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 1 Thing You Have To Give Up To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

thing-1

Your relationships.

Anyone who has been a successful business owner has sacrificed their personal life at some point.

I’m not against working hard, but at what expense?

I hear a lot of 20 somethings say they want to focus on their career then get married and start a family in their 30’s. Well guess what: relationships don’t grow on trees nor come without a cost – mainly time.

It’s the same reason why most celebrities and professional athletes aren’t able to maintain a strong family unit because they’ve chosen to put their careers in the forefront and their relationships outside of work on the back burner. If you’re fortunate enough to have a selfless spouse who can hold the house down while you’re away then it can work, but that takes a special individual to put your needs before theirs.

When I look back on my career as a full-time entrepreneur I realize why I never met my own lofty expectations: I put people before profit. It’s your choice which one you choose, but rarely can you pick both.

I had too many boundaries in place to go “all-in,” therefore I would work up to a certain point, but cared about my lifestyle more than my possessions.

This post isn’t to mock those who have made it big nor is it putting those who are relationally-focused on a pedestal. It’s my observation of over 10+ years of reading, hearing and witnessing first-hand what it really takes to live the American Dream.

If there’s an understanding in terms of priorities that your career is first then those associated with you have to abide by it. Of course hard work alone doesn’t guarantee anything, but without it you don’t stand a chance.

The realization I came to is: people are most important to me.

When I first started my business I had financial goals in mind that I hit quickly, but over time I realized to reach the next tier I’d have to sacrifice the relationships around me. Since I wasn’t willing to do that, the numbers of hours I dedicated reflected in the amount of the paycheck (or lack thereof).

Fortunately I married someone who shares my values. I love that she is raising our two kids at home until they are full-time at school. We can make it on a single income because we live lean and value our time together the most. You don’t need a lot of money to be happy, but you do need to allocate a great amount of time to others.

It’s up to you to decide what currency is most important: time or money. Once you do, it’s easy to know where you should spend your energy.

The X-Factor For Employee Retention

x-factor

I admit I believe in work-life separation, but even an old dog can learn new tricks.

Being a corporate newbie (former FT entrepreneur) I can relate to that Scrubs episode where Dr. Kelso stepped one foot out the hospital and started whistling like he had no cares in the world.

Am I heartless? Far from it. But as I moonlighted as a contractor I walked into companies as a hired gun. I enjoyed getting to know people, but subconsciously I never mixed business with personal. It’s my way of keeping boundaries.

But now being an employee I’m starting to see things differently. I’ll never be that guy who grabs a drink after work with co-workers for 2 reasons: 1) I want to see my kids and wife as soon as work is over 2) I don’t drink. It’s not something I’m against, more so a different time in my life.

Yet what’s changed for me in the past month or so is my view towards friends at work. I’m completely fine with putting my head down, banging my work out and leaving unnoticed. But something happened along the way…

My role at work is to support our employees (online tutors). It happens over Zoom (video conferencing) weekly. Ironically I wasn’t taking the same approach to work relationships, but my shift in behavior has made me re-think work.

Maybe it’s the remote environment of the company I work for, but outside of compensation who you connect with at work is the X-factor of retention. This is a quality, not quantity issue. You can bond over work projects, but the natural foundation of a true friendship is built over common interests and reciprocity. Effort alone guarantees nothing, but without it you’ll get nowhere. The interest has to be mutual.

Honestly I’ll never be that guy who calls his work friends his best friends, but knowing there are more than a handful of people at my company I am interested in connecting with outside of work is a huge step in the right direction for me.

So where do you fall on the friends at work spectrum?

Why Industry Experience Is Overrated

previous_experience

If you think you didn’t get hired at your last interview because of lack of experience, you’re wrong.

Lack of experience is a strike against you, but if that employer didn’t see potential beyond your resume you wouldn’t even have an interview in the first place.

Your resume is like a Driver’s License. It qualifies you for the job, but you have to prove your value to the company in-person.

In fact sometimes industry experience can be a bad thing. For example if you were at your previous job for 10+ years and didn’t know anything else, how adaptable and flexible can you really be moving forward?

In my current role as a Faculty Manager for an online test prep/academic tutoring company I was on the outside looking in. The tutors I manage remotely know way more about the SAT/ACT than I’ll ever care to know. So when asked if I had any experience in the education space during my interview, I responded by focusing on my strengths for the position.

Since I am managing tutors, not teaching students, I talked about leading people. As for former youth pastor I dealt with parents of teenagers (most clients are high school students). As an entrepreneur I am organized and specialize in time management (managing programs and learning the system is 50% of the job for our tutors). Knowing the technical skills of high school academia is irrelevant for me. As long as I can prove I can get the results from the tutors I add value to the company.

My situation may not suit yours, but my point is simple: know thyself.

Self-awareness is the most important trait of any leader. Know what you’re great at and also what you suck at. Most jobs ask you to multi-task, but within those responsibilities there are priorities. Nail those and now you have leverage.

Selling yourself is having confidence in your abilities and knowing who you are. Every time you decide to pivot careers you’re at the same place. You will switch careers frequently for the rest of your working life so get used to it.

An employer notifying you didn’t get the job because of lack of experience is a scapegoat. What they really meant is they don’t have the confidence that you can get the job done despite experience. If you understand that going in, you’ll focus less on what you don’t have and leverage your strengths to the fullest.

Don’t use lack of industry experience as an excuse. It’s only one if you choose it to be.

The Hiring Dilemma: Talent vs. Change

wall-e -eva

Think you can change someone while dating them? You’re wrong.

But in the corporate world for some reason hiring managers think they can.

Sorry, but minus the resume and experience you are who you are.

For instance, leadership skills can be taught, but that doesn’t make you a leader.

Maybe it’s the ego of the manager who thinks people can be molded, but intangible skills such as empathy, communication and taking initiative come attached (not sold separately).

If people get hired for competency, yet fired for character issues – the focus during interviews needs to change.

Back in 2008 when the recession hit, the first thing to go was training and we’re still suffering for it. But some things just can’t be bought (or taught).

I manage tutors remotely via video conference and even though academic improvement is what parents pay for it’s engaging personalities that breed results.

Take opposite ends of the spectrum examples using characters from Disney’s Wall-E: Eva (heart) makes emotional connections while Wall-E (head) goes for logical transactions. Who would you rather be your tutor?

In this teacher-student context the adage “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” rings true. The receiver needs to feel a genuine interest from the giver. If he/she doesn’t, all information is lost.

In roles that require frequent human interactions the “engineer” type will always lose. On the other hand people with dynamic personalities are both charismatic and build confidence in those around them.

The moral of the story for companies is regardless how much you invest in training, attitude and refined soft skills are nearly impossible to teach. Content acquisition is overrated (plus abundant).

Interviewers need to focus more on “how” a candidate communicates an answer vs. “what” they actually say. Active listening is crucial at this stage.

Talent is inherently innate…and all the money and resources in the world can’t change that.

Naked Leadership: Stripped Down To Its Purest Form

censored

When’s the last time you got naked?

I’m not talking about the shower, but as a leader.

Leadership stripped down to its purest form is: relationships.

As a former Youth Pastor employed at a church (Non-Profit Organization) naked leadership is void of power and money. Most workers are volunteers which means leverage boils down to what they think of their leaders.

For example, leaders can only ask from their people what they are willing to do themselves. It’s leadership by showing. Do as I say, but not as I do never works.

Today’s managers use coercion to get things done a certain way, but that “carrot and stick” method only works for so long.

In order to truly unlock the potential of those under your care you have to help them realize their strengths then put them in a position to succeed. That means trusting them by offering autonomy with clear objectives. Allowing people to make mistakes and learning from them.

Leading and develop people can be two different things. Naked leadership is about showing people you care before telling them what you know.

Think about your favorite leader. It may be someone you are close to or admire from afar. What they share is their genuine care for the wellbeing of people over results. In order to accomplish that as a leader you have to be secure enough to allow people to fail in order to succeed.

Naked leadership goes back to recess on the playground as a kid. No one appoints the leader, he or she just asserts themselves. That’s just the opposite of positional leadership which focused on titles, not earning the respect of others.

The difference between naked and positional leadership is longevity. Retention is about loyalty as much as it is about pay or perks. How employees act when their leader isn’t around is a true test of their allegiance.

Naked leadership means there is nothing to hide. It can be scary, but ultimately revealing at the same time.

Are you a naked leader?

Your Career Runny Egg Moment

slaters-burger

I love burgers. Have you ever tried a fried egg inside your burger?

If not, you haven’t truly lived…

One of my favorite burgers is the Original from Slater’s 50/50: 50% beef 50% bacon patty. avocado mash. chipotle mayo, pepper jack cheese & a sunny side egg on a brioche bun.

The ingredients mesh perfectly, but the highlight of the culinary experience is the initial puncture of the yolk, it runs down the center of the burger and you have to take a bite before it drips on your plate.

My description may not be doing it justice, but it reminds me of a parallel in your career.

Similar to the moment the yolk breaks, there is a moment in time where opportunity strikes.

For example, it happens in the job search process: you’d love if employers gave you a timeline once you applied/interviewed, but that rarely happens (even if it does, it’s inaccurate).

Meanwhile you continue to apply for more positions hoping the “yolk” breaks on your preferred timeline.

Truth is you have little control over the process.

Do your research. Prepare for the moment. Brand yourself clearly.

Your next career prospect is all about timing.

It’s a numbers game. If you apply to one job and wait, you’ll be miserably waiting (and severely disappointed if you’re rejected).

On the other hand if you apply to multiple positions, network like crazy and follow-up like a mad man (or woman) something will eventually break when you least expect it.

Life is all about timing.

You never know when your career runny egg moment will come, but when it does will you be ready for it?

Why Startups Are Overrated

startup-life

Follow your passion. Chase your dreams.

Bad advice depending on your age/life stage.

The startup life is glorified from the outside, but those inside the ropes think differently.

Your corporate 9-5 job may suck the life out of you, but imagine working 40+ hours and getting paid less.

Think the grass is greener on the other side? Try turning grass over. It’s brown.

Similar to entrepreneurship and parenting, everything you see/read/learn doesn’t equate to first-hand experience.

Working for a startup is grueling. Long hours for little pay isn’t for everyone. Age/life stage should be your determining factor.

In your 20’s your career is most important, so working hard for something you believe in takes priority.

In your 30’s relationships (dating/marriage/family) are most important, so working hard to support your desired lifestyle take priority.

In your 40’s planning for retirement is most important, so working hard to secure your future takes priority.

Startups are ideal for people in their 20’s or younger. Fewer responsibilities means less concerns about work life balance.

Once you enter your 30’s boundaries become important. The difference lies in what you do after work: going to the bar with friends vs. going home to see your family.

There’s nothing wrong with chasing the American dream, but the better question to ask is: when are you chasing it?

Keeping Your Millennial Workforce Happy

Guest post by Faith MacAnas

hi-five

One of the key features of the millennial generation is their focus on job satisfaction and life fulfillment is a lot higher than their predecessors. Happier employees have a better and higher quality output; this has made the necessity for employee satisfaction strategies more important than ever. These following examples are just a few areas where adjustments can be made that will motivate your millennial workforce and optimize your business.

• Flexibility

For the first time, young workers are prioritizing their work-life balance over their paycheck. They want to be able to travel, balance their family and social life or pick up side projects. While full remote working conditions are inadvisable, providing some level of flexibility is a great tactic. This offer could come in the form of career breaks or simply the opportunity to work alternate hours from home on occasion.

student-with-mentor-on-computer

    Crisp Technology

Millennials have grown up at the forefront of technology; they have always had the latest editions and expect their technology to be in good working order. Companies that can’t afford the latest pieces now allow staff members to work on their own devices. While this can save money, it does also require ensuring the security of confidential company data on machines that will leave the office. You can guarantee protection by investing in a company-wide Virtual Private Network program for all staff members to use or by creating an internal system where work can be shared exclusively.

    Career Paths

Today’s young workers live in a shaky economy, and they know it. While they worry about the promise of work, they also will quickly jump ship if their jobs don’t appear to provide them with the opportunity to progress. Give your millennial workforce a voice; allow them input into innovation ideas and company policy. Ensure feedback channels are open, and offer opportunities for training courses or department transfers. Show that you are willing to invest in them, and they are much more likely to invest in you and your company.

woman-holding-money

    Cash Incentives

If all else fails, then there’s one language everyone speaks: cash. Nothing gets motivation going like the promise of a bonus, and there are none who don’t relish the opportunity to make more money. However, there are both pros and cons to this strategy. If, for example, you set a goal for workers to achieve to secure the bonus, and they do not succeed, it’s possible to disenfranchise them further. It’s wise to set goals that are both realistic and progressive.

Millenials are some of most forward-thinking workers around today. They naturally possess crucial knowledge and hold to the key to the future. If you haven’t already implemented strategies to ensure you keep them motivated and dedicated, then now is the time to start doing so!

About the Author: Faith is a blogger and marketing and strategy expert. She specializes in internet security. She enjoys sharing what she’s learned with other business owners online.

My Achilles Heel As An Entrepreneur

employee-entrepreneur

5 years ago I tore my left Achilles tendon while playing basketball.

Like the stories I heard before, it felt like someone kicked my calf from behind.

When it happened it didn’t hurt, but I knew something was wrong. I remember grabbing my cars keys and limping to the car. It was a 6 month recovery to get back on the basketball court.

Post-recovery I’ve never been scared of re-injuring myself, but I’ve become much more in tune with my body. If my Achilles feels sore, I don’t push my body. I listen to it.

As an entrepreneur, I have a Achilles heel too.

Leaders create a “wake” of relationships built and tasks accomplished. What I realized is the one that means more to me determines the trajectory of my career.

I’ve had my business for almost 10 years now experiencing ups and downs financially. Starting out I was willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. It was my own startup that I was willing to work overtime for and be underpaid purely to build my “brand.”

But being married and 2 kids later my priorities changed. Time became the most important currency and I’d rather spend time with my family than always work hard. In work-life balance terms, I want a separation between the two.

I always believed working a full-time corporate job meant waving the white flag…settling. I did everything I could to avoid it, until about a month ago.

Reluctantly, I took a position at a tech startup because there was “no good reason not to.” Not exactly inspiring stuff, but the truth.

Fast forward to now, I realize it was the right decision.

The side of the wake that matters more to me is: relationships. If it were tasks, I believe I’d never take my current position because I would have already been rich.

What I realized is money is more important than people. Some say that, but my actions validate it.

The thought of a 9-6 was nauseating even a few months ago, but I started listening to my heart.

Not only am I enjoying the work I do (similar to the coaching I’ve been doing), but once I leave the office I leave my work there. That’s something I could never do as a business owner.

Do I still coach? Yes. But around my full-time job.

My Achilles heel as an entrepreneur is my love for connection. It’s much stronger than my desire to sell.

I still love to dream up and implement new ideas, but not at the cost of a steady paycheck and allowing my wife to stay at home with our kids.

I haven’t given up on entrepreneurship.

I just became more in tune with my desired lifestyle.