Archive for November, 2011

November 21, 2011

Three Types of People to Fire Immediately

I was forwarded this article the other day not knowing who the original author was. I liked the message though:

Want a more innovative company? Get rid of these folks. Today

We (your authors) teach our children to work hard and never, ever give up. We teach them to be grateful, to be full of wonder, to expect good things to happen, and to search for literal and figurative treasure on every beach, in every room, and in every person.

But some day, when the treasure hunt is over, we’ll also teach them to fire people. Why? After working with the most inventive people in the world for two decades, we’ve discovered the value of a certain item in the leadership toolbox: the pink slip.

Show of hands: How many of you out there in Innovationland have gotten the “what took you so long?” question from your staff when you finally said goodbye to a teammate who was seemingly always part of problems instead of solutions?

We imagine a whole bunch of hands. (Yep, ours went up, too.)

These people—and we going to talk about three specific types in a minute—passive-aggressively block innovation from happening and will suck the energy out of any organization.

When confronted with any of the following three people—and you have found it impossible to change their ways, say goodbye.

1. The Victims
“Can you believe what they want us to do now? And of course we have no time to do it. I don’t get paid enough for this. The boss is clueless.”

Victims are people who see problems as occasions for persecution rather than challenges to overcome. We all play the role of victim occasionally, but for some, it has turned into a way of life. These people feel persecuted by humans, processes, and inanimate objects with equal ease—they almost seem to enjoy it. They are often angry, usually annoyed, and almost always complaining. Just when you think everything is humming along perfectly, they find something, anything, to complain about. At Halloween parties, they’re Eeyore, the gloomy, pessimistic donkey from the Winnie the Pooh stories—regardless of the costume they choose.

Victims aren’t looking for opportunities; they are looking for problems. Victims can’t innovate.

So if you want an innovative team, you simply can’t include victims. Fire the victims. (Note to the HR department: Victims are also the most likely to feel the company has maliciously terminated them regardless of cause. They will often go looking for someone—anyone—who will agree that you have treated them unjustly. Lawyers are often left to play this role. So have your documentation in order before you let victims go, because chances are you will hear from their attorneys.

2. The Nonbelievers
“Why should we work so hard on this? Even if we come up with a good idea, the boss will probably kill it. If she doesn’t, the market will. I’ve seen this a hundred times before.”

We love the Henry Ford quote: “If you think you can or think you cannot, you are correct.” The difference between the winning team that makes industry-changing innovation happen and the losing one that comes up short is a lack of willpower. Said differently, the winners really believed they could do it, while the losers doubted it was possible.

In our experience, we’ve found the link between believing and succeeding incredibly powerful and real. Great leaders understand this. They find and promote believers within their organizations. They also understand the cancerous effect that nonbelievers have on a team and will cut them out of the organization quickly and without regret.

If you are a leader who says your mission is to innovate, but you have a staff that houses nonbelievers, you are either a lousy leader or in denial. Which is it? You deserve the staff you get. Terminate the nonbelievers.

November 5, 2011

I’ve landed.

This may come as a complete surprise to many, but I’ve decided where to call my “vocational home” for the next several years. I’m sure it isn’t a shock that I moved on as I seem to get the 4-5 year itch if I’m not starting something new. I guess I have Attention Deficit Disorder to some degree, though I’ve always said that ADD (or ADHD apparently) is a common, and perhaps even positive, trait of many consultants.

Anyway, I’ve decided to take a role at Microsoft. Specifically the role of Engagement Manager within Microsoft Canada’s Consulting Services organisation.

This role will help me to develop two clear gaps in my professional profile, specifically:

Large Company Experience

I’ve never worked for a large company. In fact, outside of working for a few different companies that had acquired my companies (and a handful of small start-ups), I’ve never really had a “proper job”. In some senses this role at Microsoft is my “first job out of University” (even though that was almost 18yrs ago).

A former business partner of mine and still close friend always said that we are in an ideal demographic. The opportunities that will be available to us in our 40s and 50s will be substantial given the leadership vacuum caused by the baby boomers leaving the work market en force. As such, he would say, we need to start preparing ourselves to be qualified for those opportunities as they come up.

The glaring gap in my profile is demonstrated success within a larger organisation.

Performance in a Focused Area

As an entrepreneur that has founded, developed and sold three different companies over the past 17 years, I’ve always had a role that could only truly be measured by the overall success of the company. The adage of “chief cook and bottle washer” is always correct insofar as you are simultaneously head of sales, finance, operations and delivery … even if you have a head of sales, finance, operations or delivery.

For some time I’ve always wondered how I would do if I was only measured on a few key areas vs. all key areas.

Why Microsoft?

There are three reasons I took this role at Microsoft:

  1. Familiarity. I’ve been partnered with Microsoft for over 10yrs and have developed dozens on dozens of great relationships in the Microsoft Canada subsidiary as well as down at corporate headquarters in Redmond. Not only that, but I have a very intimate knowledge of most of the products, services and solutions and feel as through I’ve almost been an insider anyway for most of my career. The team that I will be working directly with is in particular one of the highest performing teams within their practice globally at Microsoft… and I love a winning team.
  2. Potential. I believe that Microsoft has lost much of its “mojo” in the last 10-14yrs. I won’t go into my personal position on the why, but I can say that Microsoft is poised to either surge ahead past some of its key competitors or cede further ground all the way into effective oblivion. I’m certain the next five years will be a crucial period for Microsoft. I’d like to be a part of it either way as there is a lot of change coming.
  3. Lifestyle. This role at Microsoft addresses both key gaps in my professional profile, but still allows me to a) remain primarily customer-facing, b) be home most nights with my family and c) work within the community that I have invested heavily in for years.

Anyway … as with anything, this is a measured risk, but I want to throw everything into this.

Here goes …

(and if you’d like to contact me, you can reach me at Jame.Healy@Microsoft.com).

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