Category Archives: management

How to tell if you should be a CEO

Woman on a ladder of success

Is your ladder to success helping you climb the right wall?

Too many people climb the ladder of success, only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall. (unkn)

Should you be a CEO?

Jim just took a job as a manager of a small company.  He’s been a CEO before.  He took the lowly manager’s job because he likes it better than being CEO.  He didn’t even put his CEO experience on his resume. He got the “lowly” job he really wants because he left the word CEO off his resume.

I can tell you the same story, with the exact opposite twist, of technicians and engineers who worked their way up the technical ladder, only to finally figure out that they should have quit and gone to work as the CEO of a small company.  These are guys making $150,000+ as technicians.  Not bad money at all.

There’s a way to find out if you really, truly, in your gut would like to be a CEO.  Get a couple of practice jobs.  First, become a team leader or manager where you are. Also get involved in your local or national trade association.  While you are at it, volunteer to head a charity organization.  Your local school has a PTO, swim team boosters, band boosters, etc.  The YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and Scouts all need people who are leaders. Another great way is to run for the school board, town council or state legislature.

Leading any of these organizations will help you see if you like management.  In them you need to set your own goals and agenda.  You need to persuade people to work with you.  Selling others on your ideas is essential. You’ll also build a network of people who can help you become a CEO.  You’ll get to show true executive leadership.

If you talk to CEO’s, you’ll find that many of them evaluate executives in their own and in supplier companies by how they perform in volunteer posts.  Being a CEO isn’t just telling people what to do.  It also includes creating a network that will draw talent and contracts to your company.

If you want to be a CEO, get started now.  There are teams, associations, charitable organizations and political organizations looking for leaders.

And pay attention.  Being CEO may not be for you.

Something To Do Today

If you have any desire to be a manager or a leader, make a list of places where your leadership

could have an effect.  Go out and get started in those organizations.  You could easily be the “CEO” in 2 years.

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Later:                          3 critical words on your resume

email exploitation

Absolute proof it is time to leave your job

How to heal a project or job search before it breaks: Dr. No

Doctor No can heal a case of pebbles. It can fix a project or job search before it breaks. How?  You make the people giving you a pebble, one more little thing to do, fix the problem they create.  They become Dr. No.

stacked rocks

Is your to-do list impossibly tall?

The team leader I disliked personally the most was a good project manager. I loved working for him. One redeeming social skill was that he knew about Dr No.  When he was asked to add just a little more to a project he would agree and then ask what he got to drop to make up for adding that little bit.  He did it religiously. He didn’t just say, “No,” he used the Doctor No approach. He asked the person adding work to heal the problem he was causing. He asked the manager, boss team leader, or project manager, “What can I now say “No” to? My team can’t do it all, so help me say “No” to another project, specification, or task. He turned the person giving him the work into Doctor No, a healer.

I hate firefighters–people who commit a project to disaster.  The most difficult problem for firefighters is to say, “NO!”  It is hard to refuse to carry a mountain as it is thrust upon you one pebble at a time by smiling friends.  Still, you MUST gently refuse the pebbles.  The best way I have found to refuse pebbles of additional work is to require the person handing you the pebble to tell you which other pebble you can drop. They become Doctor No and fix your time and resource problems.

The velvet glove on the steel fist comes in handy here. As the person trying to hand you the pebble tells you how small it is, you have to clearly tell them it will not get done unless they tell you what else to drop. When they say, “You decide,” tell them, “I won’t do your task unless YOU tell me what to drop.” If you absolutely can’t get them to let you drop something, you then decide to drop something.  Tell everyone by voice AND memo what will not get done due to the specific additional burdens placed on you by this specific person.  Then “don’t do” what you said you wouldn’t do.

Circulate a list of unfinishable projects. Put them in order of importance. Let everyone else fight for the priorities on the list. Make it clear they will probably not get done. When you or your team gets lucky and finishes something unexpectedly early, you look like a wizard.  Remember Scotty in the original Star Trek series?  That was his management style.

The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off. (unkn)

Does this apply to job hunting?  Absolutely.  My blog and books can give you more information on job hunting than they can possibly apply in a day, week or month.  Doctor No is about prioritizing.  If you ask me what order to do things in, I’ll tell you.  Otherwise I expect you to figure out what is most important and drop the rest. For your job search, demand that you, yourself be Dr. No.

The team leader I disliked the most personally, was the best manager, and I really appreciated it.  He could get me to go the extra mile because he used Dr. No.

Dr. No is about setting priorities.  It is a nice way to get the people overloading you to help unload some of the burden.  Turn those people into Doctor No. Let them be the healer.

Something To Do Today

Most people are afraid to try the Doctor No approach.  Try it out the first time with a smaller project, something thrust on you that really is not that significant.  Don’t say, I’ll try to get that done and then stay late to finish it.  Ask the person to help you figure out what to drop instead.  If they won’t tell you what to drop, tell them it won’t get done until they open up a hole in your schedule for you to do it.  Then don’t do it.  Your pebble pushers need to find out you are serious.

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Later:               Dead fish

Poisons

Liars

How to work a convention

The Mythical Man Month

sand sculpture of a sphinx

The mythical man month is another impossible beast.

I hate firefighters–people who commit a project to disaster.  “Leaders” sometimes think that if one woman can have a baby in 9 months, then surely 9 women can have a baby in one month. Those leaders/firefighters create career death marches for their subordinates and coworkers.  Too often they are rewarded for being able to get so many hours out of their team.

The Mythical Man Month is a great book about the fallacy that projects can be infinitely divided and finished sooner.

To increase productivity on a 2 person project by 50%, you have to add 2 more people.  Adding one more person does little.  More time is spent communicating and coordinating than the person adds to the project.

A 9 month project with 7 solid, committed, experienced programmers will take as long to complete as the same project with 25 engineers, a manager and 4 team leaders.  Why?  Because communication becomes a major burden in a large project.

One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man. (Elbert Hubbard)

In any complex project, adding people in the last month rarely speeds things up.  The folks who can finish the project have to train the new people, supervise them, and check their work.  The experienced people lose all productivity and the new workers are marginal no matter how strong their background.

In your job do you know how people really work together?  Do you know the cost to productivity of adding more people to a project?

For your job search

Are you making your job search more complicated than it needs to be?  Are you dooming your search with lots of undirected activity?

Are you spreading your search efforts so broadly that you are depending on luck?  Contacting 500 recruiters is rarely as productive as closely working with one or two or ten.  Spamming 1000 companies is not as effective as calling 10 managers who may be able to use you or refer you.  Networking with 5 CEO’s or Directors beats lunch with 50 production line workers.

What really gets more done?

Something To Do Today

Find a copy of The Mythical Man Month.  It is a classic.

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More firefighting problems:    The Elmer Fudd job hunt

Doctor No

Dead fish

Poisons

Liars

The incredible strength of weak connections

And later:        How to work a convention

Make your job search 50% more effective

The first step to making your job search 50% more effective, is to really know what is happening.  Yes, get a job in half the time. Let me give you an example that changed my life that applies to your job search.

I was overspending by 20% every month. I had an absolutely fixed income.  So I bought a notepad and kept track of every expense.  In one week it was obvious where the money went.  In a month it was unavoidable.  The truth? 20% of my very limited income was going for lemonade from cozy little shops in Murcia, Spain.

Your time is very limited.  You only get 24 hours a day.  You can’t buy more time. Do you really know how you use it?

Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace. (Sawyer)

Buy a small notebook.  Exert incredible discipline for one day each month.  Every time you shift tasks, write it down.  A phone call is a shifted task.  An internet link can be a shifted task.  Write it down.

It may help to create 15 minute intervals on the paper and write down what you did for each 15 minute period.

Now get out the chainsaw.  What was really REALLY productive?  Do you spend 2 hours daily trying to avoid offending people by chatting amiably or reading their useless emails.  Cut out the unproductive stuff.

Make sure you do what is important.  Education is essential. Networking is critical.  Talk about the NCAA tournament with Larry—don’t kid yourself.  That email of funny things kids do—delete it.

I tried it. I found I was spending hours each day with candidate email that wouldn’t do any good.  I did a 2 month experiment.  I took all my job openings off the internet. Instead I started calling up people.  In the recruiting business that is taking a chainsaw to your daily schedule.  Nothing neat and clean, I just cut 25% of my time wasted.  I have since added back some job ads, but not where everyone else advertises.  Now I get better candidates and less time wasters.

Create the log.  Keep it for a day or a week.  Get your chainsaw out.  Cut off the termite riddled, least productive part of the log.  Use the time you save to get the most useful things possible done.

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Something To Do Today

Create a time log.  Use it for your job or your job hunting.  Keep it. Analyze it.  Chainsaw it.

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Next:      Unbelievable networking facts.

Later:               Take unfair advantage of those networking facts.

Your job search is mortal combat: win every time

If you job hunt (or go to work) expecting mortal combat, where the other guy must lose, you will fail.  If you have a strong attitude that, “The company, my manager and I are going to win big,“ you will succeed.  In job search mortal combat you must defeat the real enemy every time. You will lose every time if you fight your allies.

I exhort you also to take part in the great combat, which is the combat of life, and greater than every other earthly combat.  (Plato)

Are companies idiots for not hiring you?  Is every interviewer prejudiced?  Let’s look at your job.  Do you assume that your workplace is run by fools?  Do you know more than your boss?  Do you hang around the complainers and whiners at work?  Are you the ringleader?  Are people out to get you?

People really may be out to get you if you have a bad attitude.  A hiring manager wants someone who will help and support him.  Promotions come to people who help raise team spirits and achieve goals.  Raises are given when a person is worth more than they are being paid.  The manager interviewing you for a job will get a feeling how you treat your current boss.  Your attitude will come through in the interview.

So how should you treat your current boss?

She should be your ally.  In mortal combat, you help your allies.

Often you have to train your manager.  She doesn’t have your perspective on problems.  You need to constantly bring things to her attention that she may not know. You need to train her patiently, the way you would like to be trained.

Would you like to get pats on the back for the good things you do along with the occasional pointer on how to correct a mistake?  Do the same with your boss.  Positive reinforcement sets the stage for your negative comments to be heard.  Take an attitude check today.  Are you saying 5 positive things for every negative you voice?  Keep track.

Are you job hunting?

Can the interviewer tell how you engage in destructive mortal combat?  Is that why they are avoiding you?  Do you treat your current manager as your best ally?  If the right attitude shines through, they will hire you.

Business really is mortal combat.  You have to plan on winning every time.  Are you going to defeat stupidity with perfect logic and rapier sharp attacks?  No, you will lose.  Do you plan on patiently helping everyone learn, grow and win?  Your victory is assured.

An attitude of constant improvement will win. Constant carping criticism loses every time.

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Something To Do Today

Keep a notepad with you.  Make two columns.  Put a check in one column for every positive thing you say.  Put a check in the other column for every negative thing you say.  Do the positives outstrip the negatives by 5 to 1?

Every Friday document your week at work in your job journal.  What are your quantifiable achievements and failures?  Make an upbeat report for your manager in a format she can use.  Turn it in whether she asked for it or not.

The first step towards networking – leadership

Networking?  It is leadership.  Some of the best connected network creators I know have never been managers, but they all have been leaders. Here is how I learned the most critical lesson in leadership.

I was 19 years old and clueless.  I was sitting in a chair and told my roommate, “We’ve got to get going.” 

He just sat in his chair and looked at me.

“Come on, get up.  We’ve got to get that done now,” I said from my chair.

He stared at me a little more wide eyed and offended.

“Look.  You have to get up.  We agreed I’d lead this project.”

“Bryan,” he finally said, “there is no way I am getting up out of my seat before you do.  If you are going to be the leader, you’ve got to get up first and start acting like you really mean what you say.”

That was one of the best lessons in leadership I ever had.

Leaders show by what they do that they mean what they say.  They invest themselves in a decision before they expect others to follow. 

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Something To Do Today

Take the lead or watch a leader take charge of a group.

Starting tomorrow I will be giving at least one suggestion each day for networking.

For a few days:         How to network at the top.

Creating networks

How to be sure of your career direction. Can you?

It can be difficult if not impossible to know where your career should go.  It’s not that you can’t pick a direction, it is making sure it is the right direction.  You may climb the career ladder of success, only to find out it is leaning against the wrong wall.

Here is a great article on how to figure out where you should go.

What a big house or a great job costs

I was at a gorgeous house.  It had radiant heating, an indoor basketball court and swimming pool, wonderful view, and enough room for anyone’s desires.  I loved it.  The hosts were generous and kind.  Then I decided to tally up the cost of owning a house like that.  My estimate is $24,000 per month without mortgage payments.  Owning that great house had a price tag that I can’t ever see myself paying.

Last week I also talked with people in jobs that paid $100,000 – $250,000 per year.  They are wonderful jobs.  Nice offices, private secretaries, authority over others, and a sweet lifestyle come with the jobs.  They are leading financial and accounting people. 

There is a price those people pay.  First is education and certification.  Then comes an apprenticeship with 60-90 hour weeks for months at a time during peak seasons.  Without that apprenticeship with the “right” companies, they would be earning half of what they are.  The “right” companies now means choosing from 4 major CPA firms and toiling there for at least 4 years.

With all that hard work, we still need to mention another 5-20 years of always putting in 50+ hours per week. There is a very high price for those jobs, and there is high pay. Many people try to get around the education, certification, and apprenticeship.  Notably, a few people make it without those exact experiences.  But those who get around it are either obviously geniuses, or have worked even more to rise from obscurity to notoriety than the path I outlined would have taken.

If there is a high and mighty job you want, there is also a price to be paid for it.  Go ahead, get that job.  As you earn that job, make sure that you always understand the price of the next step or two in your progression.

Both a big house and a great job have fine rewards.  They also have their own unique costs.  It can be worth it.  Is it worth it for you?

Something To Do Today            

Invite to lunch a person who has the job you want. Ask them about the price they paid in the past and they price they pay now for that job.

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Later:  What may happen in the next recession

How to deal with absolute idiots, bosses, and 6 year olds

Into everyone’s life comes people who just don’t get it.  There is even a chance that you will be that person for someone else at some time.  The fact is, no one sets out to be an idiot.  They are always well intentioned, they just don’t get it.  So how do you deal with an absolute idiot? What if he’s your boss?

Pretend he is 6.

How do you deal with a 6 year old?  If they are not causing any real trouble you just smile and ignore them.  Sure, you correct them occasionally, but you let them mature until they understand something about life.  Smile and enjoy it.  You don’t spread malicious gossip.  Why should you?  They are only 6 after all.

And what if the 6 year old just gets too annoying? Do you gossip behind his back? Do you shoot him for target practice?  No.  You give him chores.  If you can, you give him chores that will educate him and make him less of an idiot. Otherwise you just have him do a lot of things that need to be done.  That gets him out of your hair, and gets things done.  In the end he may even learn that if he is annoying, he gets more chores to do.

If that 6 year old is destroying property or reputation, you take him aside tell him to stop, and tell him what the consequences are if he doesn’t stop.  Then you follow through.  He may consider it a threat.  You should just consider it a statement of fact. You essentially tell a 6 year old, “I love you too much to let you do that.”

What if the 6 year old isn’t yours?  Then you politely draw boundaries with the kid.  If the kid goes past them, you rudely let him know. You call his mom if he won’t cooperate.

Can you do that to your boss?

What if the idiot is your boss?  Same thing.  I mean, do the same things.

Sometimes you just have to smile at your boss and let him go about doing whatever he wants.  If he is doing something destructive, give him chores – try to help him see that there are things he can do that will help, or at least won’t slow people down.

If your boss is destroying property or reputation, take him aside and tell him what the consequences are if he doesn’t stop.  Are you telling his boss?  Leaving the company? Asking for a transfer?  Let your boss know that what he is doing is absolutely unacceptable and you will not allow him to continue doing it.  Be prepared in case he fires you.  Think about it, if your boss is damaging your reputation, won’t you be better off looking for a new job?

Of course there is always the final way to get rid of an idiot.  Move.  Get a new job or a new house.  Maybe you should try the other things I mentioned first. Treat the idiots in your life like a 6 year old.  It will preserve your mental health.

Something To Do Today

Don’t get mad at idiots.  Get an attitude change.  Look at them as really big 6 year olds.

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Later: Did you notice that job boards are mostly ads by agencies?

One huge secret to escape a stalled career

Nerds don’t just happen to dress informally.  They do it too consistently.  Consciously or not, they dress informally as a prophylactic measure against stupidity. (Paul Graham)

My partner changed the career of a man stuck in a job rut.  He was looking for a job and no one would hire him.  His current boss wouldn’t promote him.

Dress for your career, not your job

He was a banker.  He had a great personality, was a hard worker, smart, self assured, and educated. He got things done. He was going nowhere in his career.  His white shirt under that nice suit and tie was slightly wrinkled and just didn’t look sharp.  Karen gave him one piece of advice that made all the difference, “Get your shirts done at the dry cleaners.” He got the job and rose like a rocket in his new bank. 20 years later he came into our office and expected her to notice that he still got his shirts done at the cleaners. She noticed.

The secret

If you are applying for a job, you have to be dressed in at least the same crispness as the hiring manager.  A little better is okay.  The hiring manager has to get the first impression that you will work as hard as he does.  That first impression is often the only real thing that keeps a job candidate from being hired.

When you dress up to the level you want to rise to, you are seen at first glance as someone to be reckoned with.  People will automatically figure out where you want to go. Your clothes need to be clean, pressed, and sharp.  Your shoes need to be nicer, cleaner, and shinier than the shoes of your boss’s boss. And wear nice socks that never show skin at the bottom of your pants leg.

Look at how your boss’s boss dresses.  If you want to impress him, you are going to have to look like him.  Sorry. That is just a fact. If you are of the opposite sex, it only applies more strongly.  You have to look like you are in his circle of acquaintances in order to be invited to work directly for him.

The way you dress will actually change your performance.  Other people will subconsciously give you more respect and more opportunities.  Take advantage of it.

Instead of dressing like all the rest of the nerd herd doing your job, dress like the person whose career is going places.

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Something To Do Today

Ask your boss to tell you how you should dress.

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Later:             Resume blasting

Certifications – gold and lead

Recruiter motivation