Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome: How Leaders Often Fall Victim to the Latest and Greatest, Not Best

The rate at which technology and media platforms are evolving is increasing to the point where it’s a full time job just to keep up on trends and new offerings. With all the hype that comes with launch after launch of next-gen hardware and functionality, how do you filter out the noise and know what truly is the next big thing? More importantly, how do you know if it’s right for your business?

It’s called Shiny Object Syndrome. It takes your eye off the ball, and distracts you from what’s important. And we’re all guilty of it from time to time. We never lose that desire to be the first kid on the block with that cool new toy, so it’s tempting to give in to the hype and thrill of discovery. But what if something bigger and better comes along tomorrow? It’s vital to your success that you’re able to know what’s right for you.

How can you stay immune to Shiny Object Syndrome? Of course, there’s no vaccine, but these steps will help take a measured approach to jumping on the latest and greatest.

Take a deep breath. Don’t make any immediate decisions. The initial hype that comes with any launch is overwhelming, and that’s what the marketers are counting on. Complete some things on your to-do list. They might not be as exciting, but you’ll feel better about what you’re already doing once you see them through.

Seek advice. You’re not in this alone. Consult your board, or ask any of the tech savvy people you’ve hired for their expertise. They’ll keep you focused on your company’s business priorities, and will be able to tell you if you’re going to be derailed.

How much will it cost? There’s a learning curve that comes with any new technology or product. Do you have the manpower and monetary cushion to dedicate? Will it pay off in the end?

Keep it simple. If this is the right solution for your business, it won’t over-complicate things. If it’s not simple, you might find your workforce and your customers frustrated and overwhelmed.

It’s good to keep your eyes on the shifting landscape to look for new opportunities. And your company won’t get very far if you’re not willing to try new things and take the occasional risk. But stay focused. Newness wears off. And if something has staying power, it won’t matter that your company was the first to get there. It only matters that you are the company that makes the best use of the product or offering in a way that makes the most sense.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The dangers of nepotism: what to watch out for, and how to make it work

In our culture, nepotism in the workplace is generally viewed negatively, often with good reason. Hiring a friend or relative is fraught with pitfalls that can affect many important aspects of your business. But can it ever work?

Tread lightly

Let’s begin by exploring some serious consequences that can arise when your company hires a new employee to work with a personal connection to someone in a position of influence.

• Morale: We live in a meritocracy where most of us expect hard work, loyalty, and talent to be rewarded. So it’s no surprise that there is resentment and a decline in productivity when it’s perceived someone got ahead without paying their dues.
• Unqualified leaders: Important positions may well be held by someone who isn’t ready to lead. This will ultimately become a barrier to success. It also affects your ability to attract top talent, retain your best people, and have a diversity of perspectives.

• Drama: Nepotism can be just plain messy. The difficulties that happen outside the office can make their way into workplace dynamics. And if someone is underperforming, firing them will become awkward, to say the least. At worst, this can lead to discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits.

What to do?

Sometimes nepotism is unavoidable, and even a positive, as is the case in towns where specific skills are at a premium. Smaller, family-owned businesses demonstrate how shared knowledge among likeminded individuals can help a business thrive. But how can you minimize its negative impact?

• Observe: Monitor workplace dynamics, and make sure all personal relationships are disclosed for transparency’s sake.  Some companies ask employees to fill out an annual conflict-of-interest report to disclose all personal relationships and how they may have benefited.

• Accountability: Encourage those with the personal relationship to hold each other accountable. If he or she fails, it reflects poorly on both parties. As a result, often the beneficiary will work harder than anyone to prove themselves.

• Be prepared: From a Human Resources standpoint, make sure your company has an official policy on nepotism. Ask your HR specialists to keep up on all state and federal laws relating to the matter, and have a detailed plan of action to any potential problems.

Do what’s best

Nepotism isn’t a black-and-white issue. Perhaps it’s not the best idea, but common sense can make sure you don’t need to forbid it outright. In the end, the best policy is hiring the most qualified person for the job.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Performance evaluations: How to get real insights into your performance as a boss.

As leaders, we’ve all been asked to give honest feedback on others’ performance. Great leaders strive to inspire others to achieve their best.  Performance evaluations are a time where you can provide valuable advice to help a team member improve. It is best to have regular meetings with your team to discuss these areas outside of the formal process, but nonetheless, feedback is always valuable.

However, when it comes to hearing feedback on your own performance, does your team have the same motivation to help you succeed or are they afraid of saying something negative because you’re their boss? How can you be sure you’re getting honest feedback? How can you take the reviews you are given and dive deeper into concrete advice?

Begin with a self-evaluation and objectively analyze your own achievements and mistakes. You are your hardest critic so identifying areas you know you want to improve can be a starting point when reading evaluations.

Strive to find peers to evaluate you. While it’s important to hear from those you manage, they might not always be honest for fear of losing their job. Look to your board of directors and managers of other departments. While your work with them might be less intensive, they understand the type of feedback required of someone at your level.

If there is no other executive peer to help you receive feedback, ask clients or other TEC members to weigh in on the professional qualities that they have seen in you. They may have advice on whom to go to within your organization for help.

What is the most important piece of feedback you’ve ever received? In your experience, does your personal feedback get more descriptive or more vague as you move up in leadership?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Independent Contractors vs. Full Time Employees: Things to consider

Whether you are growing a small business or downsizing a large firm, the decision to hire an independent contractor over a full time employee can sometimes be a tough decision. Each case has its pluses and minuses, but you can help serve your immediate goals, as well as your long term ones, by weighing these considerations.


There's a lot to be said for the commitment you can get from a full time employee. By bringing someone on board full time, you're getting a dedicated player on your team only. Would you trust a freelancer with your secret recipe? Probably not, but you might hire one to do the cooking. Independent contractors rarely work for just one company, so there are always levels of confidentiality to be considered. 


If you are looking for someone to fill a role within a limited timeframe, an independent contractor can be ideal. At the same time, a contractor may come with some constraints of their own, especially in regards to their hours and availability. What about flexibility in skill set? Since contractors are by name contracted to perform a specialized skill, they may not be able to jump in and multi-task in other departments as readily as your long term employees. But in many cases, that is not a deal-breaker.


Clearly, any new hire can be an expensive undertaking. The pros you can get from a permanent team member are often counterbalanced by the cons: the cost of benefits and overhead. In many ways, hiring a full time employee feels like a partnership, whereas your relationship with a contractor is more of a business agreement. You may feel more sense of responsibility towards an employee as a provider. In turn, they may feel more responsible for the success of your company. The importance you place on an employee’s sense of personal investment in your company may be key in helping you decide.

Whether you are looking for a way to cut costs or are merely in need of temporary resources, knowing when to hire an independent contractor over an employee can streamline your operations. Sometimes the line between the two can be gray, so be sure to know the difference in these classifications when you hire, as interest and tax penalties apply.

What are the questions you ask yourself when deciding between an independent contractors and a permanent employee?