Action: Feels Bad, But is Good For Us?

We always have to earn the good things in life!

I have seen some absolutely brilliant, talented, intelligent and Good-Natured People fail in their Careers and Business.  I have then seen “Average” people really succeed beyond their wildest dreams and achieve amazing things in their businesses!

There are often quite a few reasons, but what it often comes down too is how much people can handle doing things “They Don’t want to Do”.  I know this sounds obvious – but let’s face it, if we want to achieve something in our lives – then quite often we have to do things that may “Hurt” but is good for us!

One time I was unemployed for a while (before I had a Business).  Any logical person would know that the solution to being unemployed would be to get a job.  However, if any of you have had trouble finding a job – it can take a lot of work and be a very painful process!

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, YES!

The trick is that the Rejection and Pain is part of the process and it can really hurt, but it is good for us! Even in our own businesses as well – dealing with rejection is a key part of it (be it from banks, to clients to suppliers) and the NO, NO, NO, YES process is very common!

Also as well, even though the “NO’s” may hurt at the start, as we get better – the NO’s lose their intensity and become part of the process.

The other common example is running 10km, it can be completely inconceivable at the start, but after lots of training – it can become fairly standard and even quite enjoyable!

Where extreme Positive Thinking goes wrong is that it tries to get us to “Distort” what reality means so that we don’t actually accept that stuff hurts and we pretend it’s all easy when it’s really not.

The trick is to accept that when we embark on something new, it is going to be unfamiliar and many of the actions will “Feel Bad, But be Good For us”.

However, if we stick to it – it will start to “Feel Good” and hence we get the results we want in a fun manner!

So if you are doing lots of things right now that “Feel Bad”, but are “Good for you” well done! Make sure you avoid those dangerous “Feel Good, but are Bad for You” items! (Awful Vices and Addictions!).

Boy I wish I learnt this 20 years ago!

Job Interviews: Didn’t you read my resume first?

Job Interviews – you got to love them.  The phone calls, endless rejections, keeping the resume up to date and trying your best to appear “Confident” without showing “Desperation”.

I have read dozens of books and probably been to 90+ Interviews in my life time and I can honestly say that many of these books are written by people who I doubt have had to apply for a job in a long time.

That is, I found many of these texts to really be providing “Pre-Internet”, “Pre-GFC” type of advice with the complete assumption that you are only going up against 1-2 other candidates in a given job.

I know some very good recruiters in Sydney and I have a lot of respect for the pain and suffering that many of them go through.

Unfortunately, like in any profession – you get your occasional “Rotten Apple in the Cart”.

I had this very enthusiastic recruiter call me up and offer a job to me that was 2 ranks below what I was doing at the time.  The role offered less than what I was on and to make things better – it was for an industry that I have never worked in before.

I politely told the recruiter all the pertinent facts and that I was not suited for this role and not interested.  The recruiter kept “Pushing & Pushing” and saying I would be great for it.

They then said they will put me to their client for a higher wage.  I then said, “I don’t think so – it’s not just me”.

But the recruiter kept insisting on me – so okay, I could be wrong here? Ed – just keep an open mind.

So anyway, I rock up at the interview and it was clear in the first 3 minutes that this job wasn’t for me.  So anyway, I continue talking to the client and they started just becoming very rude and harsh with me.  I quite realized that this wasn’t going anywhere, so I simply asked “Look, you don’t seem to be too thrilled with me – Can I ask what your concerns are?”.

The client then replied “Oh, we are just keeping their options open”.  The client then started asking me quite personal questions about my business and personal life.  Although I have no problem in answering these, the complete process from the Recruiter to Client was strange to me.

The client then got very rude with me and started winding things up and then turned it on me asking “Do you have any questions as we are very busy?”.  I then a second time, went to excuse myself and said “Well, it looks like you are busy – so I won’t keep you”.

So then the client replies “No it’s okay ask away” after really being rude with me.

It was a very strange experience, no-one listened to me when I said it wasn’t me.  In fact, my resume clearly stated exactly who I am – and still to this day I wonder why they even bothered to talk to me?

Having been a hiring boss and also the poor candidate looking for work – I found it was really bad form.  It appeared they didn’t even read my resume and for whatever reason, they completely ignored my protests.

After thinking it through, I had a sneaking suspicion that the Recruiter just wanted me there as a “Filler”.  Either that or they are completely daffy! A good lesson here is an old cliche “Time in Money!”.  Just ask for what you want and don’t mess around I say!

“Nice” people that are out to get you!

In our world there is a lot a nice, good-natured people who would no doubt help an old lady across the road, put $2 in the Salvation Army Tin, treat co-workers well and even not even beep their horn at you if you stall taking off when the traffic light turns green.

These are the type of people that really make contributions and are often a pleasure to have around.

Then, you get the “Other” type of people.  You know who I mean, I mean the people that can be selfish, manipulative and who are out purely to protect number one.  These people can be experts at “Pretending” to be Good Natured or nice.  That is, some of these people know when and how to turn on the charm to get what they want (often with little regard for others).

I remember that I once worked with this person.  They were very “Friendly” and “Nice” on the surface, but I heard from other people in the office “Watch Out” for this person.  I didn’t have a problem with this person directly and in fact I seemed to have a reasonable rapport with them.

However, this person would often complain about other people, say how bad things were for them and really appeared to “Enjoy” back-stabbing others.  In fact, beneath the “Nice” exterior, really appeared to exist a twisted individual, who would get a thrill from controlling, manipulating and hurting others.  There were dozens of examples from this person as to this type of behaviour.

They would always “Smile” and also be so “Charming” about it.

Then, when there were problems in the business – the dirty politics came out.   This person would “Knife” others in the back, criticise others and never took any real personal responsibility for what they were doing.  That is, they really pointed the finger at others in a harmful way – without taking any real accountability themselves.  This person managed quite a few people and a lot of their direct-reports had similar problems.

Later on, although I did my best to work with this person – they started trash talking me to others.  I really did learn that if you meet someone who “Back-Stabs” everyone to you, you can safely bet $100 they trash-talk you to others as well.  Then as some problems in the business increased, this person’s dirty ethics got worse and worse – and even some of their lies came up as “Feedback” into my next performance review!  Even though this individual’s results were extremely poor!

This person was very manipulative and the good news of it all was, that about 1 – 2 years later – I heard from an old colleague that this person was demoted.  This person was just a power junkie and I could imagine that this would have been a tough blow for them.  It really appeared that with declining results, this person couldn’t lie, cheat, or manipulate their way out of this one.

Unfortunately in some workplaces, we see people who aren’t necessarily competent get promoted or keep positions purely for the fact that they have mastered politics and not their actual jobs.  It’s a tough situation, as you can get good honest, hard-working bosses that accidentally hire people who are good at “Snow-Balling” them as such.

The good news is, that in many workplaces with clever objective management, these people often are detected and it’s great to see them get what was coming to them.  If you are an employer or an employee – it’s really important to find these people, coach them out of the bad behaviour and hold them accountable for their actions.

Unfortunately, there are always a few sharks in the fishing tank! * Thank you to “Dave” from Flickr for the great Lucky Charms Pic.

Workplace Politics: Watching Weasels Avoid Accountability

I don’t know about you, but in my Corporate Career (especially as I moved higher up the Corporate Ladder) I have seen more and more unfortunate office and workplace politics.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I respect that Politics plays a very important part in our society and especially as a Senior Manager one has to be very sensitive and aware of political scenarios, what you can say, what you cannot say and of course the feelings of your team and key stakeholders that you work with.

But I am talking about something totally different in this article.  I am talking about the “Lazy Political Weasel” as described quite brilliantly in “Dilbert And The Way of the Weasel”.  If you haven’t got this book, please go and check it out – it’s very satirical, politically incorrect – but extremely accurate at some points! (Check out Dilbert’s Site).

Of my working career I have worked with a range of people.  Some are extremely competent, trustworthy, passionate, intelligent, caring, self-improving and accoutable people.

Some are just simply not.  You often hear lines in that “We Assess On Results”, “Everyone is Treated Equally”, “Everyone is assessed on the same KPI’s” – but come on – you know and I know this isn’t always true? Haven’t you seen in perhaps at least one workplace these two extremes:

– A hard working, passionate, accountable and honest individual working for a good wage who get’s dumped on by everyone.

– A political Monster / Weasel who screws things up, doesn’t get results, blames everyone else and just seem untouchable or gets promoted quickly?

Almost everyone I talk to has a story about this and I have a few myself.  Love it or hate it, some people who lack substance really know how to “Manipulate & Play The System” to get what they want. Unfortunately in some companies these people survive but in some cases there is nothing better than seeing these people held accountable for their actions. Many years ago, I worked with a certain manager that honestly sounded like a politician.

They really had a good relationship with the boss and were able to play them like an accordion.  If anything, this person reminded me a bit of President in the Obama in the respect of “Mastered the speeches and the words” but when you look at tangible results they were always “Delayed due to other person / factor X” , “Results are on the way” or I am still fixing up “The problems caused by the last manager”.

Even though this person had it good for a while, they eventually were “Weaselled Out”, was forced to leave their job and could never get back in at a similar level.

It was actually quite sad, even though this person did get what was coming to them – if only they focused more on delivering results compared to manilpulating others they would have had a much more fulfilling life based on “Integrity / Results” and not “Hype / Lies”. My lessons from this are very simple – treat everyone fairly, assess on results and hold people accountable. If anything, it looks like the American Public are going to hold Obama to account.  After all, if you rally up everyone for “Change” and bag the last administration, you better get some results!

* Thank you to David Allsopp from Flickr for the great pic.

Job Interviews – If you don’t like me, just ask me to leave!

Some years ago, when I was relatively new to Sydney I did what most people do – update the resume, put my tie on and go and squeeze some palms to get my name out there. I must have been to at least 50+ interviews and had anything from people who don’t like me, to people that love me – to people that lead you on to the last minute and hire someone else  I remember one key role for a National Company.  I went for this role and had just an excellent first interview.  I went in, we got along like a house on fire, they were friendly, I was friendly and both parties were keen to go the next level.

In addition, the line manager that interviewed said me they needed someone very quickly and liked the idea of us working together.

So great, what can possibly go wrong?

I ended up meeting with two General Managers that looked after the company.  One was the basic Expansionist / Operational Manager and the other one of the Finance / IT type of Manager.

With the Expansionist Manager, we hit it off.  It went really well and I thought “Wow – I stand a very good chance here”.  Now, the Finance Manager – just hated my guts! From the moment I walked into the interview the Finance Manager:

– Interrupted me.

– Wouldn’t let me answer questions.

– Tried to pick holes in my resume.

– Put me down by saying strange lines such as “You seem to have a lot going on upstairs, you look very impatient?”

– Wouldn’t give me their full attention.

– Generally showed a disdain towards me.

Anyway, when I got out of the interview, I spoke to the recruiter (who set me up there and was really astute) and told them the honest truth. Fair enough, some love you and some don’t? No – this isn’t the ending here. The recruiter then rang up and the Company wouldn’t answer his basic questions and just held out on things.  As a job seeker this is very annoying when they drag you on! Either hire me or don’t!

They then stretched and stretched things out for 10 weeks until they told me they are no longer interested in me.

So anyway, I thought “What a nasty company” so no problem.  But then 6 months later I see that actual role advertised again! Then 1 year later it’s advertised again! Didn’t they need someone quickly? In hindsight I was very glad to not work with this company in that, if this is how they hire people – their decision making processes must be very scary and tricky.  If anything I feel really sorry for the first person that interviewed me – they were extremely busy and needed help but didn’t get the support they needed from above.

The lesson learned for me in this situation was that it’s important to be direct with people and don’t drag people with you.  That is, if you are a job seeker or if you are an interviewer – if you don’t like the other person then politely wind things up and move on. At the end of the day, no one wins from wasting time and we all have better things to do!

Are Beating Up Bullies Ethical?

Coming from a Middle Eastern heritage and growing up in Regional Victoria – I was picked on a lot for my race.  There was even a point where I was getting into a fight every week – I won more than I lost – but all I have today is “Boxers Nose” to show for it.

I remember one strange experience, where I just started at this high school – the “School Bully” decided to pay me a visit and prove himself in front of a cheering crowd of people saying “Get the Iranian Kid!!”

Anyway, I took 2 hits to the head and really didn’t want to fight at all.  I eventually realized that I had no choice (and also had a Blue Belt in Karate) and jabbed him in the nose.  It was very strange, blood everywhere and he went down and begged for mercy.  Then the crowd cheering went very quiet and the bullies gang all dispersed.

It was the biggest anti-climax of my life, a big honest thrill – but I was expecting the combat to last at least a few rounds!

Now moving onto the workplace, I have found this strange parallel.  Whenever I have stood up to workplace bullies (or people just unfairly pushing me around if “Bully” is a too stronger term) I have many of them to get really angry and say something they regret or some to even break down crying and go on sick leave.  Some have even “Dobbed” on me, only for us to go head to head in front of the HR Manager to either watch them get overtly aggressive or even use the “Water Works” as a means of making out “The Bad Guy I Am”.

In simple terms, like my school yard experience – I have found Bullies are often very good attackers, but very weak defenders.  You stand up to them and they may blow up, but then they usually back off – or even suck up to you!  The words “Bullies” and “Integrity” don’t belong in the same sentence!

This really fried my brain in that, I always though “Good Attacker, Good Defender”.  Wrong! I have found that generally the people who attack the most are generally the weakest and even at times, I have had the pleasure of watching these people leave the company or incur the wrath of a well trained HR Manager.

One of my big mistakes though has always been standing up to these people too late! Instead of “Nipping it in the bud” – I would always take late action when I am tired and sick of them. So my advice to you? If you are being “Bullied” or perhaps a softer word “Pushed Around Excessively” – my suggestion is to really think about why you are letting people do that. My fault has always been “Others are better than me, therefore I have to take it”.  When I got out of that thinking, it made “Bully Beating” easy and even fun at times! But be careful though! The solution for hate is certainly not more hate!

So if it’s your co-worker, boss, staff member, partner, family member or whoever – my suggestion is to stand your ground. No one respects a wimp and “Doormats” are only used for people to wipe their feet on, no? * Thank you to “Greencolander” from Flickr for the great image.

We Hate Our Top Performing Employees

In my years of Corporate Experience, I can summarize many of my co-workers and bosses into 2 Main Categories:

– Team Players – They take responsibility for their own decisions, support you and believe in you. They share responsibility for your wins and for your losses.

– “I” Players – They will selectively take responsibility and support you at certain times of their choosing. They take responsibility for your wins and blame you for your losses.

During one role, I had a fantastic boss who was a real team player.  They were sharp, objective, fair and very firm.  It was challenging working for them, but a good positive experience that really gave me some great skills.

Then, there was a boss that was the direct opposite, emotional, blaming, accusing and went from one extreme to the other:

– They go through phases of ignoring you completely.

– Then when things go bad, they micromanage you like hell – and because they don’t know what you do exactly or how the business works (because they ignored you previously) they just can’t get their act together and can often make the problems often worse.

In one company, I was hired with a very specific purpose.  I had to go into a company with an objective to turn around the business.  Very kindly (even in the job interview) my future Boss made it clear to me that some individuals were “Hostile” and that I have to be thick skinned to get some Leopards to change their spots.

After 6-12 months when I had a good track record, some wins and more credibility my Manager was fantastic in the respect of acknowledging that and increasing my relative Responsibility and Decision Making Authority.

Some managers were copping a lot of flak for their areas non-performing and my manager was really holding them accountable. When they saw my status go up in the organization, some really turned nasty on me!

This is the bit that fried my brain, I was doing an excellent job, getting clear revenue growth, good feedback from customers – but no matter what I achieved some of my peers just wouldn’t work with me? My Manager was frustrated as well, and kindly explained to me that the company had been like it for years – and that some fresh blood was great.

After I left this role, it took me many years to really understand what actually happened.  I was being friendly, professional, courteous – and yet in this company I was the subject of ridicule, contempt and even some clear bullying.

Then it finally occurred to me and I saw this happen to other co-workers in other environments.  If you have the wrong mix on your management team or even just a few members with an “Empire Building” mentality you can be in a lot of trouble.  That is, in it’s most basic form you can get these type of workers:

– Business Builders – Individuals focused on results, team work and improving commercial performance.

– Empire Builders – Individuals focused on their own gains, ensuring the team works in their favour and ensuring others “Stay out of their turf”.

This company’s management had several “Empire Builders” on the team.  Well, if one of your peers is an “Empire Builder”, what do you think happens when you get some wins (and even worse greater recognition by your Manager?):

– They get insecure.
– They panic.
– They get worried.
– As they can’t win through “Honest Results” they use any dirty tactic to get even and get on top of the pack again.

And this is what happened to me.  It was very tough and being a young man – this experience honestly did upset me.  After a few years though it started to make sense.

It’s amazing what some people will do when they feel threatened, in that “Ethics” can often take a back seat to “Survival” (or at least “Survival” of a fragile ego).

This experience really taught me how change (be it positive or negative) can bring out the best and worst in people.

All I can say is be thick-skinned and don’t let those bastards pull you down!! 🙂

“If you ask for more money, it will be offensive”

“If you ask for more money, it will be offensive” were key words uttered to myself and my co-workers in one company I once worked for.  On the surface it may sound a bit odd, but there was some very reasonable context for it.

The company I was working for really enjoyed dominance in it’s marketplace for several decades but like many other companies – if they don’t readily change and keep up they can see their market position (combined with costs rising) dwindle till it’s unprofitable (or at least not meeting their targets).

As with this employer, it really didn’t move with the times – and unfortunately a lot of “Catching Up” had to be done with a fairly viscous restructure combined with extensive retrenchments and “Squeezing Out” of unwanted individuals.

During this time, the phrase above “If you ask for more money, it will be offensive” was banded to us by senior management.  This was imposed on “Everyone” with 2 year wage freeze.  They made it clear that “It would apply to everyone with NO EXCEPTIONS”.

As the company was in a bit of trouble (which was obvious), although it does leave a bitter taste in ones mouth – I am a commercial man and could accept what happened.  In fact, I am all for wage freezes when companies are in trouble (i.e. it’s better to earn less and keep everyone in a job).

About a 1 year later (with my pay really starting to lag behind industry average especially compared to some of my peers) I overhead chatter and found out that some people in the company were actually getting pay rises.  One was a friend of mine, that actually went to resign – the company offered them an extra $10K and they chose to stay.

Wow did I see red! I confronted Management immediately and was very upset at the deception and they didn’t deny it – but they could work out who told me.  That person that told me was completely berated!   I then went and asked an explanation as to “Well, I am earning my targets – I do 60 – 70 hours per week – why can’t I get some?” and was given the answer of “We can’t do that in your case and if you tell anyone, we will take action against you”.

This was a very unethical move – they all openly lied to us and when the truth of their deception bubbles to the surface they then bullied & threatened me back into line.

I actually didn’t have to tell anyone anyway, as people started figuring it out and it became common knowledge fairly quickly.

On a funny ironic note, I got a far better job and when I went to resign they tried to “Talk me out of it” and my manager at the time threw cold water over the opportunity (which was great I may add) that I was moving too.

This was a tough lesson and certainly taught me about being naive! I believe in hard work and putting in your personal best – but always keep an eye out and ensure your employer is doing the right thing by you! 🙂

I have found in my experience some companies are great and really value their staff, but unfortunately you get some companies or individuals that see employees as they would a piece of machinery (and would easily discard you as one would throw out a broken Kettle).

* Thanks to Jason Scragz from Flickr for the great picture of the Gun & Money.

You Will Get Promoted After You Resign

When I started out in my career, I really worked Night & Day to build as much early “Credibility & Experience” for myself as possible.  This job was fantastic and I couldn’t really ask for a better start (as I was very lucky to go straight from University to such a job with a good Multi-National Company).

My career with the employer was going quite well at the start -but then it hit a very obvious wall all of a sudden.  The company hit some hard times with September ’11 and Head Office overseas was in a bit of hot water.  As a result, wages were frozen, the once limitless advancements were off the table and lots of people were getting retrenched.

After a few more years, I worked really hard and achieved my KPI’s and targets.  But still there was nowhere to move.  People in other divisions were getting great opportunities, but as stated to me “Because I was good at what I did, they couldn’t replace me”.  Strangely enough, I was only 23 – 24 years old and already hit a glass ceiling.  It was a very frustrating time for me personally as my peers in other divisions were on better pay and moving forward (where I would even work more hours than them and get far less).

Then, I had a great break and got accepted for a Marketing Manager role interstate.   Once reinvigorated, I offered my resignation with a smile and was all ready to take the next step.

Then, after moving interstate for the job (about 1-2 months later), I got a call from the employer offering me a Promotion! I was actually quite offended in the respect that after all I have been though and after finally moving on – they then come back to me wanting to talk business.  I gave them the chance, they kept overlooking me but for whatever reason they only seemed to take me seriously once I left and had a “Better Job”.

It’s like the better job gave me the credibility for them to “Value Me More”.  As you can appreciate, I certainly didn’t go back!

Isn’t that funny how humans think sometimes and how people within companies can operate.  They offer people more money when they resign? When you look them in the eye, smile and hand over the resignation letter (that you have been writing in your mind for 6+ months) they then treat you like a person and start valuing you?

It’s a pity they just didn’t take me seriously before hand! (Save us both lots of work and disappointment).  My key lesson here is appreciate things before you lose them!

Nothing like closing the gate after the horse has bolted huh? 🙂

* Thank you to Daniel Johnson from Flickr for the horse image used.

I can beat 200+ Applicants by being Positive?

I have quite a few friends in the recruitment field in Sydney and it’s amazing that even post GFC the market is still very quiet (compared to the years gone past) – at least in the Sales & Marketing Professions.Quite a few of the recruiters I know told me that for any job they have come up – be it a relatively Junior Marketing Assistant to that of a Marketing Director you usually get 200+ Applicants for each. In fact, they even take the ads of www.seek.com.au pretty quickly now.It is a very different world we live in now and depending on your area of expertise – ouch! Certainly, I am very lucky to have the job I do now, because if I didn’t I would certainly be toast. In that context I am very lucky – and at the same time, I know that there are still many good people in a range of professions who our out of their professional line of work.

This brings me to my main criticism of a lot of so called “Career Advice” you get in some books that are out there. They will tell you things like:

– Take your time, do what you want to do! – Find something you love and go for it! – Visualize you winning and go for it!

Now, before you accuse me of being negative, stupid – silly or want to criticize what i am saying, please understand this. I am a strong believer in understanding your life purpose and really going for it.

What I am critical of is that many of these books completely ignore unfortunate realities such as:

– Visualization doesn’t pay your rent. – Visualize all you want – you are up against 200+ Candidates who probably at least 30 are doing exactly what you are. – You can take your time finding your “Dream Job” – does that mean I don’t have to pay my bills in that time?

The 80’s and 90’s (well most of it) and the early 2000’s were great economic conditions – but things are very different now. I think we all need to be very pragmatic and aware of the reality – but at the same time, being “Reasonable Positive” about what we want to achieve.

Thank you to “I don’t know, maybe” from Flickr for the great pic.