Create Opportunities From Failures

Many times, regardless of how well we plan, some things just fail. Maybe it’s a webinar or meeting presentation that was well prepared, but suffered technical difficulty. Or a disciplined savings plan lost nearly half of its value in today’s recession. These challenging situations define our days, but our response to them determines our future success.
While some curse and yell, others see failures as opportunities. Poet Maya Angelou writes, “I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” Failures can either destroy or advance our goals; but it’s our response to them that really determines the outcome.
Thomas Edison experienced repeated failures. His true success was not his invention of the light bulb, but rather his tenacity to use failures as a means to gain new information and new perspectives. Our most successful employees are the ones who have the persistence and optimism to learn from difficulty and use what they learn to re-imagine, recreate and re-experiment. They are the ones who have learned to be positive and to constantly hunt for opportunities. As the economy struggles to recover, successful organizations will reinvent their futures by focusing on these opportunities.
Here are some tips on getting things right, when things start off wrong:
1. Create and support a workplace culture that encourages employees to look for the opportunity in every event.While organizations value effort, innovation and intent, they should also celebrate non-conventional and non-conformist perspectives. Occasional failures show that employees are pushing performance to the edge. As management consultant Tom Peters states, “A day without a screw up is a day without enough reach.” After failures, managers should encourage employees to focus on the positive; this creates a culture that is open, free thinking, and believes that “Yes, we can.”
2. Focus on exponential, not incremental, opportunities. Direct your discussions of opportunities toward significant, not average, results. Performance “lite” is unacceptable. Consider opportunities that have the potential to be “game changers.” Successful organizations know nothing lasts forever, and they must continually reinvent themselves.
3. Commit time and effort to help employees learn their strengths and use them to develop opportunity-thinking.Each of your employees has the potential to be great at certain things. Encourage them to use their intrinsic talents and strengths to deliberatively hunt for opportunities in areas in which they have the greatest insight.
4. Actively solicit input from employees. Leaders who ask “big” questions and take the time to listen to responses can discover new perspectives, facts, ideas and dreams from customers, employees and vendors. Try asking questions that begin with: “How about …?” “What if …?” or “Tell me about …” Assess what you hear and then share it with your team to expand the hunt for opportunities.
5. Share success with everyone. While it’s easy to openly share and celebrate successes, companies should also communicate failures in a way that inspires employees to rethink, redefine and reinvent. The more successes are shared with everyone, and failures are seen as a way to improve, the more idea-risks employees will take.
In an intellectual workplace, innovation, inventing and opportunity hunting must be core expectations of all employees.
Some people are discouraged or angered by failure and change. Others see it as an opportunity for greater success. Not only can the hunt for opportunities increase your success, but it may help you invent the next product that makes people’s lives better.
Jay Forte is a speaker, consultant and nationally ranked thought leader. He applies years of research, along with his training as a CPA, working with organizations that want to successfully activate and inspire exceptional employee performance. Jay is author of the forthcoming book “Fire Up Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition.” For information on keynotes, speaking, consulting or to see the daily "BLOGucation," visit: or call: 401-338-3505.

Three Technology Leadership Dangers to Avoid During a Recession

Why do some technology management teams survive recessions and others don’t, even while using the same methods?
According to Don Schmincke, author of High Altitude Leadership “ Mountain climbing teams in the “death zone”--that altitude above 26,000 feet where lack of oxygen makes long-term survival impossible--bear a striking resemblance to management teams. These teams live passionately while confronting challenging odds. Some are deeply humble; others are psychotic narcissists. They come with all levels of competence, from naive wannabes to elite athletes. And when put to the test, they react like all of us: sometimes like heroes, other times self-destructively.

At these extreme altitudes, success or failure is easily measured, and mistakes can kill people. In these elements, we’ve discovered that leaders who survive in the face of extreme challenges do something uniquely different than the rest. They succeed by recognizing and surviving specific dangers. Eight clear dangers emerge when an organization moves to higher levels of performance. Here’s an analysis of three of those dangers.

The Danger of Selfishness
At high altitude, selfishness kills people when teamwork is critically needed to handle injuries, equipment malfunction, limited resources, and weather threats. Similarly, selfishness can kill the change initiatives a business needs to survive recessionary times. Selfishness infects cultures when managers and staff:
• Let their career or personal agendas supersede the organization’s mission.
• Think that being right is more important than collaboration and dialogue.
• Take individual credit for achievements, while blaming others for failures.
• Are unwilling to compromise or seek consensus during conflict.
The damage escalates as new projects take too long to implement and staff talk about real issues outside of meetings instead of inside the meetings. Politicking, or maneuvering for personal gain, can bring down the best of companies. It’s often the driver of denial, avoidance, blindness, or cover-ups all of which are unacceptable in recessionary times.
High altitude leaders are driven not by selfishness, but by a zeal for achieving results. These leaders drive needed changes by inspiring others with a passion for what’s needed.

Is your culture driven by a passionate saga for the strategic changes ahead or do these missions end up as empty words on posters and coffee cups?
The Danger of “Tool Seduction”
In mountaineering, tool seduction endangers climbers every time they dress in the latest gear but apply the wrong techniques to the challenge. In their overconfidence (or naiveté) they can end up stranded on a storm-ravaged slope while experienced climbers relax at base camp and have a beer while watching the storm pass.

Similarly, the danger from a parade of expert consultants packing the latest tools can distract leaders from focusing on vital issues. Such tools can include methods for organizational change, leadership development, process improvement, teambuilding, CRM, ERM, TQM, Re-engineering, and other management methods.

Leaders fail to survive recessions when tools become “safe” answers, or worse, weapons to use against other tools. In critical moments, even the best tools break or fail, resources are lost, or circumstances change. The problem isn’t with what tools you need, but how organizations relate to the tools.
Are your leaders using the tools, or are the tools using your leaders?

Tool seduction can suck productivity and morale out of a corporate culture. It’s wiser to focus on changing the actions and decisions which truly drive high-performance results. During times of economic uncertainty, do your tools allow your company to change decisively, or just clog everyone’s shelves with interesting, but irrelevant, information? Do your tools fuel passion for change, or derail it with useless meetings, lingo, and processes?
The Danger of Cowardice
Cowardice stops both mountaineering and corporate teams from challenging the status quo, holding others accountable and exposing weaknesses. This danger happens as soon as your organization fears taking necessary risks or relinquishes core values during times of trouble. And it hinders decisive action by stopping the essential act necessary to survive a recession--telling the truth. Cowardice eats truth and lack of truth eats profit.

Telling the truth can upset people and cause discomfort, but ultimately it drives accountability to new levels. Keeping the truth at unspeakable levels only produces collateral damage, such as:
• Accumulating dead-weight of marginally performing employees
• Avoiding the real issues and thwarting meaningful change
• Sticking with doomed projects far too long
Selflessness, actions that drive performance and bravery are but a few of the survival tips for dealing with the leadership dangers encountered when taking your organization to a higher altitude. They can be especially important during times of economic uncertainty.”
Don Schmincke, Founder of The SAGA Institute, is a dynamic keynote speaker and co-author of High Altitude Leadership with Chris Warner. Visit for a free team assessment exercise, and to view their remarkable strategic, leadership, and organizational change programs


Successful Innovation Even in this Economy

Many smart business leaders are now trying to plan for changes to continue growing.
Darwin wrote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” The companies that will emerge stronger in 2009 are those that adapt to change by identifying internal and external opportunities for innovation.
Cost cutting is not innovation
Circuit City, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Bombay Company and Sharper Image all failed in 2008. Despite their successful histories, all had stopped innovating, preferring instead to focus on cost cutting and supply chain efficiency. They lost track of customer trends, and customers in turn felt no loyalty to these retailers. Instead they went looking for the cheapest competitor that offered the same, or similar, products. Even the low-cost leader in retail, Wal-Mart, grew only 3% in 2008, continuing its decade-long revenue stagnation trend. Despite low prices, Wal-mart customers are indicating they do not intend to remain long-term customers. They are looking for more innovative retailers to emerge with more new products.
Innovation case study
While Domino’s is a large chain, its franchisees compete one restaurant at a time on individual street corners. In late 2008, Domino’s recognized that continuing the price war and “product of the month” practices in its primary pizza business was destroying results. Cost cutting wasn’t enough for its franchisees to succeed. Competitors such as Little Caesar’s had dropped prices to $5 per pizza, while Pizza Hut had offered steep discounts monthly.
Domino’s looked for a new opportunity and decided on toasted sandwiches. Although this wan an entirely new venture, Domino’s franchisees chose to target Subway’s as their new arch competitor.
Domino’s shifted its focus to sandwiches from pizzas to grow revenues. A radical change in focus like this demonstrates a disruption that overturns the traditional core focus in an attempt to embrace change rather than avoid it.
Domino’s created several franchisee “test beds” in which they tried various product combinations, perfecting what they would later sell. These field tests honed a workable growth vehicle to which all stores could evolve.
Barriers to innovation
To begin the innovation process in your company, consider these common barriers to innovation:
1. Lock-in. “Lock-in” describes an organization’s dogged commitment to business models, products, behaviors, processes and perceived benefits. Lock-in is beneficial because its standard operating procedures create efficiency within a company and drives growth as long as the success formula is working. However, when the market changes, rigid adherence to lock-in will stifle innovation and sink a company.
2. Defend and extend management. This is a practice of defending core values, procedures, services, products and customers, and seeking incremental opportunities to grow by extending those cores. Practitioners of defend and extend management view innovations as threats and are often late to adapt to market changes.
The first step to better results is to recognize what we lock into, how we lock-in and why we cling to defensive management practices. Only the disruption of these practices will lead to an effective turn-around.
Polaroid’s locked-in success formula was selling “instant photography.” The company generated double digit growth and high profits from the late ‘50s to early ‘70s. When the value of instant photos declined--initially due to low-cost one-hour photo processing--Polaroid continued looking for ways to defend its business by making smaller, cheaper cameras and film that processed more quickly. Eventually, Polaroid tried to maintain itself by extending into specialized products such as the “big shot” portrait camera designed just for close-up images, and a large-format camera designed to photograph business documents. These defend and extend actions missed the market shift to fast, cheap film processing which eventually made Polaroid obsolete. Polaroid needed to move to digital photography, where it held several patents, but its lock-in to old products and practices kept it from changing.
4 steps to successful innovation
Successful innovation requires that your company promote and adapt to those things the marketplace rewards. Here’s a four-step strategy to drive innovation within your company and industry:
1. Stop defend and extend strategies. Instead of focusing on core products, core services, core markets, core business practices and core technologies, which seems the natural thing to do, focus on future scenarios. Scenario planning can identify innovations and their future value.
Example: Intel was a memory chip company when leadership developed future scenarios showing that memory chips were headed for low margin price wars. Alternative scenarios identified microprocessors as having far better margins and more competitive advantages.
2. Attack competitors’ lock-in. Focusing on competitors’ lock-in shows how to put them at risk, and it also surfaces your own lock-in situation and how to manage it. You can find new innovations and the incentive to develop them by attacking your competitors’ lock-in. Nothing helps to motivate your team like attacking an arch-nemesis with a new plan.
Example: The small Chicago pasta maker Fould’s realized that the giant corporation New World Pasta was taking over grocer shelves. But New World was locked-in to traditional products and retailers. Fould’s identified an opportunity for low carbohydrate and no-gluten products that New World was ignoring. Switching to these initially smaller but faster growing and higher margin products allowed Fould’s to expand distribution and succeed despite the entry of a mega-player into its traditional market.
3. Create Disruptions. When launching an innovation, it’s critical to create internal disruptions which overturn old lock-ins. Disruptions are not problems caused by market changes. Disruptions are internally generated decisions to attack lock-in and reassess the status quo.
Example: When Louis Gutierrez, then chairman of Kellogg’s, announced he was going to convert the company’s oldest manufacturing plant into an R&D center, everyone realized that the company was changing its competitive positioning from low cost cereal manufacturing toward new products. When Gutierrez said people would be measured on dollars, not volume, employees knew they had to change their behavior. Disruptions energized everyone to rethink how they could create a more profitable Kellogg’s.
4. Create and maintain “white space.” Innovators must have their own place/space and mandate to develop new success formulas, aligned with new market requirements. They must have permission to operate outside of and even violate corporate lock-ins. And they need sufficient resources of manpower and money, even if this means taking some of the budget from the traditional business.
Example: Over the last 25 years, Illinois Tool Works has grown several-fold, while maintaining high profitability, in ostensibly low-margin industrial products markets by constantly opening new projects in new markets. Today ITW has over 700 profitable subsidiaries in dozens of vertical markets using dozens of technologies all over the world.
All companies can adapt to today’s changing markets. Although in tough times the gut reaction may be to “protect the core,” it is innovation which leads to long-term sales growth and higher profits. Those who move quickly to adopt innovation, becoming part of the market shift, will come out stronger and more successful.
-Adam Hartung is president of Spark Partners which helps organizations reinvigorate growth, innovation and breakthrough performance. He is author of the book “Create Marketplace Disruption” and he blogs regularly about how to overcome Lock-in and improve performance at

Tough Times: What to Do (and Not Do) with Your Team

Day by day, the writing on the wall becomes clearer: The U.S. economy continues to shift toward possible recession, and international markets are seeing the effects as well. How will businesses survive? Maximizing competitive advantage is a must, and the first step is to reexamine your human assets:

1. First and foremost, remember that the best way to weather turbulent times is with the willing engagement of a focused, fired-up, capably led workforce. Avoid the moronic tactics so often invoked during a slowdown, guaranteed to make workers power back a notch or two. Things like knee-jerk layoffs (unless survival is truly at stake), poorly conceived pay cuts (especially incentive pay), and petty cutbacks. When you are forced to make painful cuts, remember – officers bleed first.

2. Don’t let fear cause your workforce to disengage. Asking people to be judicious about expenses is one thing - injecting an added dose of fear into the workplace is another. The degree to which employees are concerned about losing their jobs varies inversely with the degree to which they are concerned with doing their jobs, and taking care of customers. And they’ll be looking at the owners and CEO for telltale signs of fear…and of hope.

3. Don’t try to work your way out of a short-term earnings problem by “dumbing down” the organization. One of the first shoes to fall in a questionable economy usually lands squarely on top of the organization’s training budget. If you’re doing training that doesn’t need to be done, then you should stop it anyway. But the notion that we can somehow help the business by deferring necessary training is intellectually bankrupt. Think about that the next time you fly or have surgery.

4. Don’t (repeat, don’t) stop recruiting. If anything, redouble your recruiting efforts, and encourage your hiring managers to do the same. In case you didn’t notice, Warren Buffett, one of the savviest investors of all time, closed deals to buy two businesses the week before Christmas. He’s on a buying spree, adding solid businesses to his Berkshire Hathaway portfolio. The same principle applies to rounding up talented people. They’re out there. Go find them, and start a conversation with them now.

5. Don’t be afraid to talk candidly with your people about how the business is doing. Don’t delegate this. This is the CEO’s discussion to have. The one thing that distracts people more than anything else is not knowing what’s going on. As psychologist Karl Jung observed, “When facts are few, opinions loom large.” Every minute your folks spend wondering or worrying is a minute your customers are being ignored.

6. Crank up your “high touch.” Going through a difficult economic period isn’t just about business. It’s personal, too. This is an excellent time to show that you care by spending a bit more quality time with the people on your team, listening to them, and making sure they have what they need. Especially those on the frontlines. Don’t pry, but sharpen your awareness of special circumstances. Has a spouse been downsized? A mortgage foreclosed on? Watch for signs of added stress. Don’t play psychologist, but make sure your Employee Assistance Program is ready to respond and help where needed.

7. Pay extra attention to the customers you’ve got. Translate the meaning of that for all your employees. Too many businesses hunker down and go below the radar when economic growth slows. This is an ideal time to show customers that you care about them. If you do, chances are you’ll exit the current rough patch with better customer relations, and maybe more customers.

8. Smile. That’s right, smile. And do it often. The fact that things are getting a little shaky and people are scared (including maybe you) doesn’t overturn the principle that people prefer to be around those who are positive and optimistic. Your smile will lighten up folks around you little; they’ll get more done, and feel better about it, too. - Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette Richard Hadden and business partner Bill Catlette are co-authors of the newly released business book, Contented Cows MOOve Faster.

Interview Questions that Uncover Talent

My long time Headhunter friend Russ Riendeau, Ph.D.shares these timely questions you can use to uncover talent for your team.

"Traditional interview questions oriented around performance, duties and responsibility are important, but the answers often obscure a person's commitment or emotional intelligence required for the job. By asking new questions, you’ll be amazed at what you can find out. The findings can help you make better hiring decisions, lower turnover and significantly reduce hiring costs significantly.

Here are behavioral-based, legal, gender-friendly questions designed to flush out the deeper and more complex behaviors and thinking patterns of a candidate for hire.

1. What question do you have for me right away?

2. What would really surprise me about you? What else?

3. What’s your real motivation to change jobs? No, the real reason (test, re-test)

4. What’s your philosophy on goal setting?

5. What reading material would I find on your coffee table?

6. Tell me a story about when you found yourself in an ethical dilemma and what happened?

7. How did you earn money while in college?

8. How far away from home have you traveled? (Have a map on your desk)

9. Draw me a pie chart showing how you spend an eight-hour day.

10. Are you a curious person? If so, show me an example.

11. What’s your favorite success story? What’s your favorite failure story?

12. What should I have asked you that I haven’t?

13. Do you want to be a millionaire? Why? What are you doing to prepare for it?

14. Are you ready to resign from your job in 5 days? What will your employer do when you quit? What do you think they will say about you after you’ve left?

15. Have you ever created a 30, 60, 90-day strategic plan for your job or a future job? (Well, today’s their lucky day)

Research shows that more than 75% of executives today lack any formal interviewing training. The consequences of weak interview skills are lasting and sometimes unrecognizable until it’s too late. The wrong people get hired, or great talent is overlooked. Utilize these 15 questions to your company’s advantage and hire candidates who are truly right for the job.

Russ Riendeau , PhD has been in the executive search business since 1985. He’s written five books in the last 12 years and does public speaking and workshops using live music. Senior Partner of The East Wing Search Group. He’s also the co-author of a new book, “The CEO’s Guide to Talent Acquisition.” He can be reached at, or 847-381-0977

Ten Rules for Doing Layoffs Right

“I am sorry to have to inform you that your job is being eliminated. Please report to HR for processing.”

I have personally removed thousands of people from their jobs through layoffs. I think this is why I keep writing about the credit crisis and the impact it is having on our economy. It sucks.

The people and companies who caused this to happen suck.

Layoffs suck.

Layoffs bite.

The worst task in Human Resources is having to go and tell a group of useful and productive individuals that the company doesn’t need them any more!

Doing layoffs right is difficult. Communicating layoffs correctly is a critical skill, and one that Human Resources professionals and managers must do well. The cost is too high not to do it right.

Here are the rules.

1. Don’t do layoffs
2. Don’t do layoffs without severance
3. Don’t do layoffs without thinking about it first
4. Don’t use layoffs to deal with other management issues

If you have to perform this task, it is critical that it be performed competently, with compassion and respect for each individual.
Ideally, when you do this, you will be able to tell your associates that the company has done everything it could do to avoid having a layoff. Hopefully, they will know that this is being said with credibility.

Business sometimes has no other alternative, regrettably.

Having said that, I am not a fan of reducing the workweek of all employees before you make a cut if you know the lull in business will be extended. Quoting Mr. Spock from Star Trek, “Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”

Don’t Act Like Spock at the Layoff Meetings

Checklist of essential tools for doing layoffs the right way

1. Be emotionally available. Don’t put on your Mr. Spock face! When people are being told they are losing their jobs, they are angry, scared, frightened, in short, emotional. They need to know you are emotionally available to them as well. They also need to know that you care. Don’t be afraid to show it, even though the tendency is to avoid it.

2. You need to “stand up’. Don’t try to push the blame off on corporate or some other member of management. In this moment, you are the face of the business. You need to let the associates kill the messenger if need be. (Figuratively, one hopes!)

3. Bring your mega-managerial skills! Be prepared to listen attentively, answer difficult questions, absorb some anger, defuse some conflict.

4. Have answers. Come with as much detail about who, what, when, where and why as you can. Hold group meetings if necessary and then follow up individually until everyone gets the answers they need. Information on severance pay, benefit continuation, separation dates, are other opportunities available are all questions you should be able to answer.

5. Get answers if you don’t have them. Get back to people quickly. Have contact numbers for support staff like health insurance, EAP, unemployment office, 401(k) administrators available in a package.

6. If the reduction is not immediate, take the group temperature frequently. Talk to people, see how they feel.

I hope I never have to do this kind of work again. It isn’t in my current job description.

Michael VanDervort
Human Resources Writer and Consultant


Tech Attire in today's market

Working with a variety of technology professionals, most rise up from the ranks of engineering related jobs. Engineers are notoriously known for focusing on their designs, products and projects more so than their appearance. Hence the pocket protectors, white socks with black pants, tennis shoes with a suit, and bed-head. As an engineer rises in the ranks of their career, most acclimate a grasp of dressing well – realizing the need to interact with non-technical business professionals. Yet I’m always reminding people of the little fashion faux pas’s that they may overlook – making them appear less professional in a management meeting, client visit, trade event or in a job interview.
Harvey Mackay wrote a good article worth reading – even if you may not be interviewing, there are many gold nuggets of information for looking your best.

“No firm came to symbolize the opulence of the economic boom better than Google. With some "workplaces that feature pool tables and volleyball courts," this Internet giant has bent over backwards to woo top performers. Tough times are upon us all, including this mega-search engine. "Google has also begun chipping away at perks," the Wall Street Journal reported recently. "In recent months, it reduced the hours of its free cafeteria service and suspended the traditional afternoon tea in its New York office."
Just months ago, you could get your foot in the door of many an employment office sporting a tattered sneaker. Talent was king. According to the Department of Labor, more than 10 million people were unemployed in December. Of these, more than 1.2 million lost their jobs between September and November. Overnight, job hunting has become a buyer's market, and employers have turned downright picky about who will be offered a coveted spot on the payroll.
A crisp and businesslike appearance is back as an expectation on the part of many prospective employers. A recent New York Times article announced "The Return of the Interview Suit." It quotes Gloria Mirrione, a managing director of a financial services placement firm: "We are back to a time when every company expected both women and men to wear suits and we didn't have a Casual Friday. . . . They are looking for a sharper style. I recommend a strong suit that says you are collected and ready to work."
The article highlights some critical appearance details. For example, a solid black suit screams attention to dandruff flecks or gray hairs. White shirts should be "pristine" and preferably new. Ladies' tote bags need to provide a professional-looking home for one's BlackBerry. In other words, don't look like you're going camping.
The clothes you wear—and they don't need to be expensive—say a lot about your discipline, taste and social poise. That accepted, the most important thing you need to dress for an interview remains your mind.
Learn everything you can about the company and its immediate needs. Any company hiring in this economy is banking on their new employee making a key contribution immediately. Find out what that is.
Times author Eric Wilson suggests scouting a prospective employer's tastes and expectations before an interview. "The key is to research the corporate culture to learn what a potential boss might expect." I like that research to go well beyond appearance preferences. If your prospective boss is a golf nut or is crazy about symphony music, be prepared to say something sensible about these topics.
Sometimes standing out can win the day. One reader, who was no hockey wizard, got a job as a hockey announcer by suiting up as a goalie in everything from mask to skates.
Rob Donkers, a Canadian educator, recently emailed me that a young woman sewed up a job as a "software programming ninja" when she appeared for the interview in a Japanese warrior costume. For most jobs, though, the button-down look is the better bet.
When you enter an interviewer's office, zero in on memorabilia and personal touches:
• What books are prominently displayed on the shelves? Can you share a comment or two about an important lesson you learned from reading one of the authors?
• Autographed photos and civic or industry awards can be particular points of personal pride. If you can offer some authentic praise or admiration, consider making a passing comment.
• The individual's laptop, monitor or other office equipment can open up a conversational opportunity.
A job interview is fundamentally a sales encounter. People buy from people they like. And people hire people they like. It's that simple. People like people who are genuine, pleasant, sincere, easy to talk with and friendly.
Have a clever story, quote, or anecdote or two in mind that you can slip into the conversation. Something positive and memorable. Billionaire Oprah Winfrey, for example, uses an unforgettable trademark line: "I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes."
Follow-up a job interview with a handwritten thank-you note. They are essential, especially when they mention how you will fit into the company's culture or help meet its immediate business needs.
Paying attention to how you look can help you get a job. For that matter, it can also help you keep one. With companies trimming right and left, they want to retain people who best present their firm's image.
Mackay's Moral: Dress like a mess and you won't see success.”

Book Review: Smart Networking by Liz Lynch

I’m Gary Perman, a headhunter that owns a boutique firm that provides critical management for technology companies throughout North America.
This is a great book for the novice as well as the experienced networker.
It guides the novice through step by step networking methods as well as
Gives the reasons “why” one networks and the benefits received from networking.
The experienced networker will learn some great advanced networking methods
As well as pick up many nuggets of Gold to use at professional and social events,
On-line, and over the phone. I’ve been networking for years and found this book
Contains a tremendous amount of ideas I could put to use immediately.
This book is well worth your time.

Managing During Tough Times

During the easy times, everybody can make things happen. But tough times, especially economic downturns, require a different approach to managing. In fact, the ability to re-assemble the team and manage the interpersonal conflicts that arise during tough times is seen as a key to survival and growth. But what can you do to maintain morale when tough times strike?
- First, be honest with yourself. Do not end up believing in your own marketing and PR
campaigns. Do not lose your intellectual honesty.
- Second, refocus on your true competitive strategy. Do not overreact to current industry conditions and chase trends. Start by investing in a strength instead of shoring up weaknesses, and do not work on anything where you might be just average. It is important to emerge from tough times without compromising the potential future growth.
- Third, revisit your value metrics and look hard at what you truly need to measure and analyze. Consider what may happen during growth periods, when inexperienced venture teams may be hiring “B” bodies (called “under-hiring”) instead of going after quality “A” team members. Once the growth curve (topline sales) flattens in tough times, these “B” bodies become dead weight and the organization will lose its lift. In such down times entrepreneurs often stay in denial, then not cut deep enough or quick enough. Tentative or partial cuts will only slow the bleeding, not stop it. Do not be afraid to “prune the tree deeper than imagined.” If you need to reduce headcount, make your cuts based on performance, rather than on arbitrary factors like seniority, nepotism, or friendship. Focus on keeping the people who can help you drive value.
- Fourth, you need to create and communicate a positive agenda for your remaining workforce that creates a sense of purpose, and strategic direction for keeping the venture moving forward. It is important to clearly communicate that the decision to retain each of them was based on an objective examination of their contributions to the venture. Make it clear that they are still with you because your management team wants them there.
- Fifth, a reduction in headcount is an excellent time to revise or implement an effectively targeted incentive program. In the middle of tough times, such an effort by the venture team makes it clear to the remaining employees that your venture is looking ahead through lean times and will not be passive in its pursuit of success. In tough times, great teams pull together. Like John Elway’s famous ”drive” during the football game, this action reassures the remaining employees that management not only has a strategy to address the tough times, but more importantly is committed to sharing the upside benefits of achieving that strategy with its people. It is financially sound too, because by relying on incentive programs instead of salary increases, you can motivate targeted behaviors that drive value while simultaneously holding down fixed salary costs.

The weakening economy and turmoil in the U.S. financial system have left employees uneasy in workplaces across the country. How bad will it get? When will it end? As workers fear for their jobs, employers wonder how to make their teams as productive as possible so their companies can survive the crisis with a minimum of damage.