Why we should think about dying more often.

The Cirrus team and I have spent quite a bit of time together these last few weeks talking about all client projects coming to a close, new client projects in the new year, and our own plans to continue to establish Cirrus as the single point of contact for consulting and out-sourcing needs of the SMB. (I know.  That was shameless.)

I decided to read back through a copy of Steve Job’s commencement address at Stanford University from 2005.  As I was reading, the third story Steve told really struck me.   Continue reading Why we should think about dying more often.

The Missing Ingredient of Dysfunctional Teams

Teamwork Cirrus Business Group Photo

Think you need to take your management team out to do some team building activities to get them working together? More than likely the problem goes much deeper than that. While it is good for teams to spend time doing non-work related activities together, it all comes back to this one thing. If your team has it, then maybe they are just out of sync and need some time together to recalibrate. If not, then you better start here.

Continue reading The Missing Ingredient of Dysfunctional Teams

The most important component of merger success.

Accretive. Synergistic. These are both words that get bantied about board room presentations on the business case justifying a strategic or opportunistic acquisition or merger. Many smart people pour over financials. Extensive preliminary due diligence is done. Financial models are built. So then, why do the overwhelming majority of M&A activity fail to produce the projected value? Continue reading The most important component of merger success.

Cirrus-ism for the Day

Naive Enlightenment – When you have just enough experience or data to be too dangerous for your own good.  This exists in a place between ignorance and wisdom.

Firing an Employee – It’s Always Personal

If you have been a business owner or manager for any extended period of time, you have likely had to fire someone who just wasn’t working out.  There has to be something seriously wrong with any individual who enjoys this experience.  I never get very good sleep the night before.  However, this is an opportunity to “fail forward” and grow as an organization.

Every time I had to have “the conversation”, I took it very personally.  What did I miss during the interview process?  How can we improve our chances of finding the right fit?  Did we fail as an organization to provide the right training, management, or clarity?

Before I lose you, let me say that I do understand that there are times when employees surprise you or just have personal stuff that comes up affecting their performance.  However, if this is more the rule than the exception, you should change where you are fishing for employees.  You’re likely fishing in a cesspool!  If you claim that it goes with the territory for the labor rate you can afford, make sure you are factoring in the costs of training, higher unemployment tax rates, lower moral, interviewing replacements, and low customer satisfaction.

That said, employee terminations often speak more about failures in the organization than the individual being let go.  So, here are some things I’ve learned from first hand experience and ideas I’ve learned from others.

  1. Have a written job description.  I know this is basic, but you would be surprised how many hires are made without one.  It also needs to be detailed enough that it actually describes the specific job and not just any job.  What are the must-haves?  What is negotiable?
  2. Hire for BOTH technical ability AND cultural fit.  This assumes you have defined what “cultural fit” means.  If not, take time to define how your organization and the individuals within the organization behave.  (Read that last sentence again. If you don’t have those definitions written down, STOP now and do it. It’s that important.)  Also, know what technical and cognitive abilities will make the candidate a good fit for the organization.  What core values should this person posses?   Here are some questions Google uses to insure they get the best and brightest: http://www.gurucareersnetwork.com/blog/guru-news/googles-innovative-interview-questions/
  3. Put short-list candidates through a simulation.  Try to mimic the circumstances under which they will be working.  We suggested one client looking for support agents working in a stressful environment have candidates try to play a video game while answering phone calls and dealing with interruptions.
  4. Engage some of their potential team members in the final interview process.  With the new hire’s peers, technical ability will be suspect in the beginning, so they need to at least have some chemistry to see them through.  Invite the candidate to an office party or engage them in an activity or project with their potential team members.

In almost every case I’ve seen, the termination of a person who was not working out began with a broken hiring process.  As a business owner and manager, I dread the hiring process.  That’s all the more reason to get it right every time…or at least tip the odds strongly in my favor.

Is your organization a hypocrite?

“You cannot consistently perform in a manner which is inconsistent with the way you see yourself.” – Zig Zigglar

Not only is this true for individuals, but it is also true of organizations. This is why so many initiatives or programs implemented by management fail. Oh sure, maybe there is a bump in customer service scores, sales, cooperation, or some other metric in the short term, but the success is usually short lived. Why? Continue reading Is your organization a hypocrite?