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Attitude or Talent?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: judepics

Sometimes one can conquer the other.

One of the most difficult, but rewarding things I do is encourage people to kick butt and take names – despite all assurances that they  can’t do whatever, can’t reach that rung of the ladder.

There’s a lot of people out there who don’t believe they can do (whatever). Some of them might be right – and if they never try, they are surely right.

But sometimes you encounter someone who is simply off-the-charts amazing. And sometimes you can see it, but coaxing it out of them is crazy hard.

At times, it’s all you can do to get them to step up to the plate and take a swing. But once they do…look out.

One such example

Paul Potts was a not-so-confident cell phone salesperson.

He didn’t want to go, but his wife convinced him that he had to give it a shot. Even then, a flip of a coin almost kept him off the stage at Britain’s Got Talent.

On stage, you worry for him as soon as you see him. He looks nervous. He’s unsettled and not at all sure of himself.

When I saw the opening moments of this video, I wondered how he managed to be successful selling mobile phones.

Despite all that, he begrudgingly steps up to the plate and does this… (sorry, I can’t embed the video – but it’s definitely worth it).

Who is your Paul?

Who in your organization has a talent like this buried inside them? The talent could be anything – not just what Paul does. It could easily be something that you never expected them to be capable of.

I’ve definitely had tech staff come in-house only to find that they were amazing salespeople with an innate ability to create a relationship.  Not what you expect from a tech person.

What are you doing to seek out these talents?

What are you doing to make it easy to step out, step up and be amazing like Paul?

Does your business encourage such things? If a cultural change is needed to make it easier for folks to show a skill that the business could leverage, you have to step up and enable it.

What would it do for your company to find just one person with amazing skills that your company could leverage?

Look around. Enable their amazingness.

If you aren’t sure about the your business’ create-some-amazingness culture, think about how it accepts suggestions from employees and customers. Is that easy? Rewarding for the suggester? Is there a feedback loop? Or is there an abuse loop?

What environment do you need to create to make it as easy as possible for your Paul to step up?

What does your business potentially miss out on if you don’t enable/encourage your Pauls? What do your customers miss out on?

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Did you Google them first?

That person you’ll be meeting shortly.

The prospective employee.

The vendor you can’t get an answer from.

Your kid’s new soccer coach.

That school board candidate.

Those persistent salespeople you’re thinking about giving an appointment.

The people who live next door to that dream house you have your eye on.

Who are they… *really*?

Did you Google them?

Why would you do such a thing? Same reason that 79% of employers do it before an interview.

Maybe to protect yourself and find out a little reputational info about the person, but how about to continue the conversation with something more meaningful than the weather.

Seems like a really obvious thing, but too few do it. If they did, what will they learn about you? What will they find interesting and ask you about?

Probably something you might never mention on your own, even though you care about it.

If you find some less than flattering information, you might just let someone know that they need to think a little harder about what they do, how they do it or at least how much they post about it on Facebook.

Worst case, you might just make a really solid connection with someone over an obscure piece of info you might never have known, and make a *real* connection.

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Be employable

Yes, that’s a baby with a bong.

I’ll get to that shortly.

I spend 99.9% of my time here writing things aimed at employers/business owners, but today this one is for the employees and those who would like to be employed.

Lately, I’ve noticed a few things that make it not all that surprising that some folks aren’t having much luck getting work, so I have a few suggestions…

Be in Wikipedia for a good reason

The viral news piece of the last couple weeks has been the story about the Jet Blue flight attendant who, after getting clanged on the head by an overhead luggage compartment door (thanks to a particularly snarky customer), unleashed a flurry of profanities, popped the emergency slide, grabbed two beers and slid down the slide.

Yes, many of us have been sorely tempted to do something more than a little nutty when a member of the public acts like an idiot…but most of us find a way to suppress that impulse. Slater didn’t.

If you’re going to end up in Wikipedia, try to make it for a good reason.

To their credit, Jet Blue’s public response to this has been subdued and as close to ideal as you could expect for a “PR crisis” (or opportunity) like this, but ask yourself this:

While you might relate to Slater’s frustration and find his actions funny, you have to wonder if any other airline would hire a guy who did what he did.

For that matter, would *any* other business – of any kind – take a chance on him?

I wouldn’t. I can see the guy being frustrated at the annoying passenger and upset about getting clocked on the head, but popping the evacuation slide? He may have hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook, but how many of them will offer him a job?

And speaking of Facebook…

Don’t hang your keester out in the breeze on Facebook

Microsoft’s Data Privacy Day discussions made note of research finding that 79% of US hiring managers rejected candidates based on what they found online.

So….YES, those comments about employers that you make on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace might come back and bite you in the butt.

So might your discussions about how hammered you were at work yesterday (even though you’re sure no one noticed).

And so might those Facebook-visible photos you posted of your baby holding drug paraphernalia. Permanent link (pdf)

Don’t inhale

More and more employers perform drug tests and/or have illegal drug termination policies. When you take a look at the DUI-involved accident numbers in industries like trucking, you’ll see why.

This also goes back to the Facebook issue. If you are doing these things, broadcasting them in public seems like a bad idea. It reflects on you, but also your employer, your kids, your parents and a number of others. Is that really what you want to accomplish by posting that stuff?

Besides, you might run for office someday.

Button your shirt

I was sitting in a restaurant in Columbia Falls last weekend, having a conference with one of my about-to-be Eagle Scouts.

A guy walks in to apply for a job.

His shirt is unbuttoned. Let me correct that – the shirt has no buttons.

Thanks to the prevailing airflow in the building, I can smell him across the room (about 10-15 ft.)

If he was applying to be an extra in a rap video, maybe (smell notwithstanding) you’d sign him up.

The waitress hands him an application, he sits down.

Shortly, the owner appears. He asks why he comes into his restaurant applying for a job with his shirt like that. “The buttons popped off on the way here.”

“All of them?”, the owner asks.

The topic of smell comes up. Excuses are made. “Didn’t you know you were coming to apply for this job when you left the house?’, says the owner.

It went downhill from there, with the owner providing some quiet advice to the man about thinking through the process before dropping in to apply for the job. Hopefully he takes it to heart.

Look at it from the other side of the table

Employers are under a lot of pressure from a lot of different places. Finances, insurance, legal, employment paperwork, Feds, State, etc.

They don’t need more baggage.

Make it a no-brainer to hire you. Don’t do this kind of stuff.

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12 things good bosses need to know and do

Table Decoration
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kevin

Today’s guest post comes from the high-falutin’ Harvard Business Review.

But don’t get all snooty on me, because this post is a home run.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a boss or an employee or a solo entrepreneur, there is definitely something here that will resonate with you.

This is important stuff anytime, but it’s especially critical during a time when many employees and their families are stressed with economic worries, the oil spill or heck, even the Celtics loss.

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Lessons from companies that have NEVER laid off an employee

Today's News
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Today’s guest post is a story from about 9 companies who have, as of mid-January 2009, never had a layoff – some going back over 80 years.

Check out the stories of Nugget Market, Devon Energy, Aflac, QuikTrip, The Container Shop, NuStar, Stew Leonard’s, Publix and Scottrade.

Cross-training, telecommuting, careful hiring and resource use, flexible salary review periods, flex schedules, focused expenditure justification, tons of training, great communication, loyalty that runs deep – in both directions, thinking long-term, focusing on the staff as an asset instead of a cost, and employee ownership.

There are lessons here on far more than just avoiding layoffs.

Take one home with you.

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Passion or productivity – Which can you handle?

Today’s guest post comes from David Armano, who provokes the manager in you by asking if you can handle the truth. 

No, wait. That was a movie..

David’s question is more challenging. Can you handle a passionate employee? Do they even belong at your business – even though you probably think and say that you want them? 

Anyone who has worked for someone else and felt like they were the only one who really, truly gave a rip will find themselves nodding their heads.

BUT…now that you’re in charge, could someone like you excel at your business? Or would just rather have someone who is “just” productive?

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Considering telecommuters for your business?

Today’s guest post talks about changes in the workplace surrounding remote workers.

One of the reasons I started Granite Bear back in the 90s was because of a conflict (yeah, that’s glossing it over) over working remotely.

This post discusses the changes in thought processes involved in starting a telework program. Unlike many posts, this one talks at a higher level than most discussions about telework (also called telecommuting), and addresses issues that management has to have under control before going head first into using remote workers.

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Applicants will jump through hoops for your small business – if you ask them


Hiring great employees is one of the most important jobs you have as a small business owner.

It took me a few false starts to figure out that the best way to avoid having to deal with 600 resumes was to concentrate on testing applicants during the application process by giving them hurdles to either jump over or trip over. This eliminated a lot of unnecessary interviewing and resulted in some really great hires.

A few months ago, I hired a virtual assistant using those same techniques, though I did apply a twist or two out of the Victor Cheng Elance playbook.

I put a freebie ad in the Flathead Beacon, which was very clear about my expectations. It resulted in 3 responses.

I replied to all 3 people, 2 of them responded.

Both were given simple tasks with specific instructions. Both completed them, telling me that they were truly interested and could be tested at the next level.

One has since found full-time employment and no longer helps me, but the other has worked out quite well.

Since the initial assignment, she has received numerous others of varying complexity and has performed each to my satisfaction, saving me time and money, and eliminating some tedious work for myself and clients that otherwise might not have gotten done.

Is there some work around your office that can be described step by step and farmed out? Don’t you have more important things to do?