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.

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.

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.

Why You Should Systemize Your Next Idea

Having a side hustle isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity.

Today’s middle class is barely making it. Therefore thinking about your next business idea should be reality (like yesterday).

The main reason 80% of businesses fail within 5 years is because of its faulty foundation: you.

That’s not a knock of your skills or ideas, but your focus. After finishing reading The E Myth Revisited, Gerber emphasizes working on your business, not in it. Simply put, any business dependent on you to run it is destined to fail.

The only way to monetize your next idea is to systemize it. This is something I’m working on. I like being involved. I prefer to individualize customer interactions. I want to cater to people’s needs.

The problem there is the lack of a consistent experience. As much as we may loathe sales pitches, they are measurable. Standardizing a product or service provides branded expectations. When you think about it the best companies present clearly.

When an explanation is simple and easy to understand, a customer can decide whether to buy or not.

When an explanation is unclear, a customer leaves confused which results in a no.

The best example for systemizing your next idea are franchises. Starting at the model concept, processes and details are hammered out to a tee so it can be replicable at another location. Customers who visit any spot should experience a very similar encounter.

Another key factor in systemization is hiring others to help. This means people or outside systems (automation). Essentially this means delegating all the pieces you aren’t great at in order to grow the business.

It starts with the right mentality. Focus on developing the business to run itself. You won’t be able to afford all the help you need right away, but you should never defer from that plan. Most small business owners take shortcuts early on by doing everything which produces short-term gains, but in the long-run it’s not sustainable.

Ironically I’ve experienced this at a program level before where I put the right people in place and let it run like a well-oiled machine. It felt like everything was on “auto-pilot.” My goal is to implement this strategy with my next idea and where I’m finding it most helpful so far is in the early stages of discerning which ideas to pursue.

Some people’s goal is never to scale or sell a business and that’s ok. But what I’m learning is when you systemize your idea correctly, at least you’ll have that option because others see value in a predictable money making machine.

Are Great Managers Truly Unicorns?

The number one reason why people leave their jobs is because they feel unappreciated or under-valued. Translation: lousy boss.

One of the main reasons I’ve left all my past jobs is a terrible boss (best boss I had was as an entrepreneur – he was great, but the pay was inconsistent).

At the core is a skill problem. Let’s start at the bottom:

As a technical worker you are paid to produce results quickly. Once you prove yourself you move up to leadership. The issue here is what made you a great technical worker won’t help you be a good leader.

At the leadership (management) level your job is to bring out the best in your team. It doesn’t matter how well you performed at your previous role because the job description is completely different.

This is rampant in Corporate America because seniority normally equates to promotion. But most managers don’t know the first thing about motivating/treating people. Managers talk to their employees as if they’re stupid or incompetent. The disrespect is tolerated at first, but over time disengagement and morale drops.

Productivity keeps a business running, but poor leadership can halt growth. Companies with high turnover are similar to below par rated restaurants on Yelp. Even if you have a great product, customer service is what you’re ultimately judged on.

Most businesses believe treating the customer with the utmost respect is good enough, but when employees feel the cold shoulder of management internal strife starts to build. When the work environment becomes sheerly political the internal trust deteriorates and your best talent already has one foot out of the door.

I understand the argument from the company’s perspective that hard, objective decisions need to be made in order to scale, but you can still treat people well and get great results. People filter their perception of leadership through interactions. Once you feel unsafe as a worker, it’s time to start applying for jobs elsewhere.

That’s why when you do find a manager who cares about you, brings out the best in you and ultimately looks at his position as service treasure him/her. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience it once in my career and during that tenure I felt I could do anything.

For some complete autonomy may feel like macro-management, so it’s important to understand what type of boss you thrive under. Culture is viewed as the thermometer, but core behaviors are the true temperature.

These days companies can pay you lip service about their environment, but only the employee experience truly defines what the culture is.

So if you have a great manager think twice about the grass being greener on the other side. Like grass most of the time if you turn it over it’s actually brown.

The Criteria You Boss Should Be Judged Against

There’s a hypocrisy when it comes to management being held accountable. Employees often claim to be micromanaged, but rarely are there any changes because it’s acceptable by executives.

Businesses determine decisions based on finances, but what happens when costs are offset by people quitting?

The ROI on employee retention is staggering. No matter how strategic the hiring process is once a worker is on-boarded it falls on the company’s side to make sure they have all the necessary training and skills to effectively do their job.

What’s lost in the boss-employee relationship is a measurement that doesn’t get the just due it deserves: motivation.

Most would argue people are self-motivated or not, which I would agree with, BUT the main factor why people leave or stay at their current role is: how their boss makes them feel.

People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.”

Maybe it’s overlooked because it’s not as sexy as performance or trackable as sales made. Those matter, but as you move up the food chain of Corporate America it takes less skill, more feel from managers.

Take the example of professional athletes. All have coaches, but how many of those coaches can outperform them? (Answer: none)

If that’s the case, why hire a coach?

For support and guidance during challenging times.

The more skilled the employee, the less they need to be told what to do or how to do it, but rather given the trust to get the job done and be judged on the results.

A manager affects the morale and engagement more than any other factor at work.

The level of morale and engagement directly drives performance.

Phil Jackson coached Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The reason he led them to championship and his predecessors before him didn’t was his approach. Jackson focused less on micromanaging them and more on challenging/managing their egos. Great players need great coaches.

Just because you were a great widget maker doesn’t mean a thing once you become a leader. Your job was to be the best, now it’s to bring out the best in others. Most managers didn’t learn this skill set and it’s the reason why so many workers complain about their boss and leave.

Think about the best and worst manager you’ve worked for. I bet on the high side they cared about you as a person. On the low side, they treated you as a cog in the wheel. At the core is how they made you feel.

Chances are if you love your boss, you see the glass as half full moving forward. But if you hate your boss, you’re actively looking for your next gig.

How does your boss make you feel? 

The Limitations Of Having A Growth Mindset

strong-brain

Do you have a growth mindset?

Having one isn’t good enough. In fact, I’d argue to say there are some limitations when it comes to this type of mindset.

The little engine that could(n’t).

I think I can. I think I can I think I can.

That little train did make it up the mountain, but then what? Believing you can is the foundation for any change, but that doesn’t equate to action. People are who they are. You can’t change that. Dating couples are told by therapists not to try and change their partner (because it’s not happening).

Poor listeners can learn how to actively listen, but they’ll always default to talking.

Micromanagers can be told to use empathy, but task accomplishment will always be most important.

Planners can be asked to be more spontaneous, but last minute changes will always frustrate them.

We are who we are. We can’t be anything we want to be; we can only be the best version of ourselves.

Talent is innate.

People can grow, but each person has different heights of potential.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, but if talented people work hard they perform better.

A talent is defined as something you have a natural affinity for. You and I are gifted in areas others aren’t. Once you identify your talents, they can be developed into strengths over time.

Talent is an advantage when used correctly widens the gap and separates us from the rest.

Focus on your strengths.

Less is more and when it comes to energy you should spend your time on what you can be great at.

With everything else ask for help or delegate to others.

There’s nothing wrong with learning new things, but if you have no passion for it, don’t align with the purpose or just aren’t good at it you’re wasting your time.

A growth mindset would say keep at it, but is that a good use of your time?

The best organizations have the right people in the right seat on the bus.

That means hiring specialists and letting them do work. Filling people’s plates with other tasks (outside of their talents) is diluting their strengths.

There’s nothing wrong with having a growth mindset, but when I hear people use that as a default response to everything challenging you’ve missed the point.

Attitude is crucial to everything we do, but at a deeper level self-awareness produces maximum results not having a growth mindset.