How We Become What We Hate

5440384453_4669d0096b_b

Featured image by Gage Skidmore.

Donald Trump represents a significant part of America‘s belief system. Many people will object to that statement, but nevertheless you cannot ignore the numbers. The continued polling success — granted a plurality in the GOP party, not a majority — show us what this country can become, something that many of us hate.

Donald Trump’s continued success despite his frequent, outrageous, racist, and demeaning commentary mirrors the way an Americans ethos. It reveals a belligerent stance towards the political establishment and reactionary views towards terrorist attacks, threats and economic uncertainty. And his success also reveals a fear of people who are different than us. Perhaps this is the ugly side of America, the side that we are ashamed of, the angry fearful side that reacts out of frustration and ignorance.

How we got here is a long political process best documented by a subject matter expert instead of me. Yet the discussion of becoming what we hate is something that I am fascinated with, a topic that forms a central arc in my novels, The Fundamentalists.

How Do We Become What We Hate?

22088120465_0ee461f6dd_k

The fear of becoming what we hate is a legitimate one. How many of us groan when a loved one says we are just like our father or mother? Of course, this analogy offers a chuckle compared to the larger issue, becoming something that as a person or a society that we despise.

No one sets out in life to be villain or a scoundrel. No one wants to be the author of policies that spawn economic hardship, death, and destruction. Yet rationalization is a tricky devil. The stairway to hell is lined with small steps.

Little decisions empower great harm. It’s never one decision that turns the tide towards darkness, rather a few of them. And then a few more, and then the next thing you know, wars are declared, recessions and depressions hit the economy. We have been here before, and recently.

Pscyhological studies show that when you put good people in bad situations, bad things happen. Decisions are made to protect oneself, or to fulfill order. Character and moral issues are rarely considered on a macro level or for their long-term impact. If they are, the pressure of the immediate situation or the fear of further difficulties takes precedence.

Leadership and Fear

16739730069_6acacf2484_k

In Perseverance, Book Two of the Fundamentalists, my characters — the village’s leadership — face a difficult situation, an invading force driven by fundamentalist hate. The villagers make decisions to survive. Blood spills. Families break. Heroes die.

Those same decisions challenge the leadership’s character, and create a situation where they believe to avoid another war that they need to build up their defenses and strike back. These decisions set up Hypocrisy, Book Three of The Fundamentalists. I suppose the title says it all. Since the central character in the novel is a six year old girl, and Soleil just turned five, you will have to wait a while for Book Three.

Leadership is often confused with taking actions and doing things to protect the status quo. When war is waged out of fear of future nebulous dangers, it is rarely a good thing. I hope we learned that with the last Iraq war. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz supporters demonstrate that a good portion of America have not learned that lesson.

One of my favorite Republicans is Colin Powell. He once said, “War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support.”

A plurality driven by fear does not equate to a majority. But it can force us to examine our character. It can also force us to become what we hate.

What do you think?

Eating Dog Food

Sometimes you have to do things because they are right, even though you don’t want to. I yielded to staff pressure last week, and committed resources to doing more with our Tenacity5 Media social media accounts. We have to eat our own dog food here.

Why not engage in social before now? I honestly felt doing the client work was more important given how small the company is (three people currently).

Plus I have developed a bad attitude towards social media boutiques — all talk and no experience. So I didn’t want to have the company grouped within a category I consider to be increasingly marginalized by the bad.

But good marketing is good marketing. Quality marketing includes social as part of the overall strategy today, I don’t care what kind of business you have. That doesn’t necessitate an over reliance on a medium, but you can’t avoid it anymore.

A parallel can be drawn to blogging in the 2015 era. Just like I wouldn’t over rely on a blog today, I still think blogging is part of the mix. So I blog once a week just to eat my own dog food. It’s the right thing to do.

Walk the Talk

13164788104_3e4d2d954b_k

Practicing what you preach was the very reason that I engaged in deep emersion with visual media through photography. I also invested in a significant website upgrade with a focus on the visual.

It’s really hard to take someone’s opinion about visual communications seriously if they don’t practice those same views. That is apparent every time I read a social media blogger’s text-heavy post about visual media (see paragraph 2).

Many people wag their fingers at what everyone else is doing wrong, and opine about the way things should be. This is easy to do. It is the path of the pundit.

But sooner or later, you have to stand on your own efforts. It’s one thing to engage in criticism, it’s another thing to become a demonstrative example. One creates attention, the other builds reputation.

We’ve got to eat our own dog food at Tenacity5, and that starts with me.

Featured image by Mel. Second image by Mazen Alhadad.

Sign up for the monthly marketing mash-up. You won’t find these tips on a blog!

Intentional Culture

Successful start-ups often feature an executive who gets credited for a brilliant product or strong service. The product/service is absolutely necessary for buyers, but the leader is celeberated for the wrong reason. Successful start-ups are made of great people. Great executives build teams and cultures that allow their concepts to come to fruition.

When I consider my past efforts to scale, one thing I want to do differently is build an intentional culture to attract the right talent. The culture will be clear in advance about benefits, lifestyle and tone.

Most start-ups create cultures in a haphazard fashion. They figure it out as they go.

The results are obvious. Lack of growth, high turnover, dysfunctional team behavior including absenteeism, poor work quality and infighting.

A founder’s job (and lead executives, too) is not to be the centerpoint of all things in the company, rather the principle enabler. The intentional culture builds a framework for employees to do their job with as little friction as possible.

The framework gives employees clear parameters to operate in and meet their goals. A leader’s job is to find great people, and then encourage them so they achieve their work and grow professionally.

How can you tell a company is a winner? It produces other winners. Successful cultures are marked by people who leave an organization as stronger more capable members of the workforce, including executives capable of leading their own group or starting their own company.

Hire Great Talent

How many times have you heard people complain about their boss? Tough, but hard, or crazy, or controls and interferes with aspects of the work. Bad management is the number one reason people quit their jobs.

Granted, some complaints are the result of managers balancing workload and nurturing people. If you have happy people and no work getting done, there is a problem. If work is getting done, but people are miserable, you have a problem.

Consistantly unhappy people is a clear signal that points to the founder and/or company executives. Founders and executives who cannot manage against their own shortcomings have a hard time succeeding. Some of it is personality, but at least 2/3 of management skills are teachable.

How can you tell if you are the problem as a founder?

Turnover ratio. Get above 20-30% in a single year, and there is a problem. If you are at 50% turnover, then you have a significant issue that needs to be addressed with either training or a change in leadershop. A 70-80% turnover rate in one year is a damning statement about the founder/executive in question.

One year turnover is bad for a company. You lose your investment of intellectual capital, people don’t grow from the experience, and the business is stymied with work in a constant state of flux. Plus customers are let down and leave, and the executive(s) becomes distracted by consistently recruiting replacements.

Everyone benefits when executives optimize the workplace for happiness. Some tips for founders/executives struggling with this:

1) Nurture people. If an executive (including me in the past) has an attitude of “tough, but fair” then they are pretty much an asshole. There is no room for that, and people do not succeed in a vacuum. This is one of my primary lessons learned. The executive should delegate, but be present to encourage and help employees as necessary. They are the ultimate coach, and in helping employees succeed, they win, too.

2) Employees are the center of the workplace universe. Executive attention is good for attracting business, but inside a company an executive competing for the most acknowledgement sucks the emotional life out of the larger team. An executive looks good when the staff performs well and are considered heroes by customers.

Don’t be the hero, make heroes. Want attention? Be a soloproneur. Want to make money? Build teams of stars.

3) Successfully getting work done while keeping people happy is a balancing act. An executive needs to nurture while getting team members to commit to getting work completed. Be random in rewards so they don’t become an expectation, but always be clear to acknowledge successes and strong efforts.

4) When it comes to feedback — a necessary component of getting work done — in person or on the phone is best. Emailed feedback is almost always a disaster (yes, experience again). Avoid giving negative feedback in writing if at all possible. Rather than expressing disapointment, offer your vision and a desire for better quality. Always show the desired outcome, and offer solutions so someone can learn how to get there.

How the Framework Helps

2248688019_f5346b61fd_z
Image by Chris Perardi.

Hiring great people as a start-up is a challenge because of size and risk. Once you get them on board — given an intentional framework and the right attitude of nurturing/work balance — an executive can focus on building the business. When people can’t succeed in the framework and an executive’s assistance, well, there is little you can do other than to move on.

In my mind, part of a good framework is work/life balance. The company has ethics and principles and that drives work ethos. Then there are random rewards for performance, and stated ones, e.g benefits. These create balance.

Expected benefits, which in many ways define the spirit of the company, also attract (or repel) candidates. Here are some of the things I am doing with Tenacity5:

1) Four weeks off, vacation, personal and/or sick leave. No questions asked. One month notice in writing is required for more than two consecutive days off (past lessons learned). Team members who work with the organization for more than two years will get five weeks off. Why so much time? I want to employ rested people that deliver great creative content and strategies on deadline.

2) The work must get done, but perhaps not 9-5. Flexible hours are acceptable so long as the work gets done.

3) Junior staff can telework one day a week. Executives may be hired who work from home (if they are in a different city without an office) or if there is an office they can telework two days a week.

4) Healthcare will be paid for in total by the company.

5) If the company achieves more than 20% profitability over costs in any quarter, profit sharing will occur with all team mebers.

6) No one will be staffed on more than three accounts. It is to the clients’ and the employees’ benefit that work doesn’t get diffused. Further, employees become more capable when they learn the ins and outs of a particular business sector.

7) A new MacBook Air is provided to all new employees. If an employee stays for more than 18 months, they keep the laptop as a bonus.

Generally, this is considered a very generous compensation package. It matches my concept of a framework for an intentional culture. There is a lot to be happy about, and hopefully that will attract employees who normally would go to more established businesses. Further, given the framework and the right management attitude, I believe that people will attend to their work with enhtusiasm.

What do you think?

Featured image by FDF Photo.

Differentiation Requires Show, Not Tell

3422136029_923ae8ecbc
Image by Eric Lim

The Internet and in particular social media have empowered thousands, perhaps millions, to start their own businesses. One outcome of the social media movement is how easily people become “thought leaders” or topical influencers.

As a result, we have many paper tigers running about, almost indistinguishable from the ones with real teeth with one singular exception: Results.

Last week for PRSA-NCC and this morning during a keynote at Brand Camp NYC I discussed this exception, and its critical role in creating true market leadership.

When content and personal branding techniques online quack and act like ducks, many readers are quick to believe. Yet results are not necessarily associated to the voices, creating a problem. Because we have hit a saturation point, more businesses are becoming discerning in their choices of vendors, digging deeper than what’s published on a blog post or LinkedIn group.

As time continues and social becomes a place overburdened with branded marketing content and voices, differentiation requires more. Pundits are a dime a dozen these days, real businesspeople are not.

Continue reading “Differentiation Requires Show, Not Tell”

Crush It, Marissa!

Image by Tilak Bisht
Image by Tilak Bisht

Last week most prominent media outlets reported on Marissa Mayer’s six month bonus. The Marissa story repels me. The media scrutinizes every management move she makes.

It’s because she is a relatively young woman, in my opinion. At this point, I hope she crushes it at Yahoo!, and forever shuts up the media and all the old bastards who think women can’t manage companies.

The men versus women debate goes through the eons. Since Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth we have seen over and over again that when given an opportunity to lead women can do so, and do it quite effectively.

Continue reading “Crush It, Marissa!”