“Googley”-The Google X-Factor

googley-art-wall[1]“Googley”. Doesn’t sound like a real word, but it defines the number one trait that Google executives look for when they are hiring candidates. Stacy Sullivan, Chief of Culture for Google, says it’s not a definable term but “means someone that is not too traditional or stuck in their ways”. This flexibility and mental agility is core to Google’s culture and helps drive its success.

Google has created an addictive culture that job seekers flock to. The campus exudes energy and creativity offering open office space concepts with hangout areas and corporate sponsored cafeterias. The firm has succeeded in creating a community rather than just an employee base.

At Google, hiring is a team sport! It takes the hiring process seriously and requires company executives to spend at least one full day a week recruiting. During the hiring process, recruiters and executives market the Google culture and look for those “googley” candidates that will be the best fit for the company.

The company’s Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, tells candidates how Google wants to create technology to dramatically improve the world. “We are in unchartered waters, but that’s why we do what we do,” he says. According to Ray, the world is the test lab for Google which drives their need for people who are intellectually curious enough to push the limits.

Ray gives perspective employees a view of the culture within Google which makes them one of the most sought after companies in the world. Ray’s hiring pitch helps candidates understand what is vitally important to the company in a well-defined culture statement.

Hiring for a cultural fit is as important as hiring based on the requirements of the job. Someone can meet all of aspects of the job description but be the worst employee for your firm if they are not a cultural match. You want someone who will not only be able to do the job but be completely invested in the vision and direction of your company.

Perhaps you need to create your own word to describe that x-factor that determines success within your company. Make it a team effort! Involve employees from varying levels of the organization in the creative process. Once your team has helped to define the culture factor needed to succeed within your organization, incorporate it in your hiring process.

Google’s hiring methodology has narrowed their x-factor down to being “googley”. Even the word says something about Google’s culture. Its ability to involve culture throughout the hiring process has helped sort through numerous candidates to find the not just any candidate, but the right candidate.cropped-fb.jpg

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How to deal with the Meghan Trainors in your Office

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Having a 13 year old daughter allows me to keep up with all the current music. After dealing with a particularly rough day last week, my daughter and I were jamming in the car when Meghan’s song “No” came on.  Although the song is referencing a woman fighting off advances of an unwanted guy, the chorus of the song summarized the people I had dealt with that day.

Every company or organization has them…you know who I’m talking about. It’s that individual or department you loathe dealing with because it seems like all they want to do is tell you what you can’t do or simply just find unique and creative ways to tell you “No”. I have a personal little reference for these types, kind of a profiling term if you will.  I have dubbed them the CantNos.

Sidenote: In my earlier, less mature days, I would actually have contacts’ first name followed by a last name CantNo to remind me who I was dealing with on the phone.  I’ve evolved since then though.

As a driver,  I think one of the hardest things I have to deal with are those in the workplace whose first answer is instinctively “No” or “We can’t”.  I guess I’m just too optimistic or “Polly Anna” when approaching problems or even trying to find alternative ways to further the brand, expand a message or take our game to the next level. Sometimes I think how miserable it must be to always find ways to kill someone’s idea or squash their passion.

Just as the CantNos have an instinctive response to most every situation, I have a guttural reaction in dealing with them.  I often find myself counting in my head to calm down, imagining a great post about them on social media or silently throat punching them in my happy place. (Figuratively of course, no violence in the workplace)  Unfortunately, what I don’t say usually can be seen all over my face. Disgust, anger, bewilderment in some cases. This is a group of people I just can’t understand.

If you’re in a position of leadership and can readily identify this group, here are some things to consider:

  1. Are their responses warranted?  I do know there are times when you have to deal with a department whose primary role is to protect the company or organization. Groups like legal, compliance, regulatory or finance have to keep the company in the right lane. I’m sure most of them do not relish in killing every major idea but it seems a number of these groups just accept that as part of their role. If you are a leader, challenge these departments to find a way to soften the blow. A simple, “Let me find a way to help you” would go a long way. As a driver, if I know you’re at least trying to explore an idea but find it is absolutely impossible or too risky, I can accept that.  It’s all in how you frame it.
  2. Do they just get satisfaction from being dream killers? This is a toxic group. You can hire the brightest talent in your industry but if you have a one, two or more of the CantNos in your organization, you may find yourself with a revolving door. If it’s more of an attitude issue, you need to confront it head on. This could include having a direct coaching session or even eliminating the CantNos from your company. You’d be amazed at the change in morale once you have the spine to pull the trigger.
  3. Be self-aware. I know I’m an intense guy, I’m a driver. I have learned to take a moment to identify if the issue is really a potential CantNo or if it’s me being unrealistic.  There’s nothing wrong with being outgoing or super creative but I have learned to be more self-aware to recognize the difference between people who are helping me be more realistic versus those who are CantNos. This has helped mitigate some of the internal frustration I once suffered from while furthering my own evolution toward a better team player.

Saint Augustine said “Anything in moderation is ok” (paraphrased). The same holds true for this topic. Identifying the root cause of CantNos can help you determine the wheat from the chaff in your organization. It can also help you better prepare yourself for interactions with them.

If you haven’t heard the song, it’s a great little tune so that’s my #MondayMotivation gift to you!  Enjoy!

When you bite off more than you can chew

kobayashi-hotdogs[1]Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest is an annual attraction on the 4th of July that attracts both competitors and audiences from around the world.  Mountains of hot dogs are stacked in front of the competitors as the anxious crowds wait to cheer their favorite competitor.

Takeru Kobayashi, a small framed native of Japan, holds six Guinness Records for eating hot dogs, meatballs and other junk food items. In 2001, he set his first record eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes at the Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. The secret to Takeru’s success is his unique strategy to tackle monumental eating challenges by taking one bite at a time. Where many cringe and crack under the pressure, Takeru continues to set world records with ease.

Takeru realized early in his competitive eating career that the biggest challenge is not the number of hot dogs but the tendency for people to have mental barriers. He simply sets a goal and works toward it in a methodical manner.

When he was asked about his ability to think without limits, Takeru said, “I think the thing about human beings is that they make a limit in their mind of what their potential is”. Unlike Takeru, you may find that members of your team have preconceived limits that hold them back.

So as a manager, how do you help your team manage through times when they feel they have bitten off more than they can chew?

There’s an old saying that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Helping your team recognize that every project has bite-size pieces can be a good first step. Managing these smaller sized portions is an easy way to be able to avoid being overwhelmed.

As stress mounts, we tend to focus on the enormity of the problem rather than the more manageable solutions. Team members who appear to be overwhelmed need you to coach them on how to find the most practical strategy to complete their work. The real barrier may be all in their perception and an objective viewpoint could be the perfect diagnosis to this common problem.

Leaders should use Takeru as an inspiration for their teams and teach them that often the biggest barrier to success is a mental one that can be overcome with the right perspective. Helping your team learn how to accomplish their goals without cracking under pressure will not only enhance organizational productivity but also show your team that you committed to making them successful.

Business Lessons from The Walking Dead, Season 6 Episode 9

For those of us who have the sickness known as “TWD Syndrome”, The Walking season 6 episode 9 delivered enough punch to make up for the amount of time we had to go without!

In the first ten minutes, I found myself on edge, laughing, cringing and coming off my couch. Let’s just say, the writers left nothing on the table and started out guns blazing. (Or actually, in Daryl’s case, a rocket launcher.) The episode was laced with several lessons we could take to the office this week.  Here are two for you to nimble on.

Know when to cut them: The moral battle between Morgan and Carol over when to and when not to kill has remained a theme over the last few episodes. Morgan believes everyone has a the opportunity to change so he tends to avoid killing anyone who is a non-walker. In contrast, Carol is a fierce mamma bear who will kill anyone who threatens the community. Morgan’s decision to spare the life of the Wolf put the fledgling community’s only doctor in jeopardy.

Lesson: Sometimes we have to realize not everyone will change their ways. If you have someone like The Wolf on your team, taking the Morgan philosophy could threaten the rest of your team.  As cold and cruel as it may sound, most teams function better under leaders who, like Carol, make the tough decisions and remove anything or anyone who will threaten the vitality of their team. Bottom line, when in doubt, make the kill shot.

Everyone needs a Daryl and Michonne on the team: Daryl Dickens is a quiet character on the show. He tends to be the voice of reason as well one who can always be counted on when times are tough. Similarly, Michon is a complex character with quite reason, amazing strength and raw brutality when needed.

Both characters can be counted on when critical decisions need to be made. In S6E9, Daryl brought down fire on a band of thugs to save Abraham and Sasha (probably one of my favorite scenes). Michonne took the kill shot later in the episode when the young man threatened to kill Rick.

Lesson: Don’t underestimate your steady team members who are critical to the success of your organization. You likely have reserved team members like Daryl and Michonne who are always willing to step up to the plate when needed. Although they do not require a lot of attention or maintenance, it’s always a good idea to show them some love and ensure they know their value.

The Walking Dead writers continue to hypnotize me with the show’s plot and character development. It’s an added benefit that each episode tends to have business lessons laced throughout.

So for all of the The Walking Dead fans out there, what was your business take-away from Season 6, episode 9?

The $25,000 To Do List Method

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I am a note taker and to-do list guy, almost to a fault.  Yes, I am one of those weirdos that will actually remember something I accomplished during the day and put it on my to do list, only to be able to mark it off as completed.  There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with marking a line through something, almost like removing that nagging voice in my brain reminding me of the things I need to get done. Something inside of me cannot relax until the items on my list or the metaphoric list that I keep in my head is completed.  Unfortunately, there are over a thousand ways to keep a to do list and I have tried 85% of them.  Finally, after reading Double, Double by Cameron Herold, I found a method that seems to work for me.

I was happy to find that Charles Schwab had a similar issues with getting things done.  The story goes that Schwab brought in a well-known efficiency guru, Ivy Lee, to help him with some of the inefficiencies in his company.  Lee met with the executive management team and advised them to make a to do list at the end of each day with six of the most important tasks to be completed the following day.  The next day, each member was to work on their list in order of priority, adding those tasks not completed to the next day’s list.  The legend states that Schwab agreed to pay Lee the value of his advice as product of the efficiency/production value over three months.  According to the legend, Lee received a check for $25,000 and the rest is history.

So for the past month, I’ve adopted this method using a 4×6 index card to force myself to be realistic in what I can accomplish in one day.  On the front, I keep my to-do list and on the back I document voice-mails I need to return or people I need to connect with.  I chose an index card not only for its brevity but also for its convenience.  I can keep it in the book I’m reading as a bookmark or keep it in the visor in my car (because all of my great ideas or cognitive moments come when I am behind the wheel).

I have had to do some adjustments to the process to make it work for me which included going very old school for this tech nerd…. buying a dated expandable file.  In this little jewel, each section is numbered to 31 so  I use it as my daily tracking system.  I put my little index card in there, bills to be paid, forms to be reviewed etc.  This method has helped me be able to plan ahead and forget.  This has been a life saver and has helped me be able to up my game in terms of my clients’ experience.

Bottom line, you have to find a method that works for you.  Here are some quick advice points for you as you search:

1. Try your method for one week, make revisions after that.  Sometimes just the process of trying something new feels awkward and makes you feel like it won’t work, give it a week.

2.  Be realistic. I have had grandiose plans with a to-do list that was an entire notebook page long.  Of course, I didn’t meet all of those tasks so the little “pat on the back” feeling I sought for eluded me every day.  Keep it to no more than 10 critical tasks and be willing to carry items over to the next day.  It’s really ok.

3. Categorize your tasks according to projects. This is another helpful method if you manage multiple projects.  Associating these tasks according to project will begin to shift your mind more to the “projects” you need to make progress on that day versus a simple task list.

About the Writer:

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I have a passion for driving results and have since I started my career in banking.  This blog is about that passion as well as the frustration I endures from those who do not seek results or slow down the process.

I have a degree in Marketing and a Masters in Management with an emphasis in Project Consulting.  Over my career, I’ve worked in numerous positions including sales, sales management, consulting, HR and recruiting.  I currently work as a head-hunter and project consultant, while trying to stay abreast of all of the changes in today’s workforce.

For a professional resume, click here.

When to ask Why

In school, I would have pulled a stunt like this.  Actually, one time in college, I had to write four or five papers in one class.  I liked the professor, but I was certain he did not read any of the papers required.  Ok, maybe he read the first two and last two pages, but no more than that.  I had traditionally done very well on papers in his class, making an A every time, maybe a couple of points off for a poor reference or such.  For my last paper, I thought I would be a little daring and attempt to prove my point.  So, about halfway through the paper, mid paragraph, I inserted the following line: “And I know you’re not reading any of this,” before continuing the paragraph as normal.  I just knew I had done it.

The point to my story is, sometimes in a job, a project, or a proposal, I still find myself thinking, “Why am I doing this? They’re not even going to read it.”  Or sometimes, the statement might be said by a leader: “I know this is stupid, but we have to ask that you _____.”  This has always baffled me.  In essence, you acknowledge the stupidity of what your requesting someone to do, but still demand it?  Why?

Companies who enjoy the tediousness of their processes often do not enjoy great margins.  One company I consulted not too long ago explained their process of approval for a specific area.  They drew flow charts and showed me all of the pretty forms they had made that went into this massive binder with a pretty little cover sheet.  So after sitting through that meeting which lasted about 35 minutes (35 minutes of my life I’ll never get back), they asked me what I thought.  My reply?  “What are we talking about again?”

No, seriously, I went up to their great little flow chart and began simply asking “Why?”  For instance, why do three people have to sign this form authorizing an expense?  Answer: “To be sure it’s really needed.” Question: “Are these managers who have to sign it?” Answer: “Yes, three managers up the chain have to sign it.  Do you think we could make it easier?”  Answer from me: “Yes, fire the one who’s stupid or inept.”

Ok, I know that was pretty harsh but think about it for a minute: You have three people signing off on something that at least two people should be able to do.  Why the 3rd?  Granted, there are some instances where, depending on an expense amount or credit amount that there needs to be some extra checks and balances, but in this case, it was for something fairly nominal.  This sneak peek into the business model showed me a larger problem.  Why was I there?  To help accelerate the sales process.  What was the problem?  This company loved to make X very hard to find!

One question you as a manager can ask to drill down to the essentials of just about any function within your company is “why?” In fact, as a leader, you should ask more questions than give answers.  If you are consistently providing answers, you are doing two awful things to your company.

#1. You’re wasting your future time.  The old adage regarding a horse and water has a lot of truth to it.  If you are consistently giving answers out, you are, in essence, training your team not to think for themselves.  They know if they run into a question, rather than seeking the answer, they can just come to the great think tank who will spit out an answer or better yet, fix the problem all together.  This wastes your future time because you are not eliminating future questions.  If your team is anything like those I’ve managed in the past, you get asked the same questions time and time again.  Asking the question why can be as simple to start as, why am I answering this question?  Direct your associate to the answer, but let them figure it out on their own.  This will free up future time when they have another question.

#2. If you don’t ask why, you will never make great leaps in your company.  If you have a process in place, ask yourself and your team why you do it that way.  Is there a better, more cost effective or more efficient way of doing it?  Can you make it easier for your clients?  Also, in turn, you create a culture of excellence on your team because as time progresses, your team will begin to ask why and think outside the box.

Now, it should be said you will not get a lot of friends going this route, but, who needs friends when there’s progress to be made right?  Always seeking excellence sometimes means you will have to ask the occasional question, “Why?”

Oh, and about the paper I mentioned earlier in the article… I got it back and made my first B.  I got some points knocked off for trivial things.  I got 12 points taken off with a note from my professor, “I took 12 points off for assuming I don’t read these.”  He was a great teacher!

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.

What Leaders Can Learn from The Costa Concordia Tragedy

The Costa Concordia was Europe’s largest-ever cruise ship when it launched in 2006, however, not a lot is being said about that now with the ship being on the rocks.  Considering the age with high tech GPS and mapping systems,it is pretty hard to believe something like this could happen.  Furthermore, it is more than tragic the lives that have been lost in something attributed to human error.  So what could leaders learn from this awful tragedy?

Before we get into that, let’s address one of the major leadership issues of this particular tragedy.  The captain.  What does this captain’s actions after the crash say about the state of leadership today?  It seems with not only this tragedy, but the more recent business “crashes” that gone are the days when leaders/captains stayed with the ship to ensure everyone is taken care of before worrying about themselves.  I would have been ok if he darted from the ship to go for help, but from most estimates, he didn’t even send a mayday call.  What is going on here?  What has happened to the leadership today that whether it be large cruiseships or large companies, no one sends mayday messages or helps their passengers/associates get to safety before bailing themselves?  Now that the soap box is done, let’s talk about some of the lessons.

Lesson 1: Stay the course.  From the reports, we have have learned the captain went off of the normal course and right into a patch of rocks which took the ship to its doom.  So often, leaders get brazen and neglect to follow the standard instruments used to keep the business in the “right lane”.  Of course, there are times when following your gut could lead to tremendous success, but you have to weigh out the costs of those decisions on those on the ship with you.  Unfortunately, there are also times where staying the course, as boring as it may seem, is what needs to be done for the safety of your passengers.

Lesson 2: Be sure to use the mayday signal.  I am not sure whether it is pride or stupidity that prevents a lot of leaders of companies to admit they need help.  A true leader leans on the experience and knowledge of their team and is willing to be open to asking for help when it is needed.  There are a number of resources available to leaders who need help with a particular problem in their company.  Everyone experiences bumps or potholes in the path, the smart thing to do would be to lean on help from those who may have already tracked down a similar path.  Wisdom is often as easy to obtain as learning from the mistakes of others.

Lesson 3: Make sure everyone knows the directions for the lifeboats. If you’ve heard any of the accounts of when the ship went down, you heard the mass chaos which ensued once everyone on the ship was aware of the scale of the tragedy.  As a leader, you must make sure everyone on your ship knows the necessary directions for when trouble arises.  Mass hysteria can add unneeded noise to a tense situation.  If everyone on your team is aware of the “disaster recovery plan,” things will go a lot smoother.  Additionally, if you take the course most commanders do in the army, be sure you have a statement of “commander’s intent.”  As a leader, you cannot possibly be there to help your team think through every single dilemma they experience, but through the use of the CI statement, you can at least arm them with what they need to know.

An example would be Southwest Airline’s “low fare” strategy.  This is  a strategy set forth by executive management, but is known to all employees.  So when a flight planning team is looking at making a major decision, they first weigh in whether this decision would fall in line with Southwest being the “lowest fare” airline.  If the decision does not align properly, they seek another course of action.

Clearly, on the Costa Concordia, there was no CI, mostly because the was no “C” (commander) on the ship so who could know the I (intent)?  Barring from a leader making this tragically stupid mistake, there should have been some type of CI for those workers on the ship to ensure the safety of their passengers.  Clearly, we can make some deductions from the situation based on how the crew acted.  Obviously, one could say the captain was most likely a top down type of leader, one who provides more commands than direction.  How do we know this?  Look how his team responds to a crisis when he is not on the ship. This is an awful tragedy on many levels.  I continue to hope more survivors are found in the short term.

Lesson 4: Even big ships fall victim.  Think about 2008 and the business giants who fell.  Similar to the Costa Concordia, these mega giants veered off of the normal course of business and ran aground, taking many innocent lives with them.  Whether it was investing in mortgage backed securities, or being too aggressive, almost stupid in their assumptions the bubble would not burst.  Generations ago, businesses would not have made such mistakes, rather, they would have used their instruments to navigate safely through the waters.  It seems many of the captains of these monster ships thought their vessel was too big to fail.  Unfortunately, many leaders of large organizations seem to believe the same lie and fall victim to a similar fate.  Last time I checked, doing the same thing over and over is the definition of insanity.  I guess they no longer teach common sense in business schools anymore.

We can all learn from this tragedy and take a moment to reflect on the ship we are the captain of at the moment.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you staying the course?
  • Does your team know the CI for the company?
  • What steps do you need to take today to right the course of your ship to avoid the rocks ahead?

Continue to pray for the lives of those yet recovered and the families of all who are involved.  One tragic misstep a lot of us make is forgetting their are lives involved in the mess.  As a leader, that is one take away I hope you remember.

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.