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Posts Tagged ‘human resources’

“I never knew what I wanted, except it was something I hadn’t seen before.” – Robert Altman

Today, let’s talk about how to really get a competitive edge by hiring the right kind of people. Edelman Digital’s David Armano would call them T-shaped people, or even Sun-shaped people. He isn’t wrong. The point is: A company is only as good as the sum of its parts. And by that, I don’t mean equity, technology or assets. I mean people. Invest in people, really invest in them, and your company will soar. Hire on the cheap and treat them like asses in seats, and your company will falter. It’s that simple.

What do you think makes Apple great? Trust me, it isn’t their servers or cool offices. It’s people. People come up with the ideas. People turn concepts into reality. People fight for their projects and make sure they happen. People invent, design and perfect the iPod, the  iPhone and the iPad.  People explore new ideas and figure out what the next big thing is.  People make customers feel special. People either make or break companies and brands, from the CEO to the greeter, and from the designer to the cashier.

It’s always been like this. Social Media didn’t invent anything. “Putting the people back in business?” Why did you ever take them out to begin with?

“If I complain about a traffic jam, I have no one but myself to blame.” – Steve Wynn

Neither my posts, my wisdom nor my ideas emerge from a vacuum. Everything I have learned until now and everything I will ever learn in my life will come from doing, learning, experimenting, and from listening to people who tried to do the same thing in different ways before I came along.

It is strange to me to hear people sometimes lament that “there are no original ideas left.” I think they are completely missing the point. The importance some people attribute to the originality of an idea is completely overblown. It’s an ego trip. They’re just disappointed because they couldn’t be known as the guy who came up with it. Truth is that the next big product won’t be a completely original idea. It will be an original take on a dozen old ones. What was the first iPod? A portable CD player without the CD. What’s the iPhone? A phone that does more than other phones. What’s a venti latte from Starbucks? A 20 oz cup of coffee with a Starbucks logo on it. What was the first light bulb? A candle without the candle.

Truth: What makes an idea good isn’t how original it is. It’s how relevant it is for its time and how well it works. Who cares if you were inspired by a dozen things other people did? Who cares if you borrowed from artists and designers and engineers who solved a problem or created something great twenty years before you became the precious little center of your mother’s world? That’s how it works. You go out into the world and get inspired by other things. You take bits and pieces of things that work somewhere else, and you adapt them to your needs, then piece them together to create something better.

Here’s something else: Great ideas, real innovation, the next big thing, no one is going to come up with them sitting at their desk or brainstorming with a roomful of  suck-ups.

Great ideas, real innovation, the next big thing, they’re all out there, waiting to be pieced together like a puzzle. And the puzzle pieces, they are scattered all over the place waiting to be found. How are you going to find them? In a meeting? During a powerpoint presentation? At the end of a RE:RE:RE:RE string of emails?

Who are you hiring? What are you doing with these assets? What types of tasks are you giving them? Are you evaluating them based on their ability to respond to emails, schedule meetings and drive incremental points of change, or are you recruiting and evaluating based on people’s ability to truly drive your company forward?

“If you don’t go, you’ll never know.” – Robert DeNiro

You want to find out how to get better at customer service? Take off the suit, get in your car, and go talk to your customers. Better yet, become a customer all over again. Heck, do both.

You want to find out how to design better products? Start looking at every product out there a little more closely. Things that have nothing to do with your industry. Dog toys. iPhone applications. Action figures. Tennis rackets. Bicycles. Sunglasses. Mechanical pencils. Media players. Faucets. Swiss Army knives. Even cat food is designed to look, taste and feel cool. Learn what works.

You want to find out how to become a wiser business leader? Go out and talk to people who have suffered under some really bad ones. You’ll learn very quickly how to avoid becoming the next mediocre suit with a big title.

If you’re too busy to do any of this yourself, then make sure the people who work for you get to do this. If they can’t hire people who will, then give them permission to. Send them out into the world. They aren’t going to learn anything new sitting at a cubicle all day, filing papers.

You want to generate great ideas on a regular basis and execute on them the way Apple and Nike do? Surround yourself with creative thinkers who will challenge groupthink, uninspired corporate obstacles and collectively work together to figure out how to rock the As all the way to the Zs.

Inspiration and wisdom are everywhere. Whatever unbeaten path you may find yourself on, it’s still a path. People have been there before. Maybe the path looked very different then, but it’s still the same path. Find these people and learn from them. Since you probably didn’t have time to clear your schedule today, let me bring a little bit of that wisdom to you… but after that, you’re kind of on your own.

Very few of the little bits of wisdom below were meant to be used as business advice, which is precisely why I selected them. They’re all really about life, about decisions, about integrity, about the choices we make. But it doesn’t take a genius to see how some can be applied to customer service, to hiring, to innovation, to career management, to choosing whom to work with, and to coming out of this recession a market leader.

“If a guy doesn’t have a little gamble in him, he isn’t worth a crap.” – Evel Knievel

You don’t get to be a market leader by playing it safe.

“Let’s see what our competitors do first” is not the path to market leadership.

“Can you show us some case studies first?” is not the path to success.

Every time I hear executives speak enthusiastically about the crazy projects their junior teams are working on, I smell success. Whenever I hear career administrators dismiss ideas from junior members of the organization because they’re too bold, because they’re unproven, because they haven’t been tested by the market, because they aren’t guaranteed to work, I smell failure.

Success – just like good ideas – doesn’t emerge from a vacuum. Success is nothing but the final intelligent outcome of a thousand purposeful failures.The light bulb wasn’t invented overnight by a major technology company based in Palo Alto. Neither was the automobile.

Success is a process. It has its own architecture. Its own unique elements. Its very own DNA. Think about the quality of people you hire and promote. Are they just there to be asses in seats? Does their job consist of spending a third of their day responding to emails? Are they merely “head count,” as some companies call them? Do you truly encourage and reward initiative, innovation and courage, or do you make a process of crushing them out of your organization?

Here’s a tip: If you feed your organization average, don’t expect to get anything but average results. If you only feed your business “safe,” don’t expect to get anything but “safe” results (which means no results at all). If you surround yourself with suck-ups and cowardly little self-serving tyrants, don’t expect a whole lot either.

Fortune does favor the bold: Apple takes chances and wins. You could say the same of Pixar. Google didn’t get where it is by playing it safe. Look at what Ford has been doing for the last three years. How do you think Zappos got to be Zappos? Even Old Spice, for that matter, took a chance and scored big – turning a tired, irrelevant brand around with a few deliberate strokes of genius and a healthy dose of courage. Where do you think all of this started? With decisions. Decisions made by people. People who were willing to take calculated risks in order to win. People who were willing to go where no one had gone before and see how far the rabbit hole went. Where did these people come from?

Imagine where those companies would be today if they had hired unimaginative desk jockeys whose idea of advancement was to fly under the radar long enough to get promoted and just “do their jobs and go home.” Your company should be a hotbed of ideas, not paperwork and reports.

So invest in people. Be smart about it. Treat them like the assets they are. Give them what they need to make you next year’s success story. If there ever was a secret to gain a definitive market advantage, it’s this.

But hey…

“Wisdom is knowing when to shut the f*ck up.” – Adam West

Here are a few additional tips from some people far smarter than I am:

“Courage is doing something you need to do that might get you hurt.” – Bobby Bowden

“Change is not threatening.” – Steve Wynn

“I love discourse. I’m dying to have my mind changed. I want to know, you understand? I like listening to everybody. This to me is the elixir of life.” – Jack Nicholson

“Take a bit of the future and make it your present.” – Andy Grove

“If you’re not nervous, you’re either a liar or a fool. But you’re not a professional.” – Jerry Lewis

“Hire people who will treat the switchboard operator as friendly as they’ll treat the managing director.” – Sir Richard Branson

“My definition of evil is unfriendliness.” – Muhammad Ali

“Tell the truth. sing with passion. Work with laughter. Love with heart. ‘Cause that’s all that matters in the end.” – Kris Kristofferson

“Never accept ultimatums, conventional wisdom, or absolutes.” – Christopher Reeve

“If you want results, press the red button. The others are useless.” – Homer Simpson

“Hypocrisy is a detriment to progress. There’s always a hidden agenda.” – Larry Flint

“Money doesn’t make people happy. People make people happy.” – Steve Wynn

“A nickname means you belong.” – Buck O’Neil

“Risk means guessing at the outcome, but never second-guessing.” – Mel Brooks

“The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile.” – Julia Child

“Nothing is just one thing.” – Carrie Fisher

I hope that gave you something to think about. Have a good’n.

 

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Running into snags integrating social media into your business? Not sure how to separate social media snake oil from business-relevant planning? Looking to understand how to connect ROI to your social media activities? Check out Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media in Your Organization (Que/Pearson). Not a complete guide to social media integration for business managers (it’s only 300 pages long), but it comes pretty damn close.

Read more about it here, and if you’re still on the fence about it, download a free chapter to check it out.

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You guys asked for me to re-post this piece, and your wish is my command. Share this with hiring managers, your CMO, and everyone looking into considering either creating or filling a position requiring Social Media management skills:

Tip #1: Social Media Directors should know how to do their jobs without having to ask for help every five minutes:

So I look down and the (twitter) DM reads: “Hey, can you help me out? Not sure how to do this. How do I use Twitter to gain traction for my company? Thanks!” I stare at it for a while and decide to blow it off for now, not because I have better things to do (which I do) and not because I don’t really have time to build a Twitter business plan for this person right this second (which I don’t), but because that DM comes from a newly minted Social Media Director at a fairly visible company who basically just asked me to help them hold on to a job they obviously didn’t deserve to be hired for.

I slide my Blackberry Storm into my back pocket and find myself flashbacking to 11th grade: It’s final exams time and I am in hour two of IB Biology. The essay section. One of the kids in my class is behind me, gently kicking my chair, whispering, begging me to move my scrap/notes where they can read them.

And I am almost tempted to do it.

That same conversation starts taking place in my head. I’m in a position to help someone in need. But wait… cheating is cheating. Don’t do it. But still, I feel that I should help. Arrrgh…

I reach for the blackberry, launch Twitterberry (which is not my favorite app, by the way), and respond: “Wait… You got the job, right? Don’t you know how to do this? Isn’t that why you were hired?”

For hours, no response. And then it comes. “Yeah, but I’m in a little over my head. I’ve never worked with Social Media in a business context before. ;)”

Again. This from a Director-level individual now working for a pretty well known company.

Not cool.

I suffer through similar exchanges weekly now, and I am not happy about it. What does this trend say about what types of people are going after Social Media management jobs – and landing them with alarming frequency these days? At the very least, I am worried about how this is going to end up hurting Social Media’s legitimacy in the business world. (Watch the video for my reasoning on this specific point.)

If the video doesn’t launch, you can go watch it here. Thanks, Viddler).

Tip #2: There are three types of people currently vying for Social Media Management jobs. Be very careful whom you consider for this key position:

With this disturbing development weighing on me more and more these past few months, I’ve been thinking long and hard about what is going on in the Social Media “management” world, and I’ve basically come down to two conclusions: The first (which we’ll get back to in a few minutes) is that the qualifications of Social Media Directors may not be entirely clear to the folks interviewing and hiring applicants for those positions. The second is that as a result of this, confusion, we are now looking at three distinct types of Social Media Directors/Managers scampering about in the corporate world, some good, some okay, and some really bad.

The first type is the best type: These folks are super smart, talented, experienced in a broad range of disciplines, have an established footprint in the Social Media space (through blogs, Twitter, Ning, various communities), are recognized as thought leaders (or as emerging thought leaders), and are unquestionably passionate about what they do. Folks like Chris Brogan, Frank Eliason, Amber Naslund, Mack Collier, Beth Harte, Valeria Maltoni, etc. These are folks who are truly writing the book on how to build social media practices and smoothly integrate them in the organizations they work with.

The second type isn’t quite as savvy, but it isn’t lacking in talent, smarts and enthusiasm. These are people who basically don’t know how to be Social Media directors yet, but are learning fast. And most importantly, they are completely open about the fact that they are still in that learning stage, which means that their employers are okay with it. In spite of the fact that they are still very junior, the companies they work for saw in them a lot of potential and decided to hire them toward that end. (I dig people like this a lot.)

The third type is what I would call the bad type. Not bad as in cool, but rather… bad as in unethical, inept and unprofessional. These are the con artists. The shams. The hacks. The folks whose egos and selfishness led them to a moment in their lives when they unapologetically took a job they knew they weren’t qualified for. And now here they are: Social Media Director for Company ABC, soon to move over to Company XYZ, and so on. One position validating the next, one impressive brand on their resume justifying consideration by the next, and so it goes: A perpetual daisy chain of high profile Social Media management job built on unadulterated douchebaggery and thinly-disguised mediocrity.

(Ironically, this third group tends to be the same one that perpetuates the notion that Social Media ROI either doesn’t exist or is “unwise” to try and measure. Yeah. Convenient, isn’t it?)

Note: Having been a Social Media manager for a major brand doesn’t mean jackaloo. Don’t fall for the old name-dropping trick. Even if the applicant was indeed “Social Media VP” for superbrand XYZ, what did they accomplish while in the position? What did they actually do? Hint: You don’t want to be some idiot’s next unfortunate employer. Don’t let someone’s previous job title dazzle you. We’ve already established that any idiot  with a little game can be a Social Media Director these days. Be careful.

Tip #3: Before we go on, here are some red flags to help you identify deadbeat Social Media Directors:

A) Every time you see a major global consumer brand engaging with less than 5% of its active (vocal) customers on a popular Social Media platform like Twitter after 8-10 months of activity, you can bet that their Social Media Director belongs to that third category.

B) If every time you walk into your monthly status meeting with your new Social Media Director and ask them for the latest, they either talk to you about Google analytics, confuse you with endless spreadsheets or launch into a “Social Media takes time” monologue, chances are that they belong to that third category.

C) If you ask your Social Media Director why their efforts aren’t scaling very fast or producing the numbers you expected and they give you a story about engagement not being a numbers game, chances are that they belong in that third category.*

D) If when you ask them for real business metrics, impact analysis and (god forbid) ROI and they either give you a blank stare or explain that these things don’t apply to Social Media, they probably belong to that third category.

E) If they measure Social Media effectiveness mostly in terms of “engagement metrics” and after six months, you still don’t understand what or how they are measuring “engagement” (most likely through some arcane equation that magically merges followers, the media value of a tweet and number of blog comments), guess what: Third category.

F) And when you ask them how they plan to integrate Social Media into customer service, Human Resources, Public Relations, Marketing, Business Development or any other silo in your organization and they schedule a later meeting to address that instead of answering on the spot, guess what category they probably belong to.

The thing about that third category is that they’ll never admit that they don’t know something. Because they get by every day by producing massive amounts of bulls**t, they will automatically default to making something up on the spot or deflecting questions with well crafted excuses. That’s their most damning trait, and what gives them away every time: They always know, and they’re never wrong (except… they don’t, and they are, and now you’re wise to it).

* Simple test to prove or disprove a “depth before breadth” response:

First – On Twitter, look at the number of brand mentions vs. the number of your brand’s account mentions. Big difference? Ask why. Then ask your Social Media Director what they are doing to raise awareness for your presence in the space. Breadth matters, no matter what your overpaid hack of a Social Media honcho tells you.

Second – Look at the number of comments directly aimed at your account. 20 per day? 50 per day? Now look at how many of these requests for attention were acknowledged with some sort of reply. 100%? 80%? Less than 25%? If your Social Media Director claims that they are focusing on depth of engagement instead of breadth, yet they only respond to less than half of the handshakes thrown at them daily, maybe it’s time you found out what he/she actually does with his/her time.

Tip #4: What should you be looking for in an applicant interested in becoming your next Social Media Director ? (The only Social Media Director requisition primer you’ll ever need)

I could go on with my indictment of poser Social Media Directors all day long, but I would rather put this post to a more productive use: Since so many of these hacks are getting through the recruiting filter, why don’t we focus on helping interviewers distinguish good applicants from bad ones, starting with some traits and skills they want and need in a Social Media Director. Think of this as a checklist for would-be Social Media Directors, and please feel free to add your own suggestions by leaving a comment.

  • Applicant has developed and managed marketing programs before. Not just campaigns but programs.
  • Applicant has had a continuous professional presence in the Social Media space (via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Ning or other platforms) for at least one year.
  • Applicant has managed a business blog and/or business community for a minimum of one year.
  • Applicant has built or managed a community for longer than one year.
  • Applicant has at least two years of experience managing projects and working across organizational silos.
  • Applicant has managed a brand or product line for more than one year.
  • Applicant has demonstrated a strong ability to forge lasting relationships across a variety of media platforms over the course of his/her career.
  • Applicant understand the difference between vertical and lateral action when it comes to customer/community engagement – and has working knowledge of how to leverage both.
  • Applicant demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the Social Media space, including usage and demographic statistics for the most popular/relevant platforms as well as a few niche platforms of his/her choice.
  • Applicant has managed national market research projects.
  • Applicant demonstrates a thorough understanding of the nuances between Social Media platforms and the communities they serve. (Example: MySpace vs. Facebook or YouTube vs. Seesmic)
  • Applicant understands the breadth of tools and methods at his/her disposal to set goals and measure success in the Social Media space. (Applicant’s toolkit is not limited to Google analytics.)
  • Applicant can cite examples of companies with successful social media programs and companies with ineffective social media programs. He/she can also argue comfortably why each was either successful or unsuccessful.
  • Applicant has been active on Twitter for more than 8 months.
  • Applicant knows who Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang and Peter Kim are.
  • Applicant is comfortable enough with business measurement methods to know the difference between financial impact (ROI) and non-financial impact. He/she also knows why the difference between the two is relevant.
  • Applicant demonstrates the ability to build and manage a Social Media practice that works seamlessly with PR, product marketing, event management and customer support teams within the organization.
  • Applicant has managed a work team for more than one year. He/she was responsible for the training and development of that team.
  • Applicant has spent at least one year in a project management role outside of an ad agency, PR or other Marketing firm.
  • Applicant can tell a personal story involving either Digg, Seesmic or both.
  • Applicant has been responsible for managing a budget/P&L.
  • Applicant demonstrates a high level of proficiency working with popular Social Media platforms and apps such as FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Ning, Seesmic, YouTube, FriendFeed, WordPress, FriendFeed and Tumblr.
  • Applicant is capable of mapping out a basic Social Media monitoring plan on a cocktail napkin.
  • Applicant is more excited about engagement, building an internal practice and finding out about your business’ pain points than he/she is about firebombing you with the full scope of their Social Media skills’ awesomeness.
  • Applicant already has the framework of a Social Media plan for your company before he/she even walks through the front door, and thankfully, it doesn’t involve setting up a fan page on FaceBook.
  • Applicant actually knows how to use Twitter to help your company build brand equity online and offline without having to DM people like me for newbie level help.

Your turn. What do you think is missing from this checklist?

Let me know if this is helpful. Please, please, please, for the love of puppies, STOP. Don’t hire “that guy” because his resume says he worked with Brand XYZ in Digital or Social. It isn’t enough. (Who hasn’t?) Dig deeper. Get knowledgeable about this space. Don’t get suckered into hiring an unscrupulous hack job looking for another free ride off an unsuspecting company.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

One last thing: Will this topic be covered in Red Chair executive trainings (the next one is in Portland, OR on March 11)? You bet. To register for the Portland event, click here. (The first 5 registrations get $100 off, so sign up fast!)

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