Nude Numbers (#20)

For reference, here’s last week’s data. Curious what this post is about? Click here to find out.

Summary

I did OK with my plan for the week, but I had a big decision to make. And I’ve made it. Read on for more (and do click the links… they’re fun J ).

Subjective Data

I did some (not much) weight lifting, tried some spinning, and went to see a physical therapist. Why? Because the pain from my run last Saturday did not subside as quickly as I would have liked. I also went back to my ortho-specialist to see what he thought and had an MRI. The result: nothing is broken, but I have a bad sprain and lots of bruising in my right foot.

My eating wasn’t great later in the week, and my numbers show it.

Objective Data

Click here for a PDF version of my dashboard.

Assessment

I had dinner on Thursday with my friends Jim and Sudipta (who by the way has a great new kids book on sale now… The Mine-O-Saur. Check it out). And during the conversation I asked them for their advice on whether to run or not. I thought Jim’s response is a good candidate for quote of the month:

You’re not Kenyan – the marathon is not a life defining event for you. If you injure yourself permanently during the run, it will become a life-defining event. Don’t make this a life defining event!

Well, facts are facts. I had a stress fracture, but now I have nerve pinching, swelling and bruising in my right foot. I get sharp piercing pain any time I stand up after sitting for 45 minutes or more. I could try to run the marathon on Sunday of next week, but odds are that (a) the pain would become unbearable late in the race and (b) I’ll permanently injure myself by re-breaking the stress-fracture or doing something else stupid as my body compensates over 26 miles to avoid the pain.

So, this morning I notified Team Continuum that I would not run, and have been guaranteed a spot in next year’s marathon. I’m going to take at least 6-8 weeks off running, and then work with a physical-therapist to slowly ramp up again. I’d like to target doing a marathon in the April or May timeframe of next year (and then maybe I do NY next year, maybe not…) – let me know if you have suggestions for one to do.

Also, thanks to everyone for their suggestions (public and private) on what to do. I really appreciate the feedback and support. In case folks are wondering on the breakdown of “live to fight another day” vs. “go for it!” the breakdown was:

Live to Fight Another Day

Go For It

20+ (I stopped counting…)

0

Telling, no?

Plan

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed – I am. But when God gives you lemons, you find a new God. Whoops, I mean, you regroup and start again. So, the plan for this week is continue my new weight lifting routine, do some spinning, continue physical therapy, and then… get ready for Mexico. J and I are off to Mexico for 5 days next week (so, no updates next week). When I return, there will be a new format for tracking the metrics on my winter goals, which to remind you are:

  1. Be able to swim 1km without stopping by 3/1/08. This is really about form and balance for me.
  2. Gain 5-10 pounds from my 11/5/07 weight while keeping a 32 inch max waist by 3/1/08 (I’m expecting my 11/5 weight to be around 153-158).
  3. For weight lifting, increase my 1RM by 5% on average across the board by 3/1/08 from my 10/30 1RMs (1RM = 1-Rep-Maximum).

Presentation Notes

No changes to data presentation this week. As with last week, data is presented in SOAP Note format.

- Art

Help me raise money for people suffering from cancer

Growing Individuals: Get Over Yourself

(4b of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Last week I talked about my general framework for why you need to make sure team members grow in their roles. This week I’ll go through some of the techniques I use.

Self-Importance

Before I talk about people on your team, let’s talk about you. Who has been the most important person in your career to-date? Who has had the most influence on what you’ve done and what jobs you’ve taken? Whose advice have you followed the most? Who’s been your best ally and who have you asked for the most input on career directions?

Without a doubt I’ve been the most influential person on my career (and not always in a good way). Sure I’ve had mentors who’ve suggested paths, but often I’ve ignored their advice – but I’ve never ignored myself.

Who’s the second most influential person? For me, that’s my wife. She’s listened to my cheers, my complaints, my dreams and my plans. She’s pushed me to take certain directions and (assuming I’ve agreed) I’ve favored her advice over anyone else’s.

Who’s the third most important? For me, it’s been my friends and peers. I’ve compared myself to where they’ve taken their careers. I’ve kvetched with them about my plans, my frustrations, and my dreams. I’ve done it at work, but also over dinner, out hiking, heck, anywhere my friends gather. We often talk about work and their stories about their careers definitely influences where I want to take mine.

In fact, you have to get pretty far down the list before one my mentors shows up. That’s not to say mentors aren’t important – they are critical and I’ve had some absolutely stellar mentors. But in reality I pay way more attention to me, my spouse, and my friends.

And I’m typical of most employees.

Get Over Yourself

First time managers often think they should take a very active role in growing their employees (or at least I did), and can find themselves devoting lots of time to it. It leads to things like career maps, ladder-levels, “mandatory training”, soul-searching on weekends about how you can improve individuals on your team, giving constant “constructive” feedback about ways to “grow”, and often leads to frustration on the part of both the manager on the employee. The manager thinks the employee is ignoring good advice. The employee thinks the manager is pushing some bullshit agenda on them that isn’t where they want to go. Eventually both manager and employee abdicate any responsibility for career growth, and instead talk (in bitter sarcastic terms) about following bullshit processes – and that’s the best outcome.

The manager is at fault here – the employee is following the advice of more important people, and the manager mistakenly thinks his advice should come first.

Given that, the first rule of growing individuals is: get over yourself. At best as a manager you are the 4th or 5th most important person advising your employee on their career (assuming most of your employees have at least 3-4 friends). Your advice, especially your unsolicited advice, is likely to be in competition with more important people and therefore not followed.

So stop giving it!

Instead focus your management powers on managing your employee’s relationship with their most important advisor – themselves. Make sure they are asking themselves where they want to go, make sure they are following the advice they lay out on their own, and only step in to help with the how when asked.

Once you do this, the amount of time you spend on “growing individuals” drops drastically, but the quality of the interaction increases drastically. You become the person an employee reports their career-growth progress to, not the person actually taking the steps to grow their career. The employee takes more ownership because it’s their own steps. You can put metrics around how they take their steps and hold them accountable. And you’ve delegated responsibility for growing the employee to the most qualified person imaginable – your employee.

The next few articles will talk about the 4 remaining steps I do to grow someone’s career, but the most important of them is the first: get over yourself. You’re not as important as you think you are, so spend the amount of time commensurate with your importance.

I’ll continue the rest the week after next

- Art

Nude Numbers (#19)

For reference, here’s last week’s data. Curious what this post is about? I’m tracking my training progress for the New York Marathon. Click here for why.

Summary

I did one “last chance” run to see if my leg could take the mileage on Saturday. Results: 17 mile run, but I’m in a lot of pain now and back in my restraining-boot. So, I need to make a hard call by end of this week: surrender and fight another day, or go for broke in two weeks? Send me your thoughts!

Subjective Data

This was a rest week which was good since I had a slight cold. I did two spinning classes, no weight lifting, but my bike ride on Saturday didn’t pan out. So, instead I decided to try my luck running again (stupid me, I know). The good news is I got 17 miles done in 3:03:00 (although I had to walk the last mile). The bad news is, like my run 2 weeks ago, I’m in a lot of pain.

That said, I’m in slightly less pain than 2 weeks ago even though I did over 2x the mileage… hmmm…

Eating was very on target all week, and the numbers show that.

Objective Data

Click here for a PDF version of my dashboard.

Assessment

The rest was good. The diet-control was good. On that front, not a lot to change.

On the run, I learned a bunch of things:

  1. Going at a super slow pace actually makes things worse, not better. I did the first 4 miles at a 12-minute-mile pace and it really sucked. I need to run at my natural pace, which means a 9-10 minute mile pace with breaks.
  2. Tighter laces earlier in the run actually seems to help.
  3. I need to stop every 1-2 miles and walk for at least 60 seconds to let the pain subside (that’s what kills my overall times). If I do the marathon, that’s what I’ll need to do.
  4. It hurts more if I stop moving J
  5. But it hurts A LOT while I run. Specifically, sharp piercing pain on the top of my right foot when kicking off that is consistent with severe tendonitis.

Plan

This is the week I need to make my big decision: to go or not go for it. I have to decide by Friday, although I’m hoping to stretch it to Sunday since I’m having breakfast with my aunt from Ireland on Sunday and she’s run a bunch of marathon’s before (I’d like her advice).

The plan this week is to resume lifting on my old schedule, keep eating under control (still shooting for that Six-Pack Challenge), and do some spinning to maintain cardio (later in week once my foot heals from Saturday’s run).

As a reminder, I get to decide on October 24th whether to try to run the marathon anyway, or take my guaranteed spot next year. Let me know your thoughts.

I’ve decided my final goals for the winter will be all about swimming and lifting:

  1. Be able to swim 1km without stopping by 3/1/08. This is really about form and balance for me.
  2. Gain 5-10 pounds from my 11/5/07 weight while keeping a 32 inch max waist by 3/1/08 (I’m expecting my 11/5 weight to be around 150-155).
  3. For weight lifting, increase my 1RM by 5% on average across the board by 3/1/08 from my 10/30 1RMs (1RM = 1-Rep-Maximum. I did a re-measure of those 2 weeks ago).

I’ll create a new tracking dashboard for this after the marathon.

Presentation Notes

No changes to data presentation this week. As with last week, data is presented in SOAP Note format.

- Art

Help me raise money for people suffering from cancer

The Rules for Growing Individuals

(4a of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Last week I talked about how to use your entire Naked Team to hire new people. This week I talk about how to why you also need to grow the members of your team.


Farming

I recently finished The Omnivore’s Dilemma(1), a book about how the food we eat is produced. There is a section in the book that details a “healthy” farm called Polyface based in Virginia. Polyface uses the natural tendencies of nature to create a farm that produces some of the best eggs, beef, chicken and produce of any farm in the country. This form of farming, in particular its reliance on harnessing the innate tendencies and cycles of crops and animals, is very similar to managing a Naked Team. Managing Naked Teams is all about recognizing what natural energies motivate most people, and using transparency to channel that natural energy towards your team’s goal.

But it’s an imperfect analogy: While growing and running naked teams your team will quickly gain momentum, your people will get more and more confident and your stars will start realizing they can do even more. Like a successful crop on a farm left unattended, your team will start expanding outside its area (or at least want to). Your star employees will want to take on new challenges. The same thing happens on a farm but the good farmer harvests his crops right before things start getting overcrowded and thereby keeps a stable healthy system running.

Unlike a farm, it’s generally frowned upon if you harvest or cull your team to keep it at a stable level.

Harvesting

Here’s the problem: The consequences of not harvesting your team are just as serious as not harvesting on a farm. On an un-harvested farm, crops overcrowd themselves and start dying. Some aggressive crops spread into other areas (like weeds). And disease spreads rapidly in the confined and overcrowded herds. On a team that is running naked but needs to expand outside its area to keep everyone growing, either some team members quit out of frustration at not being able to keep moving in their careers (the best case situation), or they resign themselves to immobility, get bitter, and poison the team (the worst case).

How do you solve that problem? You do two things, one obvious and the other not so obvious.

On the obvious front, you weed your teams, removing the poisonous attitudes and the folks who don’t believe in the strategy you’re following. Get rid of them and quickly! That’s all I’ll say on that.

But on the non obvious front, you must ignore the natural instinct of most managers and instead, you actively harvest the best from your team.

This is the last step to running naked teams. First you focus on the team itself; then you use the team to help add more people to the team; and finally you aggressively grow and remove the stars on your team to keep your “crops” rotated and your harvests high.

The Joy of Farming

Harvesting your team, or actively removing your best team members and replacing them with new team members, is one of the most powerful tools in your bag of manager tricks. If you do it, you get the following benefits:

  1. You get to control the timing and attitude of when your stars leave. That’s right; your stars are going to leave anyway because they want to keep growing, but if you focus on moving them, you get much more control over when that happens.
  2. You force your team to be more resilient and less dependent upon 1-2 key people. Once the star leaves, you have to train other (up and comers) to do the job. If you’re regularly recycling your top team members it’s easy to convince your stars to maintain transition materials as a condition of your help. And it keeps your focus on training and recruitment which means you think more about the “how” you do things than “what” you do, which increases resilience.
  3. You increase morale on your team. When your team sees (through your actions) that you’re actively pushing and promoting the stars, they feel more loyalty to you because they’ve seen your results, and they feel better about the team because they know they’ll move on. They may not be stars yet, but you’ve given them the best possible reason to try: you’ll promote them off the team if they achieve it.
  4. You raise the execution level of your entire team. This one is less obvious, but I’ve found that when a high-performing star leaves, especially one who has been on the team for a long term, there is a period of pain (usually 3 months) as people start to fill the hole, but then the team starts executing better than when the star was there. Why? Because folks who you never let try something new when the star was on your team, now try new things. They have the knowledge of seeing what the star did, but they try new evolutions on that theme because they are new people. And after 3-months they’ve either returned to exactly what the star did (because the pain is too high if they don’t), or their mutation on the star’s way of doing things is actually better. Ergo your team gets better, not worse.

Most management tool books tell you to get rid of poisonous team members (which I echo) but to do everything in your power to keep your stars. I disagree. Do everything you can to promote your stars into new roles. It’s true that it does come at a cost; usually for me 3 months of pain as the team adjusts to life without a promoted star. But I’ve been on excellent teams that didn’t harvest their stars, and the consequence was always a team that ended up bitter, ineffective, and full of hubris about how good they were (anyone else have the same experience?). Three months of pain is nothing compared to years of snarky bitter old-timers.

Don’t’ get me wrong; I’m not advocating that you get rid of all your stars tomorrow. Instead I’m advocating that you plan and actively push out your stars on a schedule that your organization can maintain, but never let a year go by without losing one star!

The Rules of Farming

So assuming I’ve convinced you that focusing on growing the individuals on your team, in particular the stars, is worth your while, How do you do it and still get your day job done? The good news is that most first time managers actually spend far more time on employee growth than they should(2).

I have found a way that for me has been very effective, but also very efficient on my time. It consists of the following rules:

  1. Get Over Yourself
  2. Be the Sandman
  3. Remember Michael Jordan
  4. Crack the Whip
  5. Fire Your Stars

I’ll explain next week

- Art

(1) It was highly recommended by several people I respect, and it’s a good read. I really hadn’t appreciated the importance of corn to my diet before. My biggest issue with the book is its descriptions of life on Polyface farm, a healthy farm in Virginia. I know from firsthand experience what it takes to keep a farm like Polyface going; due to the nature of farming in rural Ireland in the 70′s and 80′s, most farms ran de-facto healthy with crop rotation, multiple types of livestock, and self-sustaining fertilizing (i.e. manure) – artificial fertilizers didn’t become prevalent until the mid 80′s. I grew up on such a farm. Pollan’s view of Polyface doesn’t suggest it’s easy work, but the style of the writing certainly romanticizes the work, skimps on details of exactly how taxing the labor is, and suggests those who choose not to enter the field are morally and spiritually inferior to those who do engage in the work. It’s certainly within his rights to advance his thesis this way, but it makes me question the other parts of his thesis as well; what details that might make his thesis less strong did he omit? Are there positives to the corn-based-us-ecology that he left out? Who knows? It’s a popular book, not a doctoral thesis, so you get what you pay for. Despite all that, I will continue the chain of recommendations and recommend that people read this book if they would like a good non-fiction read for the winter. Definitely food for thought.

(2) This is partially because of good intentioned HR policies like developing career maps. First time managers often want to do such a good job with their first employees that they actually create full career maps. There are few better examples of complete wastes of time in the history of management. The actual HR policy is well intentioned (it’s that managers need to spend some time on growing their employees), and HR departments recognize that most managers don’t do it on their own, but the one-size-fits-all approach leads to just bullshit paperwork. But the main reason first time managers spend too much time on this is because they break the first rule of growing individuals: they have not gotten over themselves.

Nude Numbers (#18)

For reference, here’s last week’s data. Curious what this post is about? I’m tracking my training progress for the New York Marathon. Click here for why.

Summary

I’m still a likely “no shot” for the NYC marathon but I’m keeping some hope alive. Good week last week, although I got sick (flu?) towards the end. This week the plan is for lots of rest. Woo hoo!

FYI – for some reason my blog was shut down over the weekend, but is back now.

Subjective Data

With the exception of running (which I’m still not doing), I had a good week. My weight workouts were hard and good. I did more spinning and got a short bike ride in. I still haven’t resumed swimming yet, which I’m not happy with, but my motivation to get in the water is lower now that fall is here.

My eating was mostly good all week – although Saturday and Sunday were bad. I think I have a cold or flu as well. On Saturday I was dazed all day, and on Sunday was coughing and had aches.

Objective Data

Click here for a PDF version of my dashboard.

Assessment

Apart from getting sick at the end of week, I had a good week. I stuck to plan very well.

This next week was a planned rest week anyway, so in some ways the sickness is well timed. I plan to do nothing most of the week, but I will try for a 50-mile bike-ride in Connecticut on Saturday weather permitting.

I’m still working on my winter goals, but they are looking like I what I outlined last week:

  1. Be able to swim 1km without stopping by 3/1/08
  2. Be between 163 and 168 lb with a 32 inch max waist by 3/1/08

I have a potential swimming partner lined up for the winter – now we just need to find a 25 yard pool that doesn’t require membership of a gym to use (since I already have membership in another gym).

Plan

Plan for next week:

  • Rest.
  • Continue calories under control (but not crazy cutting).
  • Weather permitting, do 50 mile bike ride in CT on Saturday.
  • Do smile.

As a reminder, I get to decide on October 24th whether to try to run the marathon anyway, or take my guaranteed spot next year. Let me know your thoughts.

Presentation Notes

No changes to data presentation this week. As with last week, data is presented in SOAP Note format.

- Art

Help me raise money for people suffering from cancer

Growing Naked Teams (II)

(3b of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Yesterday I talked about why you should use your team to grow your team. Today I talk about how I do it.

7 More Rules

Let’s pretend I convinced you that approaching hiring as a team sport is the way to go. How do you get your team to hire for you? Here are the 7 steps I like to follow:

  1. Know What You Want: Realistically define, with your team, what you need the new hire to be.
  2. Draw a Map: Define how you’ll approach recruiting, interviewing, rejecting and hiring.
  3. Install a Pacemaker: Get a hiring heartbeat going by meeting regularly with your interviewing team.
  4. Make Everyone Play: Make everyone on your team be an “eligible, responsible, and rewarded hirer.” No exceptions.
  5. Spoil Your Rejects: Be religious about making sure rejects hear back promptly.
  6. Tease Your Candidates: During negotiations, map out an initial career plan with your candidate.
  7. Run Past The Finish: Focus on the 90-days after a new hire start, not just their start date.

Let’s break them down.

Know What You Want

“Realistically define, with your team, what you need the new hire to be.”

This one is so obvious that most managers either blow past it or skip it. They’ve already got a job description, so they use that for the definition, or they create one from scratch without feedback from outside recruiters or their team. They send the job description to a recruiter and say “I want a Senior Engineer like this.” And then they get annoyed at the recruiter when either too few candidates appear or candidates come back that don’t meet their expectations. I’ve heard a lot of managers who make this mistake tell me their recruiter is not good, and that they need a better recruiter. Well guess what:

The recruiter didn’t fuck-up; the manager did!

The mistake made here can take many forms: the job description may have so many REQUIRED attributes that only Mother Theresa would qualify for the job; or the old written job description isn’t what you’re actually looking for, and you haven’t communicated adequately to your recruiters what it is you need; or the skills you’re looking for are no longer valued by the world, and you should be pushing your team to develop new skills.

Of all the hiring steps, this step is the most important. You should never skip this, even if you’ve hiring 100 call-center agents and looking to hire the 101st. You don’t need to spend long on it, but always do the following:

  1. If you haven’t written down a job description, write it down. If you have, read it again and ask yourself if it’s still what you’re looking for. If not, change it.
  2. Compare the written description to the stars on your team – what matches and what doesn’t? If your stars don’t have the “required talents” on your job description, chances are the talents aren’t required.
  3. If you haven’t shared the description with your team (who, as you’ll see later, will all be recruiters) and your recruiters, do it now. Listen to their feedback. Be particularly sensitive to comments like “wow! I don’t know anyone who has all these qualities.” Ultimately you own the definition, so take feedback and reject it if necessary, but always communicate your final decisions back to your team.
  4. At the end of each week, after reviewing the candidates you’ve screened that week, go back to your job description and ask is it still right. Let the market help you find the right definition. And if you change it, share the new definition and your thinking with your recruiters and interview teams.
  5. Group your ideal-candidate’s attributes into “must have experience”, “nice to have experience”, “must have talents” and “nice to have talents” and force yourself to make your “must have” lists as short as possible initially – that’ll give you more candidates to screen and more opportunity to determine what you really need.
  6. If you have a recruiter, ask to share screening duties with him or her, especially when you’re defining a new position. When you reject someone at screening, share the reasons why with your recruiter. Most manager ask their recruiters to do the initial screening calls for them, but this is a mistake when you either haven’t worked with that recruiter before or are recruiting for a brand new position. You don’t yet know what you need (even though you think you do) and doing screenings will help you narrow it down and get better leads from your recruiter.

If you do this, you’ll get a good definition of what you want in your head and on paper, and you’ll have a team around you who understands what you need. That’s the key to Team Hiring – everyone needs to have the same picture in their mind of the ideal candidate.

So, DEFINE WHO YOU’RE HIRING in order to avoid recruiting Mother Theresa or making other stupid communication mistakes.

Draw a Map

“Define how you’ll approach recruiting, interviewing, rejecting and hiring.”

Make sure you know how you’re going to interview. Even if you’re only going to hire one person, write down the steps you need to take between first screening and final hire and then spend time reviewing them with your team. Why?

  1. Writing down the process will help you identify who needs to interview (a tricky proposition in some organizations) and avoid last minute surprises.
  2. Writing down the process will help your interviewers know what they should be checking for during an interview, which leads to better coverage of candidates’ skills, and better interview experiences for your candidate.
  3. Writing down the process will let you give candidates some guidance about how you make this decision, which (if you follow your process) actually sells them on joining the company, joining your team, and being managed by you.
  4. Especially if you’re hiring a lot of people, writing down the process helps you identify key metrics to track to manage it (like pipeline size and referral rates).

Sure sure you say, that’s all good, but a “recruiting process” is too heavyweight if I’m only hiring one person. Really? It doesn’t have to be: here’s a 3-round process I’ve used before.

  1. Do one pipeline review per week (15 minutes) with recruiters.
  2. These people must interview every candidate: Bob, Alice and Ted; These people should be offered a 3rd round interview opportunity: Paul, George, John and Ringo.
  3. The hiring manager or recruiter phone screens and makes an interview/no-interview decision.
  4. First round has 3-4 interviews of 45 minutes each. Each interviewer covers a defined area that is assigned by the manager the day before.
    1. Each interviewer sends a e-mail ONLY TO THE HIRING MANAGER(1) immediately after the interview. The e-mail contains:
      1. “Hire or no hire” recommendation
      2. “Pros this candidate had for area covered”
      3. “Cons this candidate had”
    2. After the first round, the interview team meets for 15 minutes with hiring manager to make go/no-go decision. If “go” the team identifies 2-3 areas of focus for next round.
  5. Second round has 3-4 interviews of 45 minutes each. Each interview covers an identified focus area assigned by the hiring manager.
    1. Each interviewer sends an e-mail to ALL INTERVIEWERS after the interview. The e-mail contains:
      1. “Hire or no hire” recommendation
      2. “Pros this candidate had for area covered”
      3. “Cons this candidate had”
    2. After the second round, the interview team meets for 15 minutes with hiring manager to make go/no-go decision. If “go” the hiring manager sets up the last round.
  6. The third round is as needed by hiring manager, but usually includes hiring manager’s manager to help sell.

It’s really easy to train people on. You can delegate scheduling to someone else, but don’t delegate the screening. That process solidifies hiring, with some overhead.

If that’s too heavy weight for you, just do step 2 – write down everyone who must interview in order to make a decision.

Once you have a process in place, you look more professional to candidates, you get far better coverage of candidates, and you make fewer hiring mistakes. And you avoid a horrible thing I’ve seen at prior companies: I saw a candidate interviewed by 20 different people in order to make a “no-hire” decision! That’s 20 people * 60 minutes (interview + follow-up) at let’s say $100/hr of internal cost: that company spent $2,000 rejecting that candidate, whereas if they followed a process they could have made a higher quality reject or hire decision for less than $75 and for no more than $750.

(By the way, if after 6 to 8 interviews, you hear yourself thinking, “hmm… maybe I should have them talk to one more person…” you have a “no hire” on your hands. If you’re not gung-ho convinced your candidate is the right girl by interview 8, other people are only going to convince you to not-hire, never to actually hire. Save the time, and reject now)

So, after you’ve defined who you’re hiring, DRAW A MAP defining how you’ll hire them(2).

Install a Pacemaker

Once you’ve defined who you’re looking for, and how you’ll look for them, set in place some way to get momentum going. While you may feel tempted to just send out a “recruiting report” or manage by finding people in the hallway, I recommend against it. Hiring is one of those very important but non-urgent things to the folks on your team, so you need to be more in their face about it.

When I have to hire people, I install a pacemaker in three ways:

  1. I set up 15-minute meetings at the end of each day someone interviews. All interviewers are required to attend and have sent written feedback ahead of time. We discuss the candidate and make a quick go/no go decision.
  2. Once a week, I sit down with my outside recruiters (if I have them) and I invite anyone on the team to attend. I walk through an overview of all candidates we’re tracking, get recruiters feedback on skills they are seeing, and re-look at my role to make sure it’s still the right one.
  3. Once a week in my team meeting I give my team a brief overview of hiring progress, and ask for any leads.

That’s it, but it makes sure that hiring stays on the radar of your recruiters, your team, and most importantly, YOU!

Make Everybody Play

“Make everyone on your team be an “eligible, responsible, and rewarded hirer.” No exceptions.”

“Eligible?” “Responsible?” “Rewarded?” What the hell does that mean?

Well “eligible” means that everyone on the team can be scheduled to interview a candidate. Yes, even that guy on the team who is a loner… EVERYONE! Why is that? Well first off if everyone can interview, it makes it more likely they’ll ultimately buy into and help support a new hire when they start. Secondly, it ensures your candidates have the best view of what they’re actually getting into, and you’d rather identify any personality mismatches before hiring (when it’s cheap) than after (when it’s hugely and annoyingly expensive). And third it forces you to come face-to-face with problem areas in your own team – if you’re not comfortable having a current employee interview your prospective new team members, are you actually comfortable having that person on the team? Probably not, and you owe it to yourself to either manage that employee to be a good team member, or manage them out!

Sometimes I’ve had team members tell me they don’t want to interview because they don’t feel comfortable in that environment. Try to not accept this (sometimes you’ll have to though). Figure out why they’re uncomfortable, help them tackle it, train them on how to interview, do whatever it takes, but get them in the process. I’ve often found my best interviewers are those folks who initially told me they didn’t feel comfortable – it was because they had a tendency to ask more probing questions.

“Responsible” means every interviewer must treat the interviewee with respect by being on time, prepared with their questions, sending prompt feedback, and attending decision meetings. This sends a strong message to candidates (see “spoil your rejects”) that you’re a quality organization – it’s the first impression they’ll get.

“Rewarded” means everyone on your team is rewarded for referring leads. Sometimes your company will do this for you (with bonuses or options for every new hire) but if they don’t do that, institute your own reward program. Offer people 3 long weekends for every time they refer someone you hire and keep onboard for six months (worried about how you’ll cover that promised time off; just have the new employee cover them and it’ll actually help your new guy learn new skills).

If you define what you’re looking for, define how you’ll hire, get a pacemaker installed, and make everybody play, you’ll find your team is now recruiting as hard, if not harder than you. Excellent! Now to get even better at it.

Spoil Your Rejects

“Be religious about making sure rejects hear back promptly.”

I view this one like Willie Bratton’s Broken Windows theory. One of the famous changes he made to the NYPD when starting to tackle crime was to have officers focus on small but visible crimes such as graffiti, subway-turnstile-jumping and breaking windows. This sent a message to criminals that if small stuff isn’t allowed, don’t even begin to think about larger crimes.

So assuming you’ve done the prior 4 steps, your team should now be recruiting for you. Now, spend some time making sure you’re handling your rejects promptly and respectfully.

  1. It demonstrates to your team that you value their referrals – you’re personally getting back to each of them.
  2. It demonstrates to the people you reject that you’re a quality organization. And they in turn will tell that to other people which helps your company’s brand in the hiring marketplace and may also get you leads. Think I’m full of shit? I’ve actually hired at least 2 people who contacted me because “you interviewed my friend and passed on her, but she called me and said I might be a good fit.”
  3. By focusing on this loose end, your team will expect you’re even more focused on the candidates who are in-process, and hence will put even more priority on it.

It took me a while to realize this, but I’m now sold on it. I’ve gotten so many good referrals from my internal employees because of this policy, and I’ve gotten a lot of referrals from the people I’ve rejected as well. Here’s how I do it:

  1. I tell each candidate in each interview when they should hear back by. And then I stick to it.
  2. Every lead not referred by an internal employee hears back in e-mail or via phone on their status. If they were screened I get back to them by phone, but if we just rejected the resume without a screen it’s by e-mail. I check that this is happening in my recruiting / pipeline review meeting (if the recruiters are doing the rejecting).
  3. Any candidate referred by an internal employee hears back by phone. From me. And I actually tell them why we’re passing. I usually tell them 2-3 things the team really liked, and then follow up with “but ultimately we decided to pass because…” and I lay out explicitly why. Some candidates will argue we’re wrong, but most respond with something like “wow… thank you. I’ve never had someone tell me why they passed before”. I then ask them if they would be willing to recommend someone for the position and if so, do they have any names.

If you’ve successfully Spoiled Your Rejects, the people you reject for a position walk away thinking, “damn it…. I wish I had have gotten hired there” rather than “assholes…” and your recruiting pipeline will fill up faster.

Tease Your Candidates

“During negotiations, map out an initial career plan with your candidate.”

By now you probably have at least one to two candidates who you think might be good candidates, so time to tease them a little. I don’t mean call them names; I mean give them a little taste of what it’s like to work for you. I do this by mapping out in each interview a preliminary plan for where they want to grow their careers.

I’ll talk about how I do that next week (I follow the same steps with new hires and existing hires), and you probably have your own way of doing it, but most career plans have a 2-3 year goal with some envisioned steps or skills that should be acquired to get there. Find out where your candidate wants to take their career; envision some steps with them; and commit it to writing.

Now, once you’ve done that, look carefully at the plan. If your organization is not a good place for them to achieve their plan, REJECT THEM RIGHT NOW! Don’t kid yourself that “you’ll find a way;” pass quickly. On Naked Teams you want ambitious people, but you need them to have a chance of achieving their goals. If not, you’ll have a de-motivated employee that you’ll waste lots of time trying to keep happy and who may poison your team morale. You’re doing your team, and the candidate, a disservice by hiring them.

But if their career plan is realistically possible in your organization, let them know that you cannot guarantee anything about career progression, but you will work with them to try to achieve the goals. This exercise achieves 3 very important things:

  1. It demonstrates to your candidate that he’s got better than 50/50 chances of getting opportunities to grow in his job. As a result, you’ll often be able to hire people for less money than competing companies.
  2. It helps you identify early any problem candidates with unrealistic expectations (I once had a project manager candidate tell me during this phase that he planned to move to sales within 6 months of joining my team – not a good sign).
  3. It gives you a leg-up on their first day on how to direct their training.

Run Past The Finish

“Focus on the 90-days after a new hire start, not just their start date.”

Recruiting and hiring is a lot of work, and once someone accepts an offer, I have a tendency to see it as an opportunity to “take a breather.” But the reality is you won’t know if you’ve made a good hire for at least 90 days, so you need to make sure you keep your focus on the new hire at least that long.

Here are some things I try to do to keep the focus on the first 90-days:

Before I hire someone, I (or someone I delegate to) come up with a new hire training plan. At a minimum it consists of:

  1. A list of good books and reading materials.
  2. Links to any sales materials about the product or service I work on.
  3. Names, titles, job descriptions, and good topics of conversation of other people in my company that the new hire should meet with in the first 90 days.

I also assign a “buddy” on my current team who they are to use as their “how do I do XYZ” person. I give the buddy a budget to take the new hire out to lunch every 2 weeks. It’s preferable to have a peer do this to get your new guy incorporated into the team, but if you don’t have someone who can spare the time, you have to do it. If your new hire already has to work with someone on your team (perhaps because they are on the same project), then still assign a buddy but choose someone in a different area. Part of the reason to pick a buddy is to expand their network quickly in the first 90 days.

You can get a lot more formal than this, and if you’re going to increase your team size by more than 25% in a six month period, you should put more focus on training, but I always try for a barebones starting point.

Once someone has been hired, I try to meet with them once every 2 weeks at least (I’d prefer once a week, but historically I’ve been really bad at making that). I also take them to meet some of the people on their training list, especially the people I think might turn down a meeting with a new hire without my smiling face right there J.

But mostly I watch, try to offer help, and presume that any stumbles in the first 90-days are my fault not the new hire’s fault, and address accordingly.

And after 90-days, I ask was the hire a good hire or not. I’ve never found myself on the fence when I do this; it’s usually pretty damn obvious whether you have a stud or a dud on your hands. If it’s a dud, get him or her out as quickly as you can (PURE(3) employees are a fact of life). If it’s a stud, and you’ve been managing a naked team, you’ll find they’re swimming on their own, doing an awesome job, and generally making everyone around them look good.

Growing Individuals

I’ve had a lot of success running Naked Teams, and then using that team to do team-hiring. While it’s hard work up front, the day-to-day management is a joy. But Running Naked Teams and Growing Naked Teams are not sufficient to keep your team running smoothly. In addition you must also grow the people on the team. That’s because by being transparent you’re already forcing people to grow, and as they see success, they will want to grow more. Like a plant that is left to grow in a small pot, without opportunities to change, your team members will either break their pot one day (i.e. quit) when you don’t expect it, or slowly wither in your organization for lack of opportunities to spread their leaves.

So you must spend some time growing individuals. But I’ll argue you should spend less time that most people tell you. Why? That’s in the Rules for Growing Individuals…

(which I’ll continue next week…)

- Art

I’m attempting (maybe) to run the NYC Marathon on November 4th for Team Continuum. Click here to donate.

(1) I usually have feedback from the first round only sent to the hiring manager to avoid people early in the day overly influencing people later in the round, and I schedule candidates so they have 15 minute breaks between interviews. If I get two e-mails that say “Don’t Hire This Idiot” then I interrupt the schedule and walk the candidate out early. For the second round I usually have all feedback shared in real time so the interviews get harder.

(2) One important note: just because you’ve got a process, don’t be afraid to bend it when necessary for the right candidate – just be wary when you do. Sometimes a competitive offer will force you to move outside the “right way”, and in that case, realize you’re taking a risk, but for the right candidate you should take that risk.

(3) PURE: Previously Undetected Recruiting Error

Growing Naked Teams (I)

(3a of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Last week I talked about how to create and run a “naked team” by using transparency and ingrained human nature to accomplish goals. This week I’ll talk about how to grow a naked team.

Losers?

Tom Brady has never won the Superbowl. Michael Jordan has never won the NBA Finals. And Lance Armstrong has never won the Tour de France.

It’s true. Look it up(1).

OK, OK, I’m probably using a little hyperbole, but bear with me. I’ll bet most readers will begrudgingly give me that Tom Brady has not individually won the Superbowl, his teams did (but you’ll insist that Brady had a lot to do with it). You’ll probably also give me that Michael Jordan didn’t individually win, but his teams did (and again you’ll insist that Jordan had a lot to do with it).

But Armstrong? For God’s sake, cycling is an individual sport and Armstrong has finished first in the standings seven times in a row. He has won numerous individual time trials on top of that to boot. How can I claim he has never won the Tour de France?

The answer? Well Lance Armstrong has never individually won the Tour de France, and in fact only achieved Tour de France success once he stopped trying to win individually. Similarly a good manager will never try to individually hire someone onto a Naked Team – it’s just too inefficient.

Read on for more.

The Nature of Bicycling

Lance Armstrong is an amazing athlete. Nobody else has won the Tour De France seven times, never mind in a row (the closest is five times in a row), and never mind after coming back from testicular cancer. Clearly he did something right. But the thing is he didn’t win on his own.

Most American’s don’t know this, but professional cycling is not an individual sport(2); it’s a team sport. During the grueling 100+ miles rides over 20+ days, several different teams are racing. Armstrong was on the US Postal and then the Discovery Channel teams for a reason – the other members on the team rode in front of him during the first 80% of the ride, to block the wind, reduce resistance, keep rivals pinned in, and keep Armstrong as fresh as possible for the close races near the end. Riding behind someone on a bike can reduce the amount of energy you need to spend by over 15%, and over Tour de France distances this really adds up. Yes, Lance Armstrong is a great cyclist but he only won because other team members, such as George Hincapie, would ride in front of Armstrong to give him a chance.

It’s the same thing with hiring people. Technically it is your job as a manager to hire someone, and your organization will congratulate you when a new hire is made in your team. But hiring, like Cycling, is best approached as a team sport, and if you do that, you’re far more likely to end up with great hires, great teams, and great results.

Team Hiring

There are several reasons why team-based hiring works, some objective and some subjective. To illustrate the objective, let’s compare two managers named Bob and Alice (no relation to previously discussed Bobs and Alices). Both managers have existing teams of 5 people and need to add a sixth member. And let’s assume that each hour invested in hiring yields at least 1 lead with a 10% chance of converting the lead to an employee (this is not always accurate, but in general more time == more leads).

Bob works hard on hiring. Somehow he manages to devote 10 hours a week to hiring (in reality, it’s unlikely any manager will actually invest that much time consistently). He focuses hard on recruiting, hard on interviewing, and hard on selling. He manages to transform his 10 hours a week into a pipeline of 10 leads with 1 promising candidate – a relatively good ratio of candidates to leads in my experience. Yay Bob!

Alice also works hard on hiring, but in a different way. She only devotes 5 hours a week to hiring, but as part of that 5 hours spends 2 hours of that making sure the rest of her team is involved heavily in the recruiting and interviewing. Each of her team members spends 2 hours a week focused on hiring (5% of their time). Alice looks inefficient but counting her entire team she has spent a total of 15 hours on hiring (including 2 hours of overhead). And she has distributed recruiting among her 5 team members. As a result, Alice is able to transform her 15 hours a week into a pipeline of 23 leads (4 leads per employee, + 3 for Alice’s productive time). This leads to 2.3 promising candidates – which is an amazing return on Alice’s 5 hours. Alice wins!

But that’s the objective advantage and it is outweighed by the subjective advantages. If you approach hiring as a team sport you do the following:

  1. Everyone on your team acts as a recruiter to grow your pipeline, the most important thing to get up and running early when hiring.
  2. Everyone on your team will help sell a new candidate since they were involved in defining what’s needed and recruiting.
  3. New employees will be excited because they see a team, rather than a manager, that is excited.
  4. Everyone on your team feels invested in the new hire, and so will work harder to help them succeed when they start.

Those advantages pay off during recruiting, pay off during interviewing and hiring, and really shine as you incorporate your new employee.

Hiring is like cycling, except the advantages to team hiring are way greater than the 15% efficiency that team-cycling brings the team captain. And the best way to implement Team Hiring is to already run a Naked Team and use those philosophies to Grow the Naked Team.

How To Do It

OK, enough philosophical bullshit on why Growing Naked Teams works – how do you actually do it? Well… I’ll post that tomorrow but I’ll give you a hint now. Here are the 7 steps I follow:

  1. Know What You Want
  2. Draw a Map
  3. Install a Pacemaker
  4. Make Everyone Play
  5. Spoil Your Rejects
  6. Tease Your Candidates
  7. Run Past The Finish

(to be continued tomorrow…)

- Art

I’m attempting (maybe) to run the NYC Marathon on November 4th for Team Continuum. Click here to donate.

(1) Actually, don’t look it up. It’s not true. But you already knew that.

(2) Since several readers of this blog are cyclists, you guys already know this. But most American’s do not bike regularly, and have never watched or been in a professional bike race.

(3) It always amazes me that cycling continues as a team sport given that the media and public lionize only the winner – it’s a testament to how much the efficiency gains really matter. But watch what the “winning” rider talks about when they are doing post-win interviews; almost universally they talk about the team effort because they realize they wouldn’t be where they are without the team. As a manager, don’t forget this either.

Nude Numbers (#17)

For reference, here’s last week’s data. Curious what this post is about? I’m tracking my training progress for the New York Marathon. Click here for why.

Summary

I’m still a likely “no shot” for the NYC marathon but I’m keeping some hope alive. I tried Yoga for the first time this week and liked it. And I’d love your thoughts on what my winter Fitness goals should be. Read on.

Subjective Data

As I mentioned last week, my running days are over for the foreseeable future. My foot hurt most of the week, but by Sunday I was able to walk 4-5 miles without being in a lot of pain. I had a light cardio week where I didn’t swim (didn’t feel motivated to get into the water), did some weight work, and tried Yoga for the first time in my life. All in all, it was an enjoyable week but I’d still like to be on the road…

Objective Data

Click here for a PDF version of my dashboard.

Assessment

I’m kind of in limbo at the moment; I’m pretty sure the marathon is shot, but I’m unwilling to call it until I have to (Oct 24). Therefore the key focus this week was maintain some cardio-endurance, and work on weights (and the six pack challenge). Given the challenge, I’ve started cutting body fat again just to see if I have a shot at winning (which led to a very funny dinner conversation with some friends on Friday when I passed on dessert). On the suggestion of a friend, I tried Yoga for the first time; it was fun, challenging, and relaxing. I’ll have to do that again.

I’m also starting to think about my post-November-4th/winter fitness goals. Here’s what I have so far, let me know what you think:

  1. Be able to swim 1km (80 laps) without stopping by March 1st (starting at 5 laps between breaks now): Basically get my swimming form down for a triathlon in the spring.
  2. Be between 163lb and 168lb with a 31-32 inch waist by March 1st (starting at 155-158 and 31 inches right now): Weight training and weight gaining for the winter – the challenge here is gain the muscle without the fat, which shows up as belly-fat on me. That works out to around 0.5 lbs a week of muscle gain.

I did a series of tests on Wednesday to baseline my measurements (bodyfat, dimensions, and max-weights) for the winter. (I’ll put together a new dashboard based on whatever goals I ultimately pick in the next few weeks so you can play along at home if you’re interested.)

The timing of the test was fortuitous. I was feeling down about the marathon (likely) being shot and I almost cancelled the (previously scheduled) test. But afterwards, and especially when comparing my results to my August 2006 test results, I looked at things in perspective. Sometimes, especially when one of my big goals looks shot, I lose faith, but the numbers reminded me that (a) I’ve made a lot of progress in the last 15 months and (b) this is a process, not an event.

Plan

Plan for next week:

  • Keep weight cutting (through November 5th‘s 6-Pack Charity Challenge);
  • Do some spinning, yoga or swimming.
  • Keep weight training going at current pace.
  • Come up with another draft of goals for the winter.
  • Don’t run.
  • Do smile.

As a reminder, I get to decide on October 24th whether to try to run the marathon anyway, or take my guaranteed spot next year. Let me know your thoughts.

Presentation Notes

No changes to data presentation this week. As with last week, data is presented in SOAP Note format.

- Art

Help me raise money for people suffering from cancer

Running Naked Teams (II)

(2b of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Yesterday I posted about why to run Naked Teams. Today I go into how. My apologies in advance for the wordiness, and please if you have other ways that have helped you manage transparent teams in the past, post them in the comments.

7 Rules

Let’s pretend for a moment I actually convinced you yesterday that Running Naked Teams is a good thing; how do you actually get a team to start running naked? Well, the 7 steps I like to follow are:

  1. Be Edgy: Define not only what you do, but also what you don’t do.
  2. Install a Pacemaker: Get a heartbeat going by sharing your goal with the team, and then meeting internally at regular intervals to track the goal.
  3. Get a Base Hit: Accomplish a very easy but visible improvement within your first 100 days.
  4. Ride Like Paul Revere: Proclaim loudly what you do, and expose how you’re doing regularly.
  5. Air Your Dirty Laundry: Set up a mechanism where your peers are invited to comment on and review your performance in public.
  6. Share the Pain: Don’t protect your team from “executive bullshit”; instead guide them to help understand what’s actually happening.
  7. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Reward your high performers.

Be Edgy

The first step is figuring out the right stuff to do. But there’s a subtlety here – also figure out what stuff your team shouldn’t be doing. By that, I don’t mean things you obviously shouldn’t be doing (like committing crimes, watching youtube at work all day, or being involved in the production of this movie); I mean find the things a reasonable person might expect that you do, but you don’t, and let people know what those are.

The idea here is to define as sharply as you can the edge between what your team or organization does, and other teams do. This is important initially, and becomes even more important when you Air Your Dirty Laundry.

It’s important initially because it helps you define boundaries with your peers, and to find out what they are worried you might actually do. By figuring out their concerns, and then declaring publically that you won’t do what they’re worried about, you put them at ease about territory concerns. Or, you find out that they expect you to not do something that you absolutely need to do, voila, you’ve uncovered a major disconnect which is always easier to fix in the first weeks than many months down the road.

A good way to find the right edge is to ask your boss, your boss’s peers, and your peers these questions: “what things are important to you that my team not try to do?” or “are there things you’ve seen similar teams do at other companies that you think would not be a good fit for me to do here?”

I once started up a project management team and in response to this question had two peers tell me they were concerned my team would actually do UI design work. No problem – we just declared we don’t do design, and all of a sudden I’d gotten the benefit of the doubt from two other managers.

I once started up a product-management team where I asked this question of my engineering peer and his response was that I shouldn’t have responsibility or influence for his budget. That was great because it put an issue I would not agree to on the table on day one, not six months later when the next budget would be set, and I was able to resolve the disconnect within a day.

By looking for the edges you can quickly find problems that are easier to solve in the first few weeks, but you also help more clearly define what your team’s job actually is. Always look for the edges.

Install a Pacemaker

It’ll probably take about 1-2 weeks to figure out the right stuff to do, and to figure out the edges. During that time your new employees will still view you with apprehension but also some hope. But they won’t think of themselves as a team; they’ll think of themselves as individuals. Now it’s time to start changing them from a group of employees into a living breathing team. All living breathing creatures need a heartbeat, but since you’re starting anew here, you’re going to need to jump start one with an artificial beat. If you are consistent with your artificial beat, eventually the team will develop a rhythm of its own, but you need to force it initially.

Here’s how I do it:

  • If there already is a standing team meeting, ask your employees what they like or don’t like about it (remember the rule of Evolution not Revolution), but then take over the meeting and make it your own (otherwise you’ll be compared to your predecessor constantly). If there isn’t a standing meeting, then set one up. Same day each week. Same time. The idea here is to establish a sense of normalcy for the team. During your first 100 days this meeting NEEDS to occur no matter what else is going on; later as your team develops its own rhythm it seems less important but (while you can afford to miss one or two) still keep having the meeting.
  • Have a portion of the meeting always be the same – make each team member quickly report any problem areas to the team. The idea is not to solve the problems, just to let people know. Leave solving problems for later in the agenda. During this portion of the meeting, refer back to the notes from the last week’s meeting, and ensure that any open issues are closed. This does two things: it conditions your team members that you manage across time, not just in the moment; and it conditions people that they have to communicate their problem areas (initially in a ‘safe’ environment – see “Air Your Dirty Laundry”).
  • Send out an agenda to your team before the meeting and send notes afterwards. Again the idea here is to establish a habit with the team. If you always refer to actions in last week’s notes, then people will start magically closing out actions before your staff meeting because they know you’ll ask.
  • Let people know that attendance is mandatory, and that if someone can’t make it they must let you know why first. Include yourself in this –if you can’t make it, designate someone to run the meeting in your absence. And if someone misses without informing you, make it clear to them that behavior is unacceptable. Be equally harsh about tardiness (I have tried, with some success, making whoever gets to the meeting last have to buy food for the next meeting, and if everyone gets to the meeting within 5 minutes of the start time, I buy the food). This may seem draconian but during the first 100 days you need their attention, you need them to interact with each other as a team, and if you don’t force this to happen then day-to-day pressures of the job will cause people to miss this meeting.
  • During the status reporting time treat yourself and your problems as part of the team. Report honestly on the things you failed to do. Be harshest on your misses (but ignore your successes).
  • And once you’ve gone through that (spend no more than 25% of your meeting on status), then have the team discuss and solve the biggest team issues. You should have lined these up in the agenda, but don’t be averse to going off agenda as long as it’s important.
  • At the end of the meeting, ask folks what they want on the agenda next week, and remind folks that the agenda is open until you send it the next week.

A lot of these rules seem like basic meeting management and that’s true; the meeting will eventually develop its own form, but initially you have to start a heartbeat and you might as well start with something that works. But the other thing this meeting does is it starts getting your team to be naked with themselves – in a safe environment with their peers. Your job is to make sure people speak up, but always make them feel safe when they do. Don’t berate under-performance; instead concentrate on getting the team to suggest ways to help each other. Run at least four of these meetings before you attempt to Air Your Dirty Laundry (below).

Get a Base Hit

Now that you’ve defined the goals, and started a heartbeat going, it’s time to make your first move. For this step:

  • Come up with an easy step your team can take quickly (I usually set a goal of 4 weeks internally and a deadline of 6 weeks externally) to make a visible change that improves things. DO NOT TRY TO SOLVE THE BIGGEST PROBLEM!!!!
  • It’s best if you can get your team to come up with this change on their own (using this as the agenda item for your first heartbeat meeting is a good idea).
  • Once you’ve decided on the step, focus 100% on just getting it done. As much as possible ignore the bigger problems your org faces until it’s done (you can tackle them second).

Once you’ve succeeded with your first step, your team will feel more confident, your supporters elsewhere in the organization will feel more confident and will support you more, and your detractors will feel a little more scared and retreat more. But if you fail in your first step, your team loses a little faith, your supporters retreat and your detractors advance. So the key thing is the change must be visible to your team, supporters and detractors, and have a very high probability of being implemented.

In the past I’ve done this by getting my teams to: launch a new company-wide status report (very easy), to publishing a new product spec (much easier than actually building it), to re-estimating all projects in the company and then cutting over 50% of projects during a 4 week exercise (this wasn’t that easy, but it sure was visible).

This is one of the more important steps in running naked teams, and I’ve previously written an entire article on it. Feel free to read it if you’re interested.

Ride Like Paul Revere

You’ve figured out what the right thing to do is, you’ve gotten your heartbeat started, and you know the base hit you’re aiming for: It’s time to ride like Paul Revere. Get on your horse and start warning people about what you’re about to do, yell it in every part of the organization, and keep yelling it.

Here are the steps I follow:

  • Tell your boss and your peers in private what you’re doing to do. Your peers don’t want to hear about it first in public – they want to feel “in the know” so let them be.
  • In the most public way you can, tell the rest of the company what you’re goals are, what you don’t do, and what your first step is going to be. Company-wide meetings are good, but a series of small meetings with individual teams works even better (more time for Q&A).
  • Tell everyone how they can track your progress, and then make sure you update your progress at least weekly. Be honest in your assessments of progress initially – “political spin” during the first few weeks is less important than transparency.
  • For each base hit you’re shooting for, name the member of your team who is responsible for delivering it.

By doing this you’ve committed your team to delivering its first success, which lights a fire under them (and you). As I mentioned above, no one likes to be seen by their peers as doing a bad job, and you’ve just publically told the company what their job is and how to track their progress. The truth is that almost no one will actually check your status reports, but the knowledge that they could will spur you and your team on.

(By the way, this is really the first time you’ve actually started running naked in front of a less-than-friendly audience, and the first time will feel weird. That passes.)

Air Your Dirty Laundry

You’ve told the company what you’re going to do, and you’re reporting your progress, but this is essentially a one-way communication. If you don’t provide a way for feedback to get back to you, then people will start commenting on your performance behind your back. So anticipate that, and provide a forum where you invite your peers (and include as many of your detractors as possible) to review and assess your team’s performance. The goal of the forum is not to yell at your team for underperforming – it’s to give suggestions for how to improve and to solve problems and roadblocks holding back your team. Make sure you run it that way.

This forum is not just your team – it includes outsiders – and you need to demonstrate to the outsiders that it has teeth. If the review forum decides a change is necessary, you need to make a good-faith effort to follow through on it. (But bear in mind, you chair this forum, so you have the biggest input in any decisions.)

Having this meeting brings a lot of benefits:

  1. It forces your team to be even better prepared for a (less friendly) audience than your team meetings. They will elevate their game in order to appear good in front of their peers.
  2. It will show people outside your team that you are serious about transparency, and they will trust your team more.
  3. It will give you a huge stick to hit any of your peers over the head if they give negative feedback behind your back about your team’s performance – you get to ask why they didn’t deliver it in the review forum? (I’ve only ever had to do this once for every meeting like this I run – after that, the message spreads quickly through the organization.)
  4. If you remember from Be Edgy, you have explicitly declared the things you “don’t do”. In this meeting if something is failing because of an area you “don’t do”, then this is a great opportunity to hold your peer who is responsible for it accountable. This is the second benefit of being explicit about the don’ts.

Once you start running these meetings, you’re truly running naked. You and your team face an external audience who knows what you’re supposed to be doing, and they will call you to the mat if you’re not. I’ve always been amazed by how quickly a team starts executing once this is in place.

You can and should develop your own formats, but here’s how I run these forums (they’re similar in a way to my heart beat meetings):

  1. Make sure it’s the same time and on a predictable frequency (e.g. bi-weekly).
  2. Get each of your peers to commit that they will either attend or send a designate who can make decisions in their absence.
  3. Meeting agenda goes out before hand, notes go out afterwards, and are published for every impacted organization to see. Any decisions should be highlighted at the top of the notes.
  4. Make sure your meeting agenda has at least one portion of it that is always fixed – this will condition your attendees to expect consistency, and they will start to deliver accordingly (I use the status portion for this).
  5. If this is just a review forum, set a standard format across all reviewed projects, and keep reviews to 15 minutes. If you have a team reviewing 8 projects (a two hour meeting) you want them to spend as little time as possible understanding “formats” and as much time as possible critiquing the work.
  6. If it’s also a decision-making forum, still do status (so that people can give you feedback) but keep any status updates to 25% or less of the meeting. The means you just review the projects that have exceptions – not all projects.
  7. Make sure your direct employees understand the following rule: bad news can and should be discussed in this meeting, but at no point is it acceptable for one of your peers to be surprised by the bad news. In other words, no ambushes or attacks – your guys must make sure if another team will look bad during a presentation, that the other team is aware before the meeting that it’s coming. This practice keeps the meeting from devolving into he-said-she-said situations and helps you keep everyone focused on solving problems, not blaming people.
  8. If you know there is “under the surface” pressure or disagreement going on between your team and another team, bring it out in the open at this meeting. This will condition people that problems get discussed and resolved here, which will make them more likely to keep attending.
  9. Never let an action be decided on without identifying an owner, and then write that owner down and publish his or her name in the notes. Keep reviewing in the next few meetings how progress is going. And don’t be shy about signing up people not in your organization, and shaming them when they don’t deliver (this practice was referred to as “being Clarked” at one job, but it was extremely effective to get people to do things).
  10. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS BRING FOOD. Even if you have very senior people who understand the importance of this meeting they will still be much happier to attend if you bribe them. Trust me on this one, you’ll get filleted any time you forget this.

Share the Pain

Many people I’ve talked to have told me one of the most important things a manager does is “protect his people.” From what? Your boss? The elements? The tooth fairy? Usually the response I get is “from politics”, or “from the crazy nature of our executives”, or from something else like that. And I think this is a good idea, assuming your team consists of nine-year-olds. But they don’t! So please, stop this “protection” bullshit, and stop treating your employees like they’re kids.

Here are a couple of facts:

  • Every organization has politics.
  • All executives appear to make “crazy” decisions when viewed from a different reference frame.
  • If your team members are going to grow in their careers, they’re going to have to learn to deal with this.
  • And (as I’ll show in two weeks) you want all of your employees to grow in their careers.

By “protecting your people” from politics, you’re actually doing them a disservice and missing an opportunity. The disservice is you’re stymieing their career growth (and they will resent you for this). The opportunity is by having them see the “craziness”, they will actually develop empathy for you and how you make decisions.

So instead of “protecting your people” from the craziness think instead of “guiding your people” through the craziness. Let them see the pain you deal with, heck share it with them, and they’ll rise up and follow you anywhere.

Here’s how to do that:

  • Encourage and constantly arrange for your team members to present to your management team. They will see the world above them (and get a sense of what you have to deal with) and you will appear more confident to your bosses.
  • Make sure you spend lots of time helping your team members prepare for these events so they are successful, but let it be their show in the meetings (an exception is if they are bombing, divert the blame and anger to you as quickly as you can).
  • Be open with your employees (where you can) about decisions above, and view your job as guiding them through the decisions rather than hiding information.
  • Be particularly vigilant about rumors. Address any you can. Be open when you can’t comment (I just say “I can’t comment). Take an action to find out more about rumors you don’t know about. But never LIE about a rumor – that’ll come back to bite you. Rumors are vicious if not addressed head on, and for that reason I often include 5 minutes for people to bring up ‘new rumors’ in my staff meetings.
  • If you’re going to a forum or meeting where you know you are going to get your ass handed to you for underperformance on your team, have at least one of your team members there to watch. Then make sure you accept responsibility without blaming individuals on your team. That way they can see the pain you’re going through, can see that you don’t pass blame on, and can tell other members of your team what “actually happened” as opposed to what the rumor mill says.

I’ve used the last point to great success. I once had the CEO of our company hand me my ass during a business review of my new unit (after only a few months in the job) but in front of all senior managers in my (matrixed) unit. The response from everyone afterwards was consistently, “wow, I had no idea we were screwing up that badly” and they all worked way harder the next quarter.

In a nut shell, share the pain you get from above (or be transparent in what happens above), and your team will rally more around you, not less.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

This one seems obvious yet so few people do it. All of the other steps address the human tendencies I talked about except for “most people love being rewarded relative to their peers.” This last step deals with that: figure out who your high performers are, and make sure they are rewarded more. Simple.

And by “rewarded more” I mean cash! I don’t mean praise (although that’s important). I don’t mean fancy titles (although that’s important too). I mean cold hard moolah. The fact is cash is the lifeblood of a company, and if you’re willing to divert more to certain employees, they know they really are valued.

Here’s how I do that:

  1. I stack rank all my employees. Even if the company I’m part of doesn’t require this, I still do it. If I don’t have criteria from above, I still figure out criteria with my management team, and then impose it. And there are no ties.
  2. I then make sure my top 25% of people get at least 50% of the available cash each year.
  3. If someone in my bottom 25% of people doesn’t end up getting a raise, and I lose them, so be it. Usually my star performers are at least 3x to 4x better performers than my bottom performers.
  4. If someone does something truly extraordinary during the year, I find some way to reward them with a tangible reward soon thereafter (it can’t always be cash, but I’ve sent people to spas, gotten them cooking services for two weeks while they had their first kid, and given people an extra day off where I covered for them without them reporting vacation).
  5. At least once every 6 months I review comps for similar positions in other companies (www.salary.com is good). If one of my high-performers is more than 10% below the median I start bugging HR and finance about a raise for them outside of the review cycle. This isn’t always successful initially (your HR department will always claim they have “better data”) but most HR departments appreciate that I’ve done research. Then if your star mentions to you later that she is thinking of going elsewhere for better comp, your HR and finance departments will very quickly perk up to help given you gave ample warning.

Nothing builds loyalty quite like rewarding people (for great behavior) with cash.

Growing Naked Teams

Do those 7 steps consistently, and give it 3-6 months. What you’ve done is set a clear goal for the team (like deliver water to a city) and then set up a management structure (like an aqueduct) that relies on ingrained human tendencies (like gravity to water) to make your teams automatically achieve their goals. In my experience I find that around month 3 my teams start magically doing the right things and around month 6 consistently exceed my expectations. It’s really worked quite well for me. What’s even better is after you initial investment to get the naked-framework running, it requires relatively little maintenance to keep it going (just make sure your heartbeat and review forums keep running and tackle the top exceptions those two meetings uncover): when running at full speed it takes me about 4 hours a week, 2 hours of pre-meeting and post-meeting work, and 2 hours of meetings.

But what happens if you need to add to, or hire onto, a team? Well, there are some key principles to Growing Naked Teams that apply transparency here as well.

(which I’ll continue next week…)

- Art

Running Naked Teams (I)

(2a of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Last week I said the most important thing a manager does is “figure out the right stuff to do, and then get it done through a group of people”. This series of articles talks about the 2nd part of that: getting it done.

The Weight of Water


Water is really heavy. As a kid I would often have to bring water to our cows, and the bucket handles would painfully bite into my hands. Poor me.

But that was only two buckets a day – imagine if I had to do it hundreds of time a day. The ancient Assyrians faced this problem as they started to enlarge their cities. Cities often require more water near them than the natural ecosystem supplies, and if you don’t transport water in, you limit the growth of your cities, limit the growth of your economies, and as a result limit your ability to expand as a people.

To solve this problem the Assyrians didn’t resort to armies of water-carriers (their armies were decidedly for a different purpose). Instead they asked was there a better way? There was, and the Assyrians’ solution to water management can teach us a lot about managing teams of people. Read on for how.

Aqueducts

Sometime around 7,000BC(1) the Assyrians started building aqueducts (which the Romans famously expanded upon as the photo above shows). Aqueducts are based on a simple principle: water obeys the law of gravity and tries to take the path of least resistance down.

Aqueducts just provide a constantly declining channel for water to flow from high to low ground. So, with the expense of some up-front capital to build the aqueduct, and some minor maintenance work to ensure there are no leaks, the Assyrians were able to deliver water to some of their cities with minimal ongoing costs and no armies of water carriers.

Cool, but…

Getting It Done

…what the hell does this have to do with management?

Well, let’s say you’ve figured out the right stuff to do, but now you’ve got to get a new team of people to actually start doing it. Where to start?

You could take the micromanagement approach, where you tell your team what the goal is, and then individually double-check each person’s work. This will work in the short-term for small teams (<5 people), but never works for large teams and never works in the long-term (ask yourself how long you’d work for someone who micromanaged you). And it’s an incredibly inefficient use of your time. If you think of moving water, you’ve elected to carry every bucket downhill. (The good news is you’ll build some really impressive calluses on your hands.)

Fortunately there is a better way, and aqueducts show how. Aqueducts work because they create an environment where water’s natural tendency (obey gravity) is harnessed to accomplish a larger goal (irrigate fields).

Similarly, as a manager you can get your goals accomplished by creating an environment where your team members’ natural tendencies are harnessed. And there are five human tendencies you can bank on:

  1. Most people want to do a good job.
  2. Most people love being recognized for doing a good job in front of their peers.
  3. Most people love being rewarded relative to their peers.
  4. Most people hate doing a bad job in front of their peers.
  5. Most people will give you the benefit of the doubt if they know you will let them see anything they ask to see.

These are the tendencies that Naked Teams exploit.

Running Naked Teams

What is a Naked Team? If your team is a Naked Team then:

  • It knows what its job is;
  • Every other team in your organization knows what its job is;
  • You transparently publish and hold yourself accountable to your goals; and
  • You manically reward the people on your team who best accomplish the goal.

By running Naked Teams two things happen: Being so exposed and naked, your team will (because of human tendencies) push itself to be in the best possible shape; and by being so exposed and naked, other teams (because of human tendencies) in the organization will (at first) give you the benefit of the doubt, giving you an amazing first-mover advantage to get your team moving(2).

How to Do It

OK, enough philosophical bullshit on why running Naked Teams works – how do you actually do it? Well… I’ll post that tomorrow but I’ll give you a hint now. Here are the 7 steps I follow:

  1. Be Edgy
  2. Install a Pacemaker
  3. Get a Base Hit
  4. Ride Like Paul Revere
  5. Air Your Dirty Laundry
  6. Share the Pain
  7. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

(to be continued tomorrow…)

- Art

(1) There is some dispute about the actual date. Some people put it around 7,000 BC. Others argument this is impossible given the world is only 6,000 years old, and they threaten those with the prior view with ridicule, excommunication or sometimes burning at the stake.

(2) If you run a naked team, but don’t actually accomplish your goals (either because you’re working at the wrong goals, or because they were beyond your team’s ability), other teams will stop giving you the benefit of the doubt, and instead will ridicule you. Yet another reason why it’s good to run a Naked Team – it really gives you an incentive to succeed quickly.