How I Use LinkedIn (So Leave Me Alone)

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(This article was originally posted on LinkedIn – 

Before LinkedIn changed how our profile views looked, there was a small section for “Advice for Contacting Me”.  That got removed in this years’ re-design.  Doesn’t really matter, because no one bothered to look at it any way.

I wrote – “Before I connect with you, I must have met you, or had a phone call with you.”

The hundreds of people who tried to connect with me whom I never heard of obviously didn’t bother reading it.

For me, LinkedIn is a way of managing my network of people I know, or whom I can refer business to (or vice-versa).  But more importantly, it shows my current clients and prospective clients people I actually know.  When I’ve been referred to a prospective client.  I’ll look at the CEO’s LinkedIn profile to see who we know in common.  (After 30 years in business, and with 9 business partners, the odds of me knowing someone are pretty good).

My business is entirely referral based – virtually each of our 200+ clients have been referred to us.  (When you’re in the business of advising executives on their workforce and HR strategies, they most likely aren’t going to hire you with via a google search; they’re going to want to get a recommendation from someone they know).

It’s always a positive when talking to a C-level executive for the first time and being able to identify those connections we have in common.  It immediately enhances my credibility and reassures them they haven’t been steered astray.  It’s a confidence builder.

LinkedIn is not a way of championing how many strangers I can connect with (don’t those people have enough work to do?)

Remember when LinkedIn first became popular?  Some people used it as a game – whoever had the most connections, won.  They even branded themselves “LIONs” (LinkedIn Open Networkers).  As if their credibility depends on which strangers they persuaded to connect with them.  I hate to break it to LIONs – if I don’t know someone, I have 20 other ways to find them without looking through your sorry list of tenuous connections.

What idiots.

One of the best pieces of advice I received when I started my company was this: “You want to be the go-to person for your clients any time they want to find someone else.  For example, ‘I need the name of a great CPA; Eric will know one’.”  I love being that resource for my clients.  I built my company client by client over 14 years and through a great recession.  Do you think I’m going to refer them to someone I don’t know well?

My credibility as a professional is on the line with each referral I make as much as it is with each referral I receive.

My mother has constantly preached “you are judged by the company you keep”.  I believe this is as true with LinkedIn as it is with my friends.  The roster of connections I have reflects my values and I’m pleased to have any potential client see that the company I keep is of quality, not quantity.

So if we’ve met or had a phone call, I welcome your connection (or more likely, I’ll be requesting a connection with you).  If not, leave me alone.

Before LinkedIn changed how our profile views looked, there was a small section for “Advice for Contacting Me”.  That got removed in this years’ re-design.  Doesn’t really matter, because no one bothered to look at it any way.

I wrote – “Before I connect with you, I must have met you, or had a phone call with you.”

The hundreds of people who tried to connect with me whom I never heard of obviously didn’t bother reading it.

For me, LinkedIn is a way of managing my network of people I know, or whom I can refer business to (or vice-versa).  But more importantly, it shows my current clients and prospective clients people I actually know.  When I’ve been referred to a prospective client.  I’ll look at the CEO’s LinkedIn profile to see who we know in common.  (After 30 years in business, and with 9 business partners, the odds of me knowing someone are pretty good).

My business is entirely referral based – virtually each of our 200+ clients have been referred to us.  (When you’re in the business of advising executives on their workforce and HR strategies, they most likely aren’t going to hire you with via a google search; they’re going to want to get a recommendation from someone they know).

It’s always a positive when talking to a C-level executive for the first time and being able to identify those connections we have in common.  It immediately enhances my credibility and reassures them they haven’t been steered astray.  It’s a confidence builder.

LinkedIn is not a way of championing how many strangers I can connect with (don’t those people have enough work to do?)

Remember when LinkedIn first became popular?  Some people used it as a game – whoever had the most connections, won.  They even branded themselves “LIONs” (LinkedIn Open Networkers).  As if their credibility depends on which strangers they persuaded to connect with them.  I hate to break it to LIONs – if I don’t know someone, I have 20 other ways to find them without looking through your sorry list of tenuous connections.

What idiots.

One of the best pieces of advice I received when I started my company was this: “You want to be the go-to person for your clients any time they want to find someone else.  For example, ‘I need the name of a great CPA; Eric will know one’.”  I love being that resource for my clients.  I built my company client by client over 14 years and through a great recession.  Do you think I’m going to refer them to someone I don’t know well?

My credibility as a professional is on the line with each referral I make as much as it is with each referral I receive.

My mother has constantly preached “you are judged by the company you keep”.  I believe this is as true with LinkedIn as it is with my friends.  The roster of connections I have reflects my values and I’m pleased to have any potential client see that the company I keep is of quality, not quantity.

So if we’ve met or had a phone call, I welcome your connection (or more likely, I’ll be requesting a connection with you).  If not, leave me alone.

 

 

 

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What Makes A Person A “Best Boss”?

For the past three years, I’ve been asking bankers “Who’s the best boss you ever had – and why?”  Recently I’ve been speaking to a number of banking organizations, and asking that question of bank CEO’s as well.  After tracking and analyzing the responses, we’ve come up with some initial, and admittedly unscientific, findings.

The five most common responses we’ve seen from all the participants is – to paraphrase – “The reason this person was the best boss I ever had was because…”

  1. Transparent, a great communicator
  2. Supported me
  3. Cared about me as a person
  4. Honest, had integrity
  5. Trustworthy

Those are pretty good qualities in a leader, don’t you think?

Communication is the single most important characteristic in leadership.  You can be the smartest person in the room, or the hardest worker, or the person with the most experience, but if you cannot communicate well verbally and in writing, you’ll never succeed.  Today, the word “transparency” is a buzzword to indicate that employees – especially engaged employees – look to leaders and organizations who are as transparent as possible, with few secrets from employees.  Communication and transparency are key to trust, in both a leader and a bank.

Support means lots of things to lots of employees.  But my experience is that “cared about me as a person” and “supported me” are intertwined.  People want a leader that will back them up and support them, and the first way to develop that relationship is to get to know that employee as a person.

I also believe that honesty, integrity and trustworthiness are interconnected as well.  More than ever, these are essential characteristics in great leaders.  Every mistake, every semi-ethical decision is now magnified because all of your employees are broadcasters, with the ability to post their thoughts (and your mistakes) on social media, glass door, and the like.  Doing the right thing is important because it’s always the right thing to do.

We’ve received over 700 responses in 50 different sessions, and are in the process of putting together a research report that shows what bankers look for in leaders.  But I can share two initial findings with you now:

There is surprisingly little difference between what younger and older bankers look for in great leaders.  With all the discussions about millennials in the workplace, and their needs, it surprised me that – with rare exceptions – the same basic responses were given by young and old.  One are that was different were that younger bankers look more for a mentor and more frequent feedback than more experienced bankers.  Older bankers indicated their best boss was a good teacher and coach, but there’s a distinct difference between a coach and a mentor.

Younger bankers also look for more frequent feedback than older bankers.

Bank CEO’s almost always looked for a boss that gave them freedom.  Inevitably at a leadership program, bank CEO’s will mention that their best boss “gave me enough rope to hang myself” (or some variation of that).  In other words, CEO’s remember their best boss was not a micromanager; trusted their good employees enough to let them make their own decisions; and gave them the freedom to work autonomously.  I don’t see that happening in banks (or any industry) much these days, and that’s too bad: the best way to develop leaders is to remove the leash and allow them the opportunity to fail or succeed on their own.

What are your thoughts on the components of a “Best Boss”?

Annual Pay Increases – What Is “Fair”?

20150908162833-one-dollar-money-woman-ceo-bossI recently received an e-mail from a client.  They’re in the service industry with about 250 employees and multiple departments, located in the Pacific Northwest.  The COO was frustrated because the board of directors, at the urging of some department heads, wanted to give all employees the exact same percentage raise.

Here’s her question:

Can you reach out and try to explain the downside of across the board raises just because someone lasted another year.  One or two departments are trying this approach and it may undermine the salary and wage plan we are trying to implement with top performers getting more, average performers getting less and non-performers getting zero.

Someone has to be a #1 and someone has be the bottom of each department.

And here’s my response:

One of the first things a business must do is set a compensation standard for the entire organization.  It is counterintuitive to have one department doing one thing and other departments doing another.  It lacks cohesion but more importantly it lessens the overall culture and direction you’re trying to establish for your organization..

So my first recommendation is that it’s one overall compensation and workforce strategy and plan for the entire business.  Successful businesses are run this way; unsuccessful businesses are not.

The second recommendation takes more time.  And it is essentially – should we do across-the-board raises – the same percentage – for everyone or should it be a merit-based program?

The rationale for across-the-board raises is that everyone is treated the same; we’re all one team and, candidly, it’s a lot easier for lazy managers to implement.  There isn’t any complaining, no thought needs to go into it, and we can get it over with.

This was the thought of businesses until the late 1980’s, and it worked until then.  Treating everyone the same created harmony and dis-incentivized weaker performers from complaining to their lawyer, or anyone else around them.  Also there was thought that it increased the “we are all one big team” mentality.

This theory is now widely discredited by forward moving organizations and by leadership thought leaders globally.

We are in an era of “one size fits one”, not “one size fits all”.  Across-the-board raises discourages your top performers and encourages mediocrity among the team.  Businesses are trying to do more with less, and implementing pay-for-performance, or merit pay, is the principal way of accomplishing this.  Progressive organizations identify their top performers then find out what they want and give it to them.  And they weed out poor performers.

A great deal is made of the employment practices in Silicon Valley – Google, Netflix, Yahoo! and all of the others.  We read about flexible workplaces, catered sushi lunches, and free dry cleaning on premises.  But what you don’t see is the expectations associated with all of those perks.  The Netflix Culture Code – a document I recommend to every business owner, CEO and future leader – is a perfect example of this.

Do you know what Netflix’ thinks of mediocre performers?  It’s on page 22 of their code: Adequate Performance gets a Generous Severance Package.  They don’t even pay average performers less than top performers – they get rid of them.  In this way, they maintain their standards of excellence.

I know lots of CEOs who regret keeping marginal performers on too long; I know none of them who regret letting them go too quickly.

So in ‘the real world’ today, poor performers aren’t just paid the same as everyone else – they’re eliminated from the organization!

Merit pay incents top performers; it motivates marginal performers to either improve or find employment elsewhere.  And most importantly it sets a standard that you expect excellent performance at all times.

I would like to find out from the department heads what their compelling reason is to do across-the-board raises.  I’m willing to bet it’s a self-serving reason, from “we’re just one big team” to “I don’t want to create discontent.” That’s yesterday’s thinking and a guarantee that mediocrity will continue.

We talk all the time about eliminating an entitlement mentality and creating a culture of accountability.  How on earth can that take place under a one-size-fits-all mentality?

And the “one team” argument is ludicrous.  Look at professional sports teams.  Do they all get paid the same?  No.  Do they all get the same percentage of raises each year?  No.  Everyone knows who gets paid what, and everyone knows that the best players get the most pay.  That’s the way it works.  And somehow those “teams” still have that “team mentality”.

Focus on moving forward.  Leadership takes courage.  But the drive to be great needs to be self-evident.  Right now, the evidence is that your managers don’t really want to lead.

The New Age of Treating a Departing Employee

(Adapted from my article in WIB’s HR & Training Digest

Here’s the default position of most banks when an employee gives two weeks’ notice that they’re taking a job at another bank.

  1. Tell the employee this is their last day;

  2. Have them immediately clean out their desk; and

  3. Escort them out of the bank in front of all their former colleagues.fired

I witnessed this event at a community bank earlier this year, and my jaw nearly dropped.  That’s not the way things happen today.  (It’s the way it happened in 1996, but not 2016).

Back in 1996, it actually made some sense to have the employee immediately depart.  The workplace was still infused with paper; businesses were worried about a banker taking client or proprietary information to the new bank.  They worried about that employee “poisoning other employees” and by immediately terminating their employment, that person was literally out of sight and out of mind. Let me refute those ancient beliefs. Technology, and its ability to drive immediate communication, has radically transformed the workplace.

First, by the time an employee gives notice to you, they’ve already taken whatever information they feel they need.  Contact information is also easily available via LinkedIn or other Social media; the proverbial Rolodex is long gone.

Secondly, most employees leave because they get something from the new bank they felt they couldn’t get from you – a promotion, better pay, more opportunity, office closer to home, more flexibility, etc.  Most employees don’t hate you – it’s just time for them to change. Therefore, they most likely won’t poison the well with other employees.  (Although it’s fair to say that very unhappy employees will poison the well, whether they stay or leave). So why humiliate that person by getting rid of them immediately?  Remember, staying employees watch carefully the way you treat departing employees.  What kind of message do you want to send them? That if they leave for greener pastures, they too will get escorted out of the building in front of all their friends?

The way good businesses conduct this departure is by transparency, encouragement and respect.  Therefore, the process should be:

  1. Grant the person their two weeks’ notice.  It will give them time to say good bye; it shows respect and – handled properly – gives you time to prepare for the transition.

  2. Send an e-mail out to all employees announcing the departure.  Tell everyone where the employee is going, what they’ll be doing, and when they are leaving.

  3. Throw a small going away party.  Treat them as well as you can.  Let them see what they’ll be missing.

This might sound radical, but it’s not. Departing employees talk to staying employees, and many others in the future will talk to that departing employee about your bank – did they have a good experience there, would they recommend you as a place to work, etc. As well as that, how you treat them when they’re leaving is an essential part of your reputation, both now and in the future.

In this age of connectivity, it’s not enough to be a great place to work; you also need to be a great place to be from.

Reinventing Leadership 2015

(Adapted from my article in Western Independent Bankers Magazine March 2015)

Do your executives and managers have the capability to effectively run your business and lead your employees over the next 5 years?  If I anonymously surveyed your employees on their perception of manager effectiveness, what would they say?

If your leaders haven’t undertaken leadership development or training in the past five years, then the way they’re leading is obsolete, and it will significantly impact the quality of your workplace.  Most of your leaders are managing the way they did 10 years ago.

We’re leaving in an age where everyone expects more.  Your customers have access to information like never before, and they’re using that information to make you are competitive, or use Yelp! to look at compare customer satisfaction ratings of you and your competitors. The access to information leads to a savvier customer base that expects and demands more from you.

The same concept applies to your employees.  Employees today have a powerful tool: choice.

Your employees have access to information unparralled anywhere in history.  Today, they know exactly what similar employees make at your competitors down the street.  Your employees have LinkedIn profiles that allow recruiters to e-mail them constantly with offers of more money and a signing bonus.  They can go to Glassdoor and see what other employees say about  working for you.  You might scoff at the Millenial generation, but they’ll comprise 50% of your employees in five years.  They know what they want, and if they don’t get it from you, they’ll get it somewhere else.

Today’s employees are leaving because they can.

That’s where the reinvention of leadership comes in, and it starts with a simple question:

Why would a great employee want to work for you (or stay with you)?  What’s the compelling reason?  If it’s just money, then they’ll leave you for more money.  What is it about your employment culture that creates and sustains great employees?

Leadership is the key driver of a great place to work.  But surveys show that only 48% of your employees agree that their leadership is effective.  Great employees want to be involved, to participate and to have a voice, which is in direct contrast to the old autocratic methods of days gone by.  RSJ/Swenson’s employee engagement surveys show that employees are looking to their leaders for transparency, unfettered communication and a more democratic style of leadership.  They’re looking for coaching and mentoring, not micromanagement.  Can you honestly say that all of your banks leaders are leading that way?

How would you rate your frontline leaders on:

  • Judgment
  • Innovative Thinking
  • Developing Talent
  • Inspirational Leadership

A Harvard Business Review survey last year showed that CEO’s ranked less than one-third of their managers as competent in these areas.

It’s not as though you have to fire all of your managers, but your old dogs need to understand what employees want and expect.  They need to ‘learn it or lose it’.  After working with businesses of all kinds, here are the key skills that your executives and managers need over the next 10 years:

  1. Leading people. Many people get promoted because they’ve brought in the most deposits, or worked really hard, or sucked up to the right people.  Those skills don’t translate into the ability to lead people.  If someone brings in a lot of sales, give them a raise, but don’t make them a leader of people.
  2. Strategic planning. In the rush to get all our tasks done every day, there’s less time to strategically think about your workforce.  Who has the ability to learn the new techniques and skills necessary to lead your company in the next few years.  Do your current managers have that ability to define who is a high-potential?
  3. Inspiring commitment. Leadership is inspirational.  The impact a great boss has is unmistakable, and a bad boss will drive employees away from your company.  It’s a big responsibility, and great leaders inspire a commitment from their employees.
  4. Managing change and embracing innovation. Everyone loves change – until it impacts them.  But change is a fact of life today.  We particularly see this in smaller and more rural companies.  Employees have a morbid fear of mergers or takeovers.  However, mergers and takeovers are only going to be more commonplace.  Different ways of delivering services are going to fundamentally alter the way your bank looks in 5 years.  Can your leaders manage this change and embrace the inevitable innovation?

Your business is going look substantially different five years from now.  If you don’t currently have the leaders who can adapt to that change it’s time now to find leaders who will.