Laying The Smackdown On Cheaters

Whenever I’m looking to buy something expensive or need to hire a company for some type of service, I always start by looking online at the reviews.  Businesses know that having bad reviews of either products and/or services can send potential buyers running, so what do these businesses do?  Well, they can do the hard thing by listening to those negative reviews and improve the product/service in question (good), or they can cheat by hiring individuals to simply post good reviews to cover up the bad ones (bad).  Kudos to Yelp for pushing businesses to the former.

An article published in The New York Times highlights Yelp’s new push for accurate reviews on their site.  Yelp has had a filtering system in place for a while that looked at various factors about a review to determine if it might be fake.  However, Yelp recently took it a step further by conducting its own undercover operation.  One of the Yelp employees acted as an Elite Reviewer (someone on Yelp’s site who has lots of reviews and generally a good reputation) and posted ads through sites such as Craigslist.org. 

Businesses which were looking for Elite Reviewers to post positive reviews for them contacted this undercover reviewer.  The businesses busted in this sting operation now have a nice big label on their Yelp pages that state someone was caught trying to purchase reviews.

This is now the new policy for Yelp.  Any business that gets caught trying to purchase bogus reviews will have this label affixed to their Yelp page for 90 days as a warning to potential customers who might be looking at those reviews.  Moving forward, Yelp also has plans to display something similar for businesses that seem to have a lot of reviews coming from the same IP addresses.

Now, this system may not necessarily be perfect. In fact, if I wanted to smear a competitor’s name, perhaps I could pose as someone from a competitor’s business and purposely try to get “caught”.  Now, my competitor looks like a cheater.  However, I have to praise Yelp for trying.  Lots of consumers rely on those Yelp reviews when making a decision about which business to hire for services.

Do you want to know one of the characteristics between a good business and a bad one? 

–        A bad business is concerned more about protecting its own image. 

–        A good business understands that it may have flaws, but it listens to feedback from its customers/critics and makes improvements based on that feedback. 

Sure, a negative review might hurt a business in the short term.  However, which of these two businesses is likely to stay around in the long run?  One which listens to its customers, or one that doesn’t?

 The same can be said for those who lead.  A great leader listens to his/her people.  A bad leader is more concerned with making himself/herself look good.  Which one do you think will be around in the long run?

Leave your comments!

Aiming For the Stars (Literally) With Goal Setting

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a nerd.  I enjoy technology, science, and astronomy (or anything space-related).  On October 8th, Christmas comes early for me as I’ll be getting a mix of all three.  In case you haven’t heard, Felix Baumgartner will attempt the highest skydive to-date from the edge of space, 23 miles above Earth’s surface.  This follows two successful test jumps from approximately 13.5 miles and 18 miles up from earlier this year.

You might be thinking Felix is a little (or extremely) crazy.  After all, the dangers he faces are very real.  He has to worry about the typical issues of halo jumping such as the lack of oxygen or possible parachute problems.  At that altitude, the air is so thin that it’s near-impossible to steady yourself in the initial freefall.  Joseph Kittinger, the current record holder for the highest freefall at 19 miles from 1960, lost pressure in one of his gloves during his record-breaking descent, and his hand swelled up to twice its normal size.  Felix also has the added challenge of becoming the first human to break the sound barrier with just his body.  Even though he will be wearing a special suit designed by NASA engineers, some of the effects are unknown in terms of what will happen to his body once he breaks that barrier.

If Felix succeeds, not only will he have helped NASA study the effects of this freefall for future emergency low-orbit bailout systems, but he will have pushed the bar even higher in terms of what the human race is capable of.  These types of record-breaking events don’t come that often, so it’s great to see someone facing a challenge of this magnitude.      

After thinking about how far Felix has come, I’ve thought about his overall goal and how’s he’s reached this point.  While he may have not been thinking about this acronym, he did set a SMART goal for himself:

S – Specific and measurable: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. – Felix set a goal to be the first individual to jump from 120,000 feet above Earth’s surface.

M – Motivating: What’s in it for the person? – If Felix succeeds, not only will he have the glory of holding this record, he will be helping in advancing future space travel safety.  He’ll also have the wildest ride of his life.

A – Attainable: If people think they can’t, they give up at the start. – Felix wouldn’t be getting ready for this jump if he thought he couldn’t do it.  I’m sure being a bit of an adrenaline junky helps.

R – Relevant: Why bother if it won’t make a difference? – This jump is another step forward in us becoming masters of our universe.  The data collected from this jump will make an impact on future space exploration.

T – Trackable: How will you know if you’re making progress? – He’s already completed two tests from staggering heights.  The space capsule, the suit, and even himself have all been tested in preparation for the final freefall. 

Sometimes, when we create goals for ourselves or others, we don’t think about the factors that make up a SMART goal.  If we can’t satisfy one or more of those factors, we may never achieve those goals.  If Felix’s original goal wound up being slightly different and didn’t meet one of those requirements, we might not be waiting in anticipation for October 8th

I’ve included videos Red Bull released from the two test flights.  While they don’t have shots of the actual freefalls (I’m sure Red Bull is saving that for the actual 23-mile decent), both contain some pretty amazing shots from the upper atmosphere:

Keep an eye out on the news following October 8th.  The video will likely be amazing knowing Red Bull. 

This blogger is rooting for you, Felix!

As always, be sure to leave your comments!

Excellence in Action

*Part Two of a Six Part Series on The Excellent Employee
 
“Can you hear me when I sing?
You’re the reason why I sing …
You’re the reason the opera is inside of me!”

Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own, U2

Nike’s Find Your Greatness Campaign

Consider the summer blockbusters at the movie theater or Nike’s latest add campaign during the Summer Olympics. The movies we watch, and sometimes, even the shoes we buy, reveal this appetite for greatness. At times, we vicariously live through others who do what we wish for ourselves: superheroes fighting villains, sports champions, ordinary people overcoming impossible circumstances, and others achieving glory in extraordinary moments of greatness.

We are drawn to greatness because the desire for greatness is within us! The pursuit of excellence is as natural a human desire as love and hope and a desire for peace.

Our human nature is manifest in both our desire for a greater goodness in the world as well as the capacity to possess that goodness within ourselves—in our relationships, our work, our communities, and our own personal satisfaction in being alive.

Our greatness is not meant to be merely potential greatness, like the notched arrow in the potential energy found in the archer’s arm and the bent limbs of the bow when the string is drawn tight. Our greatness is meant to be released into motion, like the arrow that is released from the bow and swiftly, efficiently, travels toward its target with power, becoming kinetic energy that makes an impact and serves its purpose.

Release Your Greatness

In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, he argued that the end purpose to life, what every human truly desires, is to pursue excellence or greatness that leads to happiness and joy. In fact, Aristotle went further than saying humans simply desire this greatness, they are naturally inclined to hope for it, dream of it, and ultimately pursue it. Humans can’t do otherwise.

So then, why doesn’t everyone achieve greatness or happiness? In fact, the sad reality is that many people become disillusioned about their own greatness. They suffer set backs and failures, develop insecurities, and believe in assumptions that constrain them from excelling. They stop learning when the learning becomes difficult. This happens in people’s personal and professional lives and it’s a human tragedy, because they’ve lost their voice—their sense of purpose.

Others pursue something they think will bring them happiness, without the intimacy and moral compass that excellence requires. They pursue money or status, and use relationships or projects to elevate their own needs above the needs of others. They lose a sense of self-reliance and self-worth, ignoring the desire that beckons them to be great. They forfeit their own personal greatness and become dependent on others to create greatness for them.

In one case, people give up. In the other, they pursue the wrong things. In both, they fail to achieve excellence.

In order for greatness to be actualized, it must be released in individuals and organizations for a greater good. We are meant to train, be disciplined, gain more knowledge, and learn new skills in order to use our greatness in the most excellent way possible, given the reach of our experiences and opportunities—excellence in action!

The capacity for greatness needs to be acted on if that potential is to be realized and success attained at work or in your personal life. The mergence of personal and communal greatness is created through action—the art of intentionally developing and exercising the greatness within.

Greatness is not found in a cool new product, it’s found in the process of creating a product or process or relationship that will make people’s lives better—lead them to a greater happiness—allow them to hear that opera inside of them again.

Excellence in action begins with releasing potential greatness into a targeted and focused purpose that serves and helps others become great with you. Train in certain behaviors until you build them into habits. Learn new skills until you master them. Mature through periods of disillusionment and doubt until you actually see your greatness come out moment by moment, project by project, relationship by relationship.

Jason Diamond Arnold, Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

Todd Willer, The Ken Blanchard Companies

A Leader’s Challenge On Virtual Employment

The internet is a wonderful thing.  It’s one of the greatest communication tools to ever be created.  Information on most subjects imaginable is readily available to anyone connected to the web.  The added bonus is that it’s also given rise to the “virtual employee”.   With more and more businesses embracing the idea of employees working from home, leaders are now facing some problems that didn’t exist when all employees came into the office to work. 

For virtual employees, there are many benefits to working from home:

-There’s no need to commute.

-You have your own quiet workplace.

-You get to work in your pajamas (unless you need to use a webcam).

However, there can also be a disconnect between these virtual employees and those who lead them.  The interactions that might normally take place if they were in the office might no longer happen as consistently as they should (or even may not take place at all).  I’m talking about connectedness with their leader, discussions around their own work and their career development, and even their own connectedness with the other team members.  All of these things can have an impact on employee performance, morale, and even retention.  It can also create tension within the team, itself.

“Out of sight, out of mind” sounds like a fitting statement for this predicament.

To address some of these challenges, use the following tips:

1)      Stop the multitasking! – We’ve all been guilty of this at one point or another.  It’s hard enough to gauge someone’s reaction to what you’re saying through a phone line or an email.  If you don’t focus on what you or the other individual is saying, things can become misinterpreted and create complications.

2)      Create a virtual seating chart for team meetings – It can become difficult to involve everyone in a team discussion when not everyone is in the same location and has to share a conference line to speak.  Create a seating chart of all of your team members and check off each individual to ensure each one has had a chance to share their opinions

3)      Learn each team member’s communication preferences – Do you prefer phone calls or emails?  Do you like spontaneous meetings or should someone book a meeting with you?  What’s your preferred learning style when it comes to learning something new?  Everyone has their own preferences, including your team members.  Learning their preferences will create better interaction between you and them.

4)      Be mindful of time zone differences – I get to interact with a variety of leaders from various industries in my current role, and a lot of them have direct reports in different states and even countries.  It’s an increasing trend, so as leaders, we need to be mindful of people’s schedules based on their time zones.  If you need to schedule a meeting, try to accommodate all time zones involved, if possible.

I should add that these tips can also apply to onsite leaders and team members (minus the time zone differences).  If you fall into that category and you’ve ever sent an email, sent an instant message, or made a phone call to someone in the same building as you, you were also working “virtually” with those employees.  Those same potential pitfalls that exist with employees in another time zone also exist with those in the same office.

Leave your comments!

5 Things I Forbid You To Do This Labor Day Weekend

On Monday, we celebrate the social and economic accomplishments of the American worker. In an effort to truly honor the spirit of the holiday, here are 5 things I forbid you to do this Labor Day weekend:

  1. Set Your Alarm Clock. Sleep in. You work hard. You deserve it.
  2. Check Your E-Mail. Don’t worry, those “urgent” e-mails will still be there when you log in on Tuesday.
  3. Make or Take Business Calls. Please step away from the cell phone. Turn it off or send those calls straight to voice mail. Just like your e-mail, the messages will still be there for you on Tuesday.
  4. Engage Your Professional Social Network. I know you’re concerned about your Klout score but a couple days away shouldn’t cause any irreparable damage. Besides, we’ve got something in common with your e-mail and voice mail, we’ll also be here on Tuesday.
  5. Neglect Your Family and/or Friends. Spend some time with those other people in your life who you don’t get the chance to see while you’re in the office.

Hope you all have a fantastic, relaxing, and disconnected three-day weekend!

Follow me on Twitter: @adammorris21 | Add me on Google+: gplus.to/AdamMorris21
(…just wait until Tuesday.)

The new manager has a target on his back…

I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with the term “seagull manager”.  If you’re not, think about a manager whose behavior is to fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly away.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

This term is used a lot in the leadership industry, but what about the term “seagull employee”?  They act just like a seagull manager except that they do not have an official leadership role.  You just might know one or two in your own work environment.  They are the employee(s) that everyone loves to hate.  They might do excellent work (which is why they still might be employed), but they annoy their fellow coworkers to no end.  You question whether they really think about what they say to you and others before they say it, or whether they do really mean to put someone down emotionally.

In some organizations, seagull employees do not last long, while in others, they might wind up becoming the new boss…

Over the weekend, I met up with a few friends.   I found out that one of them was recently promoted to the role of District Sales Manager at the company he worked for (we’ll call him “Sam” for the purposes of this posting).  Sam told me that the reason he was promoted was because the existing district manager was also being promoted and thought Sam would be an excellent fit to keep pushing the other sales reps to reach their quotas.  After all, Sam had consistently been the number one rep in terms of sales month-after-month for a long period of time.

The problem was that Sam had been a seagull employee.  He said he would go out, make his sales fairly quickly, and then would drop off his orders at the office with plenty of the work day left and would go out and play golf all the time.  Other reps in the office who were struggling to hit their quotas would see this while working through leads and would become jealous.  By the way, “Sam the seagull” would also talk trash to other sales reps while he was in the office visiting.  This wasn’t playful banter among competitive reps.  He admitted that what he said was actually mean in most cases, and that most of his coworkers thought he was a jerk.

Now it’s all come back to bite him and he has a real problem on his hands.  He’s a brand new manager and he already has a negative perception of himself in the office.  All those things that start out neutral between most new managers and those who report to them are already in the red. 

He knows the way he behaved around other his coworkers wasn’t right, and he’s sincerely regretting it.  He still has a very large mountain to climb in order for him to regain the trust and respect of those ex-coworkers who now report to him.  If he can’t gain those two things, he might have an office mutiny on his hands and could even find himself unemployed because of it.

To all those seagull employees out there: you may not wabout how you’re perceived in your workplace now, Sam wants you to know it may come back to haunt you in the future…

Leave your comments!

Exploring the Hidden Secrets of Employee Engagement (pt.1)

As I walked out the door of our air conditioned building to go to lunch, I stepped though a stifling wall of heat that took my breath away. It was high noon and the temperature was 95 degrees farenheit…a stunning 20-25 degree difference from the comforts of my office. At that moment, I felt my energy level plummet and a number of thoughts began to run through my mind, including but not limited to, “I can’t wait to get home and put some shorts on,” and “I’d rather be at the beach or in the pool right now,” and “an ice cold beer would really hit the spot,” and “will I be able to recover and have a productive afternoon?”

In an instant, my level of engagement had been shifted by, yes, the weather. Is this example extreme? Perhaps, but is it really that far-fetched to think of a time when the weather outside affected your mood? In contrast to the previous example, a very cold day may have you daydreaming about snuggling up with your favorite blanket and sitting in front of the fireplace with your favorite book. When your mind wanders off to these places during your working hours or, in some cases, leads you to turn your daydream into reality, is that a reflection of your level of engagement and work passion?

My colleagues at The Ken Blanchard Companies have done some amazing research on the subject of employee engagement and work passion. To date, Blanchard has published four white papers on the subject which you can access by clicking here. In the latest installment, Blanchard identified 12 employee work passion factors within three different categories:

  • Job Factors – Autonomy, Meaninful Work, Feedback, Workload Balance, and Task Variety
  • Organizational Factors – Collaboration, Performance Expectations, Growth, Procedural Justice (process fairness), and Distributive Justice (rewards, pay, and benefits)
  • Relationship Factors – Connectedness with Colleagues and Connectedness with Leader

Without question, all of these factors are vital toward achieving an engaged and passionate workforce. What jumps out at me, and with most other’s research on the subject, is that the focus areas all tend to be very, for lack of a better word, work-centric. Whether you subscribe to the notion of work-life balance or work-life integration, my belief is that, in addition to these crucial work-centric factors, any number of outside personal factors may significantly influence an individual’s level of engagement and passion at any given time. And yes, this may even include an individual’s reaction to the weather outside.

It’s important to remember that regardless of your industry, you’re in the people business. Your colleagues and customers are human beings who are affected by other life experiences, both good and bad, besides those that occur while they’re working. We are individuals with unique needs, wants, situations, and emotions. In future posts in this series, we’ll further discuss situations and possible solutions to achieve a deeper understanding of what drives the engagement and passion of the unique individuals who make up your workforce.

Follow me on Twitter: @adammorris21 | Add me on Google+: gplus.to/AdamMorris21

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