Morning Person or Night Owl?

I don’t think my sleep trajectory is any different than a lot of folks:

  • From high school through college and a little beyond, I was a flat out night owl — staying up until 2-3am consistently, regardless of when I had to get up.
  • Beyond college, I adapted to a more normal schedule of sleeping at 11 or mdnight and getting up around six.
  • Now, post kid, I find myself starting getting down to bed at 9-10pm and up at 4-6am  (with all of the interruptions, of course).

The reason I mention this is because I haven’t slept in for awhile. While I was in Las Vegas for summer league though, I ended up sleeping in until 10:30 in the morning — almost missing my lunch. It was the first time I had slept past eight for… who knows how long?

There’s research out there that actually says a night owl’s brain is different than a morning person’s or just a regular person. They don’t know if night owl tendencies resulted in brain changes or if genetic variations cause brains to be different and therefore, be more of a night owl.

Many successful CEOs wake up early, but so do bakers and sanitation workers. I don’t think you’re destined for success just because you wake up early.

While I thought I was getting a lot of stuff done when I was closer to a night owl — after all, this blog was mostly written at nights from 2006-2009 — the fact is, I get more accomplished when I wake up earlier. I may not be bouncing out of bed at 5am most mornings but by 6-7am, I’m a pretty functional human being!

What’s your take? Do you get up early — by choice or otherwise — or do you stay up late and sleep in whenever possible? Have you found it affects any part of your life positively or negatively?

The Need for Community

I’ve been working from home for more than five years. It’s a wonderful thing that would be tough to trade for a commute and an office again.

That’s even more so with our little one in the house full-time. Between her and our nanny, it’s the first time I’ve had full-time “coworkers” in the same space for more than a few days. 10176249_10101285321352773_874860828545337944_n

That’s if you don’t include my cat. I certainly don’t.

I’ll be honest with you: it’s been nice to have human interaction between the hours of 7am and 6pm that didn’t involve going to a coffee shop or a Subway. As an introvert, I didn’t think I missed it but I did.

One of the things I love about working for The Starr Conspiracy is their liberal use of Google Hangouts. It’s actually nice seeing other people’s faces at least once a day.

The thing that was really weird about living in the Seattle area was how strangely cool people were and how genuinely nice people are here in Richland. We joked about the Seattle freeze until we actually lived there. When we walk out on the street or in the park away from there, people say hi and even the kids are friendlier.

I’m not making a value judgment but I will say that the last few months have opened me to the idea that I may need a local community. We’ve been so mobile in the past, it’s been easy to just forget about it and just have a few friends that we knew. Even though it’s tough to make friends after 30, who says it isn’t worthwhile?

We have a great community of friends back in Portland we’d love to get back to one day. I don’t know when that will happen, though. There’s no sense in waiting it out anymore.

Finding “A” Talent is Overrated

AP File Photo

AP File Photo

I just got back from NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. For those not in the know, it’s a time when rookies and those looking to make a team’s 15-man roster come to play for almost two weeks in scrimmages. The event is small and fairly inside. It was my second year going with the guys from The 8 Man Rotation.

The biggest names in the NBA aren’t there. There was no LeBron James. Nor was there Kevin Durant. Instead, you had rookies getting their first taste of team action and free agents and walk on’s looking for a shot at riding the end of the bench (or just making the roster) because there is usually better money in trying to make it work in the NBA than going overseas.

The basketball can be ugly at times and while these are — by any objective measure — some of the best basketball players in the world, most of them are not the top players in the league and a vast majority won’t see significant time as even a starter.

It got me thinking a lot about this pursuit for top talent. Everybody wants “A” players. Any team in the league would’ve welcomed James onto their team this offseason (yes, even the Spurs). With the collective bargaining agreement with the NBA Players Association in place, any team that signs him gets a great deal. There are only a handful of players like him ever, much less playing at any given time.

For the 26-28 teams a year that can’t snag a once a decade player like James or Durant, they figure out ways to remain competitive. Most teams have a great player or two, a few good ones, and then a long tail of flawed players in one way or another.

You take a look at the San Antonio Spurs and you see that method. Tim Duncan may be the best power forward to play the game but he wasn’t the best power forward this year. You see a lot of players who are great to good to flawed, in one way or another. You look at Miami’s successful title runs and see the same line of players. Some great. Some not-so-great.

Identifying the top players in the NBA is easy. If you have the salary and they have the desire to join your team, you make it happen. Convincing them to come to your team over the 29 other options? I’ll give you that.

But no team wins on top talent alone. The Spurs had nine guys who averaged at least 19 minutes game over the full season last year. There are probably a few names a casual fan wouldn’t recognize in that list too: Belinelli, Splitter, Diaw, and Mills.

These aren’t the top players in the league. They are good role players, with some great strengths and some significant weaknesses. And they were available within the budget they had to work with.

While everyone will talk about the stars in the NBA, especially when it comes to winning a championship, what it really comes down to is who can step up from your supporting cast. Even the best and most fit players need to spend time off the court. Who can give you those 10-15 minutes off the bench every night and keep you in a tight game in Memphis on a Tuesday night in January?

The difference between good teams and great teams is that talent identification didn’t end with just figuring out who can be your “A” talent. They went down the line and looked at who best fit in “B” or even “C” roles on the team. Every team has a budget they need to stay in and you can’t fit more than two or three top paid players on your team. With five guys as starters and at least three regular rotation players, that means every team out there is playing a lot of non-top talent night after night.

You won’t see their highlights on SportsCenter. Their contribution is critical, though. And smart teams have spent time and significant money finding better ways to identify who will be the role players and backup talent needed to win.

When you’re talking about the “War for Talent” and hunting purple squirrels, just remember one thing: successful hiring is more than just finding the best talent, it’s about finding the right talent, for the right price, that fits with the current skill set of the organization. Anybody should be able to identify the best and if you have the budget to afford hiring the best in every position, you are welcome to try.

Smart teams make strategic moves to find the right A, B, and C talent to fill a roster without going over their cap. The best ones can spot B and C talent and knows where they fit in. Let your competitors figure out where they can find a LeBron James of your industry, while you figure out how to fill your team with solid contributors who can make a difference at the right price.

Keep it Relevant: What Candidates Expect in the Hiring Process

Context.

For candidates, it’s everything. If you’re driving the talent strategy for your organization, you should know that candidates want and need context to make the best decisions for themselves and for you.

Sure, maybe the best folks have done deep research, maybe spent some time on Glassdoor, or read up on the latest company news. Most candidates fly in blind to your organization’s career site, though. They get there via a job board or a referral. They may have seen a tweet someone sent them.

And if you leave them in the dark about your recruiting process or make it unclear what they should expect, they won’t give you the benefit of the doubt and they’ll assume you’re one of those companies: the kind that never calls back. That leaves a bad taste in any candidate’s mouth.

The 2013 Candidate Experience Survey Report proves this out as well. Of those who had a great candidate experience, 80 percent had details of the next steps in the application process and 68 percent found it useful. As the candidate experience declined, so too does the proportion of people who were aware of those critical next step details.

That’s not good. So what should candidates expect from your organization?

Read the four things candidates should expect over at The Candidate Experience site.

Crocodile Tears for all the Certified HR Folks Out There

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I never thought much about certifying as an HR pro. I get it. You want to be shown as a knowledgeable professional and get some letters after your name. That’s great. It was never a big deal to me, though. For some though, it was a big deal and I can respect that.

Now, it looks like the clarity of what those letters mean is in serious jeopardy. SHRM is creating their own certification and doing nearly everything in their power to disassociate themselves with HRCI — including uninviting them from the annual conference. Ouch.

The delineation between HRCI and SHRM was something that was unclear to me until a few years ago and it probably was to many HR pros until just recently. I have received no less than a half dozen emails from SHRM and HRCI regarding this and it is perfectly clear now that these organizations aren’t in stride and haven’t been for awhile.

I’ve seen HR pros outraged or shocked by the move all over these great internets. I’ve seen some support it. No matter which side you take, the groundwork for this move has been laid for years and was roundly ignored by nearly everyone.

Starting in 2010, there was a group of people called SHRM Members for Transparency that had concerns they made public after a long period of behind the scenes work. My colleague John Hollon covered this group extensively. This was much to the collective disdain of SHRM itself and the yawns of members. SMFT’s concerns included:

  • Board compensation increases
  • Board compensation unchecked by independent committee
  • Unrestricted first class travel for board members
  • Only 38 percent of board members having at least a PHR certification
  • Only 60 percent of board members are HR pros
  • SHRM CEO is a finance pro, not an HR pro
  • SHRM board uses a search firm to find board members, including those uncertified and not members of SHRM
  • SHRM board retains nearly all power, with extremely limited member recourse

There’s a whole section — now outdated — focused on the board’s lack of connection to HRCI certification. That’s a tad bit of foreshadowing for you.

When these stories were gaining steam, I remember asking some of the HR pros in my area about it. Most of them didn’t know and didn’t care when I explained it. Those who has heard about it felt like it was overblown, took SHRM’s assurances as good, and went on with their life. While clearly there were some things that weren’t quite right at SHRM, it didn’t impact them. SHRM wanted to take some money from their massive reserves to pay a little extra to board members? Meh. Once SHRM decided to keep dues the same, any potential widespread discontent was quickly snuffed.

Now, nearly four years later, these same folks suddenly care about it because their credential is at risk?

Sorry PHRs, SPHRs, and GPHRs. I don’t see this one getting walked back very easily. You may get easily credentialed with SHRM or you may choose to stick with HRCI but those letters are going to become a lot more confusing for the people who care about having knowledgeable and competent HR people running their shops.

There are some people I do feel sorry for — like educators who’ve spent years working with SHRM and HRCI on training, or those stuck in limbo of gaining certification in the interim. For those who have been associated with both SHRM and HRCI for decades, and who couldn’t be concerned with a few non-certified board members or a couple grand in compensation a few years ago? You’re a smart, strategic HR pro. You can anticipate changes before they happen. What did you expect and how are you surprised?

My Life Won’t Be The Same

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Dear Elida,

You joined us just a week ago. While the timing was a little off, we were happy to see your screaming face at 6:26 AM on an otherwise nondescript Tuesday morning. Your mom got more sleep than I did the night before you came, though it probably wasn’t the most relaxing. I sat up in the world’s least comfortable bed contemplating everything I thought I had a few weeks to figure out.

Of course, everyone tells you that your life is going to change once your first child arrives. A week in, I can tell you that in a very real sense, it has. It was everything promised to us. Sleepless nights? Check. Google every possible malady when you get a random hiccup fit or act strange? Double check. Eating meals in shifts, during naps, or multitasking? Yeah. You are ruthlessly stubborn and sincerely sweet, all at the same time. You definitely get that from your mother.

What people don’t tell you is the other ways your life changes thanks to a little peanut who tips the scales at less than six pounds.

Your mother and I enjoyed our life before you came into the world. For most of that time, we never felt incomplete or lacking anything of consequence. We spent eight years doing what we loved: seeing places, taking new adventures, and moving. Lots and lots of moving.

When your cousin was born though, we knew we wanted to have a baby. For three years, we didn’t know if it would happen. If you looked at your parent’s browser histories during that time, you would see too many searches about fertility and adoption to count. We talked to friends and family members who had done both. We had started investigating options once things didn’t come as quickly as we had hoped.

As our friends started having kids, we were delighted for them while still wondering when our time would come. There were tears and doubts along the way, too many to count.

We soon found out that our troubles didn’t have as much to do with fertility as it had with your mother’s absent thyroid gland. Adjusting the medication she took to supplement for a thyroid lost to cancer meant we started to see some results. Quickly.

About a year ago, she got pregnant. We were overjoyed. She came back from the store one day with the tiniest socks to tell me. We knew it was possible but we never knew it would be this quick.

When I was in Florida on a business trip, I got a call from your mother and I knew immediately what it was. We lost the baby. I was physically ill, in a beautiful, oceanfront room 3,000 miles away. I flew home as quick as I could, but there was nothing either one of us could do. In that moment, it felt like there was a weight on us, holding us down. I contemplated getting rid of those socks when I saw them in a dresser a few weeks later but decided to keep them.

On a business trip a few months later, I got a call from her saying she was pregnant again. And that she got a promotion, and that we were going to be moving again. Life was going to be busy but we were cautiously optimistic that this would work out.

Lucky for us, it did.

Putting together baby furniture or putting your car seat in the car for the first of a few hundred times never really registered with my brain that something was different. I knew that my life was going to change thanks to you, but other than the superficial ways that everyone talks about, I had no idea what that really meant.

When you arrived, what people couldn’t put into words made sense.

Seeing the look on your mother’s face when she held you for the first time — and I will tell you that newborns are not, in any way, objectively attractive, despite what TV shows seem to suggest — flooded my memories with the thousands of other times she has shown me strength, warmth, grace, kindness, understanding, and unconditional love. It reminded me not just why I initially loved her but why my love for her continues to grow every day. It makes me hope that you have more of her in you than you have of me because even when I haven’t been able to love myself, I’ve always been able to love her.

Holding you for the first time felt like the end of one big road trip and the beginning of the next. It reminded me that the way we get to the biggest milestones in our lives matter. Success and hardships alike sharpened our senses for your arrival. You arrived at the perfect imperfect time, another reminder about the difficulties of executing even the best laid plans.

Having you in my arms that day was one of the best days of my life because of the big and little things along the way that made it possible. And because it happened this way — this unique way — it will change our way forward too. There was nothing to be flippant about. It wasn’t easy getting you here and it won’t always be easy going forward.

I tried putting those tiny socks on but they were still a bit too big. We’ll get to keep them a little while longer, to remind us of the journey we took to get you and a reminder that life will never be the same. Because it never has been.

Love,

Dad

Five Ways to Manage Your Content and Maximize Your Influence

I’ve seen a few people talk about the fact that they have (or don’t have) access to LinkedIn’s latest “thing that isn’t job searching”: LinkedIn Influencer. Now, like other business celebrities, you too can exert your influence on the multitudes of LinkedIn users. You create content on LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s algorithms hopefully share it far and wide, and then you become influential.

I won’t pick on LinkedIn too much — though I will note that if everyone is an influencer, no one really is — but it’s the same thing I’ve seen with other content syndication and non-paid writing gigs. You’ll get great exposure! Write for us often!

I’m not here to judge you if you want to write content for free. I know I have. But, I also mostly get paid to write. That’s important to me, I like doing it and I don’t worry too much about people who don’t get paid.

I am going to judge you if you have a poor strategy when creating content for somebody else, on their platform, for free, and all you hope to get from it is name recognition. The face of content is changing on the web but don’t be stupid about it. Here are five tips to make the most out of your digital content presence:

  1. Don’t just write on LinkedIn (or Forbes, or Huffington Post, or someone else’s site). Unless you are getting cash money to write for these folks, you should probably be judicious in how you use these sites. Understand the terms, particularly their ability to use the piece you create on associated sites and originality requirements.
  2. Create a social hub. You can use WordPress.com, Blogspot, Tumblr, or any number of blogging sites (or you can host it on your own). Copy (or excerpt, if what you wrote has to be original) pieces that you write for these other websites to your social hub and share the pieces from there to your social networks. Any original pieces should obviously come from here.
  3. Buy a domain name and direct it to your hub.  Blogspot and Tumblr are free to use your own domain name with, but the domain name will cost $10. Don’t be cheap and just go for whatever.blogspot.com. That’s a fool’s game. While you don’t necessarily control those sites where you can host your social hub, you do control your domain name which means moving content becomes possible as well as always being able to capture your own traffic.
  4. Include links back to your social hub in everything you write. Even if it is a paid assignment, I’d rather have a link back to my site than an abbreviated bio and it never hurts to ask. If you’re being asked to contribute to a site for free (or you’re doing the contributing to a site), this is the bare minimum. Allow people direct access to where they can find more stuff from you.
  5. Spread your words to different audiences. If you write about the same topics, for the same publications, you’re going to hit a saturation point with the audience. Unless you’re writing to be a writer, you’re usually writing to sell something else (yourself, your business, your idea). Hit diverse publications, especially initially, and if you find one publication does better than most for you, focus there.

One last note: these rules will probably change tomorrow. That’s a problem because I actually wrote this post yesterday. What won’t change is this: ownership and control should always be in the back of your mind if you’re going to play this game. How do you continue to cut out the middle man and take your message directly to people who want to hear it while expanding that audience?

Forced Resignations and Other Noble HR Myths

This week, I read a story on ESPN about how Mack Brown, coach of the University of Texas football team, is going to resign this week:

The source reiterated Brown would not be coaching at Texas in 2014.

“By the end of the week, that will be the outcome,” the source told ESPN. “That will happen. It’s a shame after 16 years he’s not able to do it on his own with dignity and grace.”

I have no idea if it will actually happen, but that part about doing it on his own terms, with dignity and grace? Yeah I’ve heard that song and dance before.

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Coaches get fired and hired all of the time. In fact, Brown’s case is an anomaly. 16 years at one school, as head coach, is damn near impossible. The guy they want to hire — Nick Saban — has had four jobs in that same time period. It’s also not the first time people have probably wanted him gone, either.

The idea that Mack Brown deserves the grace and dignity to part on his own terms (or should have come to the conclusion on his own and fallen on his sword) is a mythology rooted in faux “We Care” corporate double-talk though. Here’s the real deal: when you’re the second highest paid coach in the country and you perform worse than many of the guys making half (or less) of your salary, it’s probably time for the college to cut you loose.

A forced resignation, an encouraged resignation, or a resignation that Texas allows Brown to do on his own terms? It’s a transparent attempt by a weak organization to shirk their decision-making responsibilities.

I’ve been a part of conversations where I’ve encouraged people to look for a new job (after, obviously, many months of working with them). I’ve also been a part of conversations where managers want to let legacy employees hang around while they look for new digs (or, even worse, await retirement). They deserve it, they’ll say. In reality, they don’t want to have the tough conversations or take responsibility. They hope the employee will feel enough guilt to leave on their own or they’ll find something new.

There’s nothing noble in forcing a resignation to keep your own slate clean. Own your decision and make it.

This Surprising 20 Second Video Explains the Decline of Journalism

Sorry, you were tricked. There is no video. But before you go, you should realize that when you click on stories with this kind of title, you’re always being tricked.

When people talk about consumption in the US, they often talk about the mindless stuff we buy. The biggest offender in these critic’s minds are these Black Friday type of events where people stand in line for hours to save a few hundred dollars on a bigger TV. And there is even more outrage about stores that are open on Thanksgiving now for shopping.

When I think about awful consumption patterns though, I think the way we consume information about our world. I don’t want to sound too much like a guy who thinks you should get off his lawn, but while the internet has the great potential to free information from the bounds of corporate or government control, it also has the ability to play to the lowest common denominator.

This isn’t a recent phenomena, either. Upworthy is one of the worst offenders of playing to this demographic (and has a spoof article generator to show how formulaic the whole system really is) but it would be unfair to leave out sites like Buzzfeed, Viral Nova, or even, at times, The Huffington Post.

I think there is something great about getting to the point quickly, or working on provocative titles that invite a reader into a story. There’s also something about being entertaining or funny. But look at this title: “This Surprising 20 Second Video Explains the Decline of Journalism.”   Or this one “This Puppy Taught Me More In 1 Minute Than Anyone Else Has Done In A Lifetime.” What do you get out of that? Do you really think you can get to the core of the decline of journalism or life itself in less than a minute?

Of course not.

Yet, we see these types of articles get traction with readers, time and time again. For example, The Atlantic is running a big series on how energy usage is shifting. None of the articles over the last month have more than a few hundred shares. Meanwhile a post about how Hawaii will ruin you on The Huffington Post has over 10,000 shares.

We can do better, right?

There’s no easy solution and there might not be one at all. We’re not going back to having three TV stations and one local newspaper (and I don’t think that is better).

It’s easy to blame young people for this trend but young people have never consumed the most news (and, at least anecdotally, that’s not who I see sharing this vapid nonsense). While social media contributes to it, there’s always been a market for this and there probably always will be.

Unfortunately, it comes at a time when dollars for advertising are already tight. Journalists will have to decide if they want to go down this path, consumers have to decide if this is the type of media they want to support, and advertisers will have to decide if eyeballs are all that matters.