There’s no such thing as a business without dirty work that needs doing, but following these rules when you’re assigning painful tasks will make it easier for all involved.
The right way to evaluate an interview candidate varies by industry, company, and role. But there are universal mistakes to avoid whenever you’re interviewing a candidate for any role. After conducting hundreds of interviews of the last several years and many, many post-mortems, I’ve learned...that I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years.
Some people take time off and re-assess things when they get to a point where they feel disconnected or in despair. They’re the smart ones; plenty of others fall into the “sleepwalking” stage. They’re too spent to approach their work with creativity and enthusiasm anymore, and their output predictably suffers.
Two things in particular stood out to me after talking to Sheldon. First, you can be ruthlessly efficient without being a ruthless person. And second, the conversation reaffirmed how important it is to enjoy what you do. Sheldon and his team have built a multi-billion dollar industry leader on the premise that people are the most efficient and effective when they love what they do and care about why they do it. I wanted to understand more about how someone could be so focused on efficiency as a manager and at the same time connect emotionally with their people.
People with “non-technical” backgrounds (i.e. those who aren’t engineers, data scientists, or similar) often have difficulty directing more technical subject matter experts. Even without directly managing them, people can find themselves managing projects or making decisions that impact what more technical resources have to do. Failure to communicate and establish trust can easily lead to conflict given the gap in shared context between the business and technical side. Some conflicts are inevitable, even desirable; conflicts born from mutual distrust aren’t.
The ability to interpret what the market is telling you, spot new opportunities and then capitalize on them is what makes any business successful. Software people can and do learn much by studying the design of everyday things (to borrow the title of another wonderful book). The reverse is also true.
As the company's name suggests, Carey has a sense of humor, but he's also dead serious about making the best products in the world and continuing to push boundaries at the nearly $300 million-a-year business he built from scratch.
Carey's head of corporate communications invited me to interview him after reading one of my articles, and I jumped at the chance to pick his brain on hiring good people, what it takes to earn his trust, and preparing people for leadership. What followed was an unfiltered look into how this CEO (or "Chief Big Ass" as he goes by) sees the world.
Just like you can’t expect even great products to sell themselves, you can’t rely on your work to speak for itself. Good work usually doesn’t speak for itself- you have to speak for your work. Communicating your ideas in a way that resonates with your audience (which implies you’ve thought about what will resonate with them in the first place) shows them that you understand what they care about. To put it another way, it shows that you “get it.” Managers are more willing to take a chance on someone whom they think “gets it.”
Whatever problems you uncover, the most important thing is to ask yourself how your role relates to these issues. How can you do your work in a way that helps alleviate some of the issues you’ve discovered? Are you in a position to directly affect any of these things simply by virtue of being a new person? Simply by being aware of these issues, you’re bound to find new ways you can improve the business directly or indirectly.
As much as businesses need experienced hands to spot potential problems, they need boldness too. It’s hard to innovate without taking risks. And for many leaders, that’s what makes their jobs fun in the first place. The opportunity to do something new is what gets many of them out of bed in the morning, and it is a bummer to always be met with pessimism from the troops.
At its core, the customers vs. clients debate boils down to what kind of company management wants to build. Being a “client business” implies providing a higher level of service and custom work than being a “customer business” does. That makes the economics of the businesses obviously different, but the decision also has major implications for the skill sets the business must recruit, the margins it can expect, and the partnerships it may need in order to succeed. It’s hard to find a meaningful aspect of the business that isn’t impacted by this decision.
As I write this, it is 9:33 in the morning EST - a full three hours after I would have normally hit the send button on my weekly post. I wanted to say a quick thanks and a heads-up on some changes.
After nine months of publishing every week on Smart Like How, always on Tuesdays, I'm experimenting with some longer posts that can serve as more expansive guides on different topics. It's exciting for me to be able to dive into some of the things I want to write about in the depth they deserve. The only downside is that I'm sure about the new schedule yet. I am absolutely going to still publish regularly - but I'll be doing some experimentation to figure out the right cadence. My hope is to mix in these longer posts with some normal-length or shorter posts on specific ideas.
My sincerest thanks to the tens of thousands of you who have read the blog, downloaded my book and offered your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, etc. If you haven't yet, don't forget to join my email group. I'd love to hear which topics you'd like to see discussed more and any other thoughts you have.
When you consider how many options are available to you today, it’s never been a better time to take classes as an adult. After I graduated from college, I've taken classes at a community college, taken free courses online, earned professional certifications, and done a lot of studying on my own. Along the way, I've learned a lot about how and why I learn, and it has caused me re-think some of my core beliefs about of education. Here's what I see as the pros and cons of the different ways you can go back to school as an adult.
Being an avid reader benefits you professionally. First, reading stimulates your mind and makes you a better thinker, as incredibly obvious studies such as this one have shown. Less obvious but arguably just as valuable is how books serve as a bridge to connecting with people. Engaging someone about a book that they loved is a great way to build rapport quickly. But how do you find time as a busy professional to read all of the great things that are out there?