’s the voice of a micromanager. Remove them from formal conversations at work and their lack of social skills are evident. Position is said to be weakest form of leadership and in social situations micromanagers feel inadequate. Micromanagers overcompensate so heavily in the areas they feel competent in it’s glaring. Micromanagers will never be referred to as leaders, only as your boss.

Chances are your micromanager’s life is work. It’s their identity. They scoff at work-life balance because they see no need for it. Some will ask occasionally how you are doing, but they get uncomfortable talking about their own personal life since it’s basically non-existent. Who has time for hobbies, family, friends or fun when you’re working 80 hours a week? Usually micromanagers will hound you for staying on top of things, while they’re quite disorganized in their role. Do as I say, not as I do – that’s classic micromanager talk. It’s hard for micromanagers to show empathy because they don’t value it. Work comes first, second and third in terms of priorities.

Being under a micromanager feels like you’re walking on egg shells. Every time there’s an interaction, request or meeting you anticipate critical feedback (because it usually happens). Micromanagers have serious control issues. Don’t expect to grow or develop under their rule. Any hint of development is seen as a threat. Micromanagers are stingy with their praise because it signals a chance you might overtake their position. Micromanagers remind you frequently who’s in charge and crush your soul while they’re at it. Surround yourself with a strong support system to vent to or else you’ll go crazy.

At the core of micromanagers lie deep insecurities. Secure leaders don’t have to stomp on others to feel good about themselves. Even when something’s not your fault, they’ll still find a way to place the blame on you. One indicator of a true micromanager is the absence of apologies. They are quick to point fingers, but don’t take responsibility when they screw up. Leaders set their people up to succeed, micromanagers set their people up to fail. The unfortunate part of micromanagers is they are rarely equipped for the role. Most managers are vaulted into the position because of technical prowess or seniority. Little do they know what got you here won’t help you as a manager. Instead of trying to learn a different skill set, micromanagers choose the path of least resistance: do it my way or take the highway.

Micromanagement isn’t a disease, but a choice. And a choice you have to make is how long will you put up with it before leaving.

3 Signs It’s Time To Quit Your Job

In today’s job market securing a position before leaving is crucial and job-hopping is the new norm.

But how do you know it’s time to start looking elsewhere when the grass isn’t always greener on the other side?

Financial need should be one of the main criteria, but logic aside, here are some telltale signs the end is near:

1. You Dread Going To Work

Emotions are like the check engine light on your car dashboard. They indicate when something is wrong. For some lack of alignment with the vision of the company can be the deal breaker, while passion is the widely used qualitative measurement (on a scale of 1 – 10 how much do you love the company you work for?) As I wrote in an earlier post, you either drink the Kool-Aid or you don’t. If you score a 6 or below it may be a matter of when, not if you leave.

2. You Don’t Feel Valued

Value comes in different forms: respect, appreciation, compensation, etc. Being fairly paid is self-explanatory (and normally tied to your self-worth), but the “feeling” is tied to your direct manager. People leave managers, not companies. True story.

You may interact with your co-workers more frequently, but how you are treated by your boss is the thermometer. Feeling respected is being heard. Don’t expect all your ideas to be implemented, but if they’re all discarded you simply stop caring. Using the car analogy, value is the emotional fuel you run on at work.

When full, it’s easy to brush off apparent challenges.

When running on empty, minor offenses can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Value determines longevity.

3. No Growth Opportunities 

Professional development ranked higher than pay for Millennials in job surveys. That’s because the corporate ladder has been turned sideways where lateral movement to another company can be more attractive than promotion.

Culture is the driver for individual growth. Using Zappos as an example, it’s the core values that shape behaviors, not mission statements. Investment in employees can be risky because they can leave, but without it you have little chance of people staying past a year. Smart companies use both internal and external resources to champion this cause. If Human Resources is overloaded, hiring an outside trainer or consultant who specializes in learning and development can be the better route. Establishing a connection then challenging comfort zones is the intersection of growth.

Moving on has more to do with how you feel treated than it does anything rational. Life is too short to settle for mediocrity. If you care about making an impact you’ll look outside your current organization for more attractive options. Remember, the best candidates are employed and there’s never anything wrong with looking for something better.