I've been working for a long time and have worked with all kinds of people... smart, funny, dim, nasty, cooperative, stubborn.. the list goes on and on. However, one attribute that seems to stand out more-and-more, often in its absence... passion.
I'm not sure if there's anything more frustrating than working with really smart, talented people who lack the passion for the job, their company. People who do enough to stay employed and go-through-the-motion but just don't have the "fire-in-the-belly" to really make things happen.
I'm not saying they should go around smiling all the time or that they won't get frustrated or have bad days. But being employed these days takes real work... companies are lean (too lean!) and yet still trying to grow in all different ways.
If you're not going to be passionate about what you do, move on. If you're not going to challenge yourself to learn and do new things, move on. If you're not going to innovate, challenge the status-quo and break new ground, move on.
Gimme a team of average ability but real passion and I think they'll kick the snot out of an incredibly talented but uninspired team.
Please share your comments, even if you disagree!
Even though I am very happily employed, I continue to receive e-mails from recruiters and online looking to fill "critical" positions. What continues to TOTALLY confound me is the disconnect between the scope/responsibility and the compensation.
First, a disclaimer. While I am not an economist (thank god!), I do understand that the sluggish economy over the past few years has shifted the power to the employer... there are more people out there looking for work, so it is an employer's market.
However, I continue to see these manager or director-level job descriptions that have literally PAGES of areas of accountability and responsibility and DOZENS of must-have (not "a plus", but mandatory) requirements. Worse yet, the pay ranges for many of these positions are 25%-35% less than they were prior to the downturn in the economy.
Has this work somehow become so much easier to do that it warrants that much less money? Nope!
Has the cost of acquiring that level of expertise, training and experience become that much cheaper? Nope!
Do (most) companies simply lack the cash to appropriately pay to have the work done? Yup! In fact, companies are sitting on a record amount of cash on their balance sheets.
Like I said, I undestand supply/demand but if you want a hard job done really well, you pay for it. Or else, you'll pay for it.
I can't remember how many business/executive offsite meetings and trainings I've been to... probably hundreds. Most come and go and leave little impact except a dent in your wallet from hanging around the bar afterwards with sales people! However, I remember a very simple exercise that made a huge impact on me.
Get 3 people to line up next to each other but with some space between them. Give each a stick or road. Attach a large rubber band to link Sticks 1 and 2 and another to link Sticks 2 and 3. Person 1 represents the past, Person 2 the present and Person 3, the future. Ask Person 2 to move closer to Person 3... what happens... they can't go too far because of Person 1.
How many companies are trying to move to the future without breaking any ties with the past. More specifically, how many companies want to enjoy the fruits of the future without putting any of today's revenue (or clients) at risk? How many companies look to innovate (future) by almost exclusively relying on the input of their existing customers (past)?
This is one phenomenon that seems to be ever-present. How does one strike the right balance to maximize the opportunity? More on this in the next few days....
I think about this all the time. In fact, probably a day or two doesn't go by where I don't see an example of my a former B-school professor labeled "The Fallacy of Wanting "A" and Rewarding "B".
Take a software company. One of their stated mandates is "on-time delivery of products" and "predictability". They promote use of a formal process, standards... the works! However, in virtually every instance, the projects are late and most often it is due to people not following the process. In the end, it takes some 11th-hour heroics to meet the date; however, the last-minute heroes are often the same ones that didn't follow the process in the first place!
So, what do we do? Naturally, we praise and reward the last-minute heroes! What does this say about the importance and value of following the process? This example of wanting "A" (process-drive predictable delivery) and rewarding "B" (the "White Knight" syndrome) is just one of many.
In upcoming blogs, I'll highlight a few other examples.
When it comes to waiting on lines and moving large groups of people, I don't think anyone does it better than Disney. They have mastered the masking of long wait lines and how to keep people distracted, engaged and amused while waiting for hours. I contrast that with the Universal amusement parks which, while doing a fair job, just can't match the Disney expertise. At Universal, there just weren't enough diversions and the wait lines were just too visible. Could they have invested the extra time or money to go the "extra distance"? Sure, but they didn't.
More fuel for the Collins' "Good to Great" mantra. The best don't aren't always light-years better than their competitors... sometimes they're just a bit better, but in the areas that matter most.
Over the holidays, I decided to take the family on an old-fashioned roadtrip to Orlando, Florida for some warmth and play-time at the amusement parks. Along the 2,100 roundtrip, I was reminded of several very important lessons that I'll share in a multi-part series entitled "Thoughts from the Road".
The first is around pride. As you can imagine, we had to stop many times for bio-breaks, meals, fuel, etc en route to Orlando (and back). Due to time and budget constraints, this meant some truck-stops and other similar establishments. Most were quite forgettable and some even borderline offensive. However, a few were amazingly pleasing. Well lit, friendly service and most importantly, clean restrooms (after traveling for hours, a clean, modern restroom is treasured). I wonder if anyone ever did a study on the relationship between amount of purchases and restroom cleanliness? I know that we spent more in the places where the restrooms were clean.
So why is it that one place has a clean restroom and the other don't? In the end, I think it comes down to the management's attitude and ultimately, pride. It doesn't take that much time or that much money to keep a bathroom reasonably clean.
So, kudos to the rest stops and truck stops along I-95 that have the pride, attitude and motivation to provide clean, quality services to travelers.
A seasoned executive of the high-technology market who wants to see people have more fun at work, drive greater innovation, worry less about risk and making mistakes and regain the excitement we had early in our careers