A Reflection on Cancer

Fight Cancer 2Tomorrow is a day of celebration for me…I was declared “cancer free” on May 1, 2012. My battle with cancer has had a profound impact on me personally and has changed me in many ways. Some in my behaviors, but mostly in my motivations and drivers.

To give you a brief history, I was diagnosed with Atypical Carcinoid Cancer. This is a pretty rare but fast growing cancer usually found in people much older than me. Altogether, I had 16 tumors removed from my small intestine over the course of two surgeries. I also had an emergency third surgery that repaired an issue from my second surgery that was slowly killing me. I lost 80 pounds – 50 of that in a single month. For several months, I had trouble moving from my bedroom to my living room. A full day’s worth of food for me was one cracker with some peanut butter on it. I was in pretty bad shape as cancer had beaten me down physically.

Notice that I said that it had beaten me down physically. Emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, I stayed pretty confident and strong. I tried to keep my sense of humor. No matter how I was feeling, I could always find someone who was worse than me, so I tried to reach out to them and be an encouragement to them. I am a man of faith as well, and surprisingly it never wavered. I think all of these things were keys to my defeat of this awful disease.

I mentioned that my battle changed me in many ways. As a result of facing this disease, I have a few deep desires that I find myself continually drawn to:

Desire 1: I work so that I can enjoy life. This wasn’t how I previously approached my career. I worked to get ahead and to gain more work. I worked for recognition and rewards. I worked for money and nice things. I worked because my work defined me. Now, in my approach to work, I still want to do a good job, be very good at what I do, and I want to be comfortable in my finances, but I do those things so that I can enjoy life in spontaneous and unique ways. Work doesn’t consume my every moment now. I can disengage and relax and separate myself from my work. My family matters to me greatly. My daughter is 16 and I know that my days are numbered where she will be at home and such a big part of my life. Eventually it will come back to just my wife and I, and I look forward to those days too.

Desire 2: Meaningful conversations are key. I believe that once you have felt like death is a real possibility for yourself, relationships matter much more. We live in a world of chatter and small talk. The whole premise of Twitter is that we express our thoughts, but not too deeply. We only get a few characters to do so. I find myself now desperately wanting others to talk to, to engage with, and to do so at a deeper level than what most people are accustomed to. I want to talk about things that matter. I want emotions in those conversations – and the more of them over the course of a single conversation, the better! I want people to know where they stand with me and how I feel about them. One thing that started while I was in the hospital, and unsure how things were going to play out, is that I told people around me what I appreciated most about them and that I loved them. For some, they just didn’t know how to take this and were caught off guard. I’ve continued with that to some degree. I hug. I compliment. I encourage. And I share how I feel with others. This isn’t always comfortable to do, but you never know if this might be the last conversation that you’ll have with that person.

Desire 3: No regrets. I think we all have things that run through our minds that we think would be really cool to do.  I know I always have those thoughts. But now, I find myself acting on them. I started my own company. I bought a convertible. I auditioned for The Voice and America’s Got Talent. I’ve run three 5K’s. I speak at events and on webcasts routinely. I started a basketball skills academy for my daughter and her teammates. Now, I don’t anticipate that I will ever have the desire to go jump out of a perfectly good plane, or to strap a bungee around my ankles and hurl myself off of a bridge. There are some things that I just have no desire to do and I won’t regret not trying them at all. But there are others that I am focused on and hope to do in the future.

There are so many negative things that come as a result of cancer, but good can come from any situation if you are seeking it. I certainly have daily reminders of my battle – the scars, the memories, the fears, and my body will never function “normally” again as a result. Few people know, but I am sick, on average, 20-25 times a day. With over 3 feet of my small intestine removed, it impacts the way that I respond to food and drinks. Now, I have become very good at hiding how I feel. I know how to overcome these challenges. Quite honestly, it wears me out sometimes. But even on the worst of my days, when I feel horrible, I am thankful for my life, for my family, for friends, and for the opportunity to experience more of life!

Don’t wait until something tragic occurs to make these changes in your own life. Do them now!

Saying Goodbye to Dad

Dad - parade - Pioneer of the Year 2I am my father’s only son. A couple of days ago, I said my goodbyes and now we wait for him to take his final breath. He has been mostly unresponsive for several days now, but when I arrived at his hospital bedside, he lifted his head, looked at me, and smiled. I had a couple of minutes where I could talk privately to him and he would respond by shaking his head yes and no. This was a highly emotional conversation for me, so I simply could not speak for long. However, I ended by telling him that I love him, and he replied, “You too.” We had other moments with others in the room. One that has stayed in my mind constantly was him slowly trying to get his hand from underneath his blanket. I helped to remove it, and he grabbed my wrist and then held my hand for a few minutes. These are moments that I will cherish and remember always.

As my mind is filled with thoughts of my dad in these days, I started to consider life lessons that I learned from him. I’d like to make note of them – quite honestly – for my own benefit primarily, but if others can gain some perspective or guidance from them as well, then so be it.

1) Make what you will of your life through hard work. 

My father was the hardest working person I’ve ever experienced. Sun up until way past sun down found him working, sweating, dirty, and worn out. For more than 20 years, my dad was a repairman for GE (General Electric). He would do service calls to repair appliances, TVs, stereos, etc. There was nothing that he couldn’t fix – and I do mean nothing. When he was a child, he built a TV on his own. Before he was a teenager, he took apart an entire car’s engine and put it back together again just to see if he could. He could. Eventually he left GE and opened his own appliance and TV sales and repair shop in our small town. It was amazing that he made enough to survive as he was constantly going to someone’s house to repair something and then not charging them for his efforts. I think he liked smiles and thank yous much more than money.

One day, someone asked him if he knew how to install and repair air conditioning. He said that he did…he lied. He knew nothing about it, but within a couple of days, he had it figured out. For most of my childhood, he owned a HVAC company that proved to be very fruitful for him. From the time that I was 9, I worked alongside my dad during summers, winters, weekends, and lots of week nights. I became a pretty good installer, but never was much of a repairman. I just remember that 15-16 hours days were routine during those years. He earned every penny he ever made.

For many years, I averaged well over 100 hours per week in my work. I don’t believe that it is healthy to do this, and I believe that you miss the whole reason for your working so hard – to enjoy life. Hard work is good, but so is time spent relaxing and enjoying relationships with those you care about.

2) If there’s a job worth doing, it’s worth doing perfectly.

It took a very special person to be able to work with my dad for extended periods of time. He has always been a perfectionist. One story that comes to mind is that my dad drew up the plans for our local church to add a new educational space. Aside from pouring the foundation and framing the walls and roof, my dad did almost all of the work because all of the other who were volunteering their time walked off the site because he was so demanding on the quality of work being done. He wasn’t much for teaching or training others in how to do things, he would just give you this look that made you feel like an idiot if you couldn’t figure it out and know his expectations. I experienced that look quite often. But when the projects were over, and you inspected the work that had been done, you would find zero flaws in his work. He was amazing in this regard.

As I started my own career after college, I apparently picked up some of these characteristics from my dad. I often had people walk off of projects because of my demanding need for perfection. I found myself going back and redoing things that others had already done without them knowing. Although I have softened some today and appreciate the efforts and vision of others, I still believe firmly that one should always do the very best job possible the first time. In doing so, you can take satisfaction in a job well done.

3) There is equal value in every race. 

My father was a well respected leader in the community. He held many offices from School Board President, Booster Club President, City Council, etc. I remember that everywhere we went, regardless of neighborhood, people loved to spend time with my dad. It could easily be seen and heard…the level of respect they had for him. He knew everyone…called them all by name. When running for office, he would have shuttles available for those who didn’t have rides to the polling places or for those who had trouble getting out of their homes. He would often volunteer time and services for those throughout the community, never once asking for anything in return. I see now that my dad was ahead of the times in his embrace of diversity.

For me, I grew up in a very diverse school, playing sports with very diverse teams. Of course, we always had fights and disagreements, but they were never around racial issues. When I got into junior high and high school, I had switched to a private school where there was very little diversity. It was awkward to me to be in such a “white” place. I appreciate the example that my dad set for me.

4) Sometimes what needs to be done requires enormous personal sacrifice. 

In my senior year of high school, I was working with my dad. He was walking through a new home and drawing a diagram of how the A/C ductwork would be installed. He tripped, fell, and broke his hip. I had to pick him up and carry him out to his truck and drive him to the emergency room. This one instant changed my dad’s life forever. He had hip replacement surgery. The doctors instructed him that he would not be able to climb ladders, crawl, or lift more than 50 pounds. Those are at the very core of what you do when installing HVAC. The doctor was basically telling him that his career was over…but that wasn’t an option in my dad’s mind. He continued his line of work for many more years, and in doing so, his hip came out of socket. He worked for years with that hip out of socket – walked, climbed, crawled, lifted enormous amounts of weight. My dad was in agony for years, but continued to go because he felt like it’s what he needed to do. It eventually led to more surgeries and him being disabled. Altogether, he has had over 20 hip replacements now and having his femur replaced.

Why? Why would he do this? My dad loved what he did, but more than that, he saw this as the best way for him to provide for his family. I didn’t recognize the sacrifice he was making at the time. I would just shake my head and I thought he was crazy. There’s no doubt in my mind that my dad is the toughest and strongest man I’ve ever met. I have so many stories of his toughness and perseverance. I now also see the element of love behind it all. I’m amazed at what he did and how he did it.

5) Family matters. Affection matters. Words matter.

In my previous points, I have spoken of things that my dad did that made an impression on me. However, on this point, what my dad didn’t do made an impression.  My dad was not an affectionate man to his kids. I was an adult before I remember him saying that he loved me. My parents divorced when I was 9, and then he secretly remarried without my sisters and I knowing. When this occurred, we rarely saw my dad at family events or gatherings. He would, however, come watch me play football or basketball. He never missed a game. But when his kids were grown, and we became parents ourselves, my dad rarely saw or spent time with his grandkids. He is a man of very few words. Conversations are difficult with him because he just doesn’t have much to say.

In these recent years, I believe he regrets those decisions. My daughter has longed for a relationship with him. As I walked through his home a couple of days ago, I saw pictures of my daughter all over the house. He cared. He regretted his decisions. He just never knew how to go about fixing it and then time ran out.

As someone who grew up with a dad like that, I have been the opposite with my daughter. I hug her, kiss her, and tell her how much I love her all of the time. I spend as much time with her as possible so she knows how much I value our relationship. I’m involved in her life at a deep level, and we have a great relationship.

My dad was not a perfect man, but he has always been an impressive man. His kindness to others. His work ethic. His disarming smile. His talents and abilities. These are the things that have impacted my life the most. When he takes that final breath, the world will have lost a very unique and impressive man. I see him and hear him in so many things that I say and do these days. I used to think that would be the worst thing in the world, but now…it’s something that I long for.

Thank you Dad for all you’ve done for me and taught me. I love you.

The Commonalities of Generations

multi generational handsDo you ever catch yourself doing or saying something that your parents used to do or say that drove you crazy? My dad used to used whistle while he was driving…all the time…non-stop. It would drive me insane! Now, I often find myself driving down the road, listening to some tunes, whistling away – and then I sense it, my 16 year old daughter is glaring at me like she wants to punch me in the face if I don’t stop immediately. I still mow the lawn the way my mom wanted it done when I was a kid. There are so many elements of what I do from leadership to the way I approach each day to the way that I treat other people that I picked up from my younger days. It molded me and shaped my thinking.

Of course there are some ways that I have progressed as well in my approach. Technology is one of the primary culprit in those changes, but not all of them.  The world that I have lived in and have grown up in has played a major role in what I do, how I do it, how I interact with others, who and what I trust in, and the expectations that I have established in my mind. This is nothing new. It’s always been this way, and my guess is that it will always be that way.

Consider the Baby Boomers

They grew up during a transitional phase in our history. They were born after World War II during a time when America flourished and developed, and in many ways, ruled the world! But they were also impacted greatly by The Great Depression, when families lost everything they had and employment was at a premium. When you consider this generation, some of the commonalities would include:

  • Extremely hard working – the term “workaholics” was created for them
  • Motivated by prestige and high ranking positions
  • Defined themselves by their work and accomplishments
  • They are self-reliant, independent, confident, dedicated, passionate, and resourceful
  • They were slow to change jobs because they were thankful just to have a job
  • They think other generations lack work ethic and commitment

Consider the Millennials

They have also grown up during a transitional phase in our history. They are the first to have the internet available to them every day of their lives. If you consider what an overwhelming impact the internet has had on the way businesses operate, is it any wonder that it has also impacted an entire generation and how they see and communicate with the world around them?

Prior to the internet, kids would grow up in a town – maybe a small town – that had one main employer. Dad worked there. Granddad worked there. Great granddad worked there. Uncle worked there. Brother worked there. Where do you think the next person in the family was going to work? There! But with the internet available to us, the world is available to us. We no longer just hear about an opening at the local employer, we can see job openings all over the world. We can upload a resume. We can video interview without ever having to leave home. It made the pool of possibilities endless.

It also makes us dream bigger. Prior to the internet, that person looking for a job was maybe saying to himself, “If I come in and take this job, work hard, do what’s right – maybe in a few years I can be a supervisor. Then maybe, by the time I’m my dad’s age, I can be a manager or run a division.” But now, we see people like Mark Zuckerberg create something like Facebook and he was in college. We see high school kids writing code and creating new technologies. They are no longer thinking, well, maybe I’ll be a division manager one day. They’re thinking, “I can be rich. I can start the next big thing!”

Leadership has this assumption of Millennials that they are not committed and aren’t worth a heavy investment to recruit them. I’m not so sure that this is true. Think of the day and age where they have entered the workforce. These are not stable times. They see instability all around them – well known companies going under, start-ups flourishing, massive mergers and buy-outs, and I just think the landscape is fast moving and ever changing…so they have adapted to it. They are playing by the rules that have been displayed for them.

They have grown up in an incentivized world where you get reward points, and frequent customer rewards, and so on. They desire this in their employment as well. Remember, this is the group where everyone got a trophy or ribbon on the athletic field.

The world that all of us have grown up in truly has impacted us and molded our thinking and the way that we go about our careers and lives. I wonder what our smallest kids now are being taught and how it will shape and mold their thinking and behaviors 20 years from now? It’s an interesting question…but I guess we just have to wait and see the answers.

The Class of 2014: Is the Future Dim or Bright?

Class-Of-2014-4In my professional life, I spend most of my time with executives and business leaders discussing workforce issues. Most of the concerns that are raised are with the younger generation who is entering the workforce. They are most often described as:

  • Self-centered
  • Lazy
  • Lacking interpersonal skills
  • Uncommitted

Company turnover rates are too high as they tend to move from job to job. Communication styles have changed as our technologies have changed, so texting, blogging, posting, has often replaced looking someone in the eye and having a verbal conversation. Many of today’s younger workers aren’t interested or aren’t planning on taking jobs that involve manual labor because technology is such a big part of their lives, and let’s face it, they do a better job of marketing opportunities to young adults than construction, oil & gas, or skilled trades do.

But in my personal life, I spend most of my time around students. My daughter is wrapping up her sophomore year of high school. She’s very involved in basketball with her school and in an AAu program. I help develop players for the basketball program at her school, so I am around students almost every night and weekend. There will always be those who are the poster children for the descriptions above, but not all of them. Not even most of them.

I’d like to share a few students with you that I’ve spent time with this year who are seniors – about to graduate and head off to college to begin their serious pursuit of a career. These students have genuinely impacted me and made me feel good about their potential to succeed and make others around them better.

Samantha – I’ve known Sam for a couple of years now. My first impression of her was that she was tough and not very personable or friendly. But as I’ve gotten to know her, I see her quite differently. She played basketball and was apart of my AAU program last year. She was a tireless worker on the court and a leader among the other girls. She was entering her senior year and it looked very bright for her. But just a few games into the season, injuries knocked her out for the rest of the year, and for the rest of her sports career. Obviously she was disappointed and saddened, but she stayed with her team and became their biggest cheerleader. She would sit on the bench and help younger players to understand what was happening on the court. Very positive on the court, but weeping off the court as the season didn’t work out the way she envisioned. Sam is smart, funny, driven, supportive, and the ultimate team player. She’s a leader. Sam wants to be a teacher and I believe she will be an amazing one!

Martin – Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with Martin and get to know him. Positive. Energetic. Strong interpersonal skills. Funny. Professional. His ambitions are to study some sort of neuroscience as it relates to sports injuries, or possibly physical therapy. I have extremely high expectations for him in his career. He is infectious with his enthusiasm for life and relationships. I see him being a leader throughout his career and his life. It would be very advantageous for a company to snatch him up now for an internship and begin to cultivate a relationship with him.

Patrick – I was able to meet and work with Patrick as he was preparing to go compete in a state competition for his school. He would be competing in the area of sales presentations. He had a product that he needed to present, be able to speak about the capabilities and nuances of the product, and answer questions regarding it. He did an excellent job! I have been around lots and lots of sales people over the years and Patrick has a VERY bright future ahead of him. He’s a gentle giant – friendly, engaging, humble, gracious, very strong communication skills, and the ability to present technical information in an easy to understand manner. I know lots of CEO’s in the Austin area who ought to give this guy an internship immediately! When he finishes that business and marketing degree, he will be unstoppable.

Gaebri – What an accomplished young lady! She is the captain of the dance team for the school. I spent each night last week around Gaebri as it was their end of the year Spring Show. 3 hours of non-stop music and dancing from the various dance groups in the school and area. Not only did Gaebri dance in the show, but she danced at least 15 dances and she choreographed the vast majority of the show. She has incredible talent, but that wasn’t the main thing that grabbed my attention. She was so at ease in the middle of all of that chaos around her. I’ve never seen anything like that! She is driven. She’s competitive. She has great attention to detail. She’s a multi-tasker galore! But she is well grounded, humble, kind, approachable, and a joy to be around. With the work ethic that she has, there’s no doubt that she is going to be successful at whatever she wants to pursue. There’s no doubt in my mind.

These four young people are incredible in their own unique ways! If we were to take the descriptions that business leaders have for this generation and compare them to these four people – they totally destroy those preconceived notions. There are many others that I could have mentioned as well. Look, I evaluate talent for various companies in multiple industries. I’m paid to be skeptical and only promote those who really are the best of the best. While none of these four students could come in today and be top producers in most organizations, I believe all of them could be quickly with training, mentoring, internships, and opportunities.

I feel good about the future workforce. Not everyone will be like the four that I’ve introduced to you today, but many of them are hard working, dedicated, loyal, personable, do the right thing kind of people. Good luck Class of 2014! I see great things ahead for you!

 

Political Stance Screening Questions?

American Politics ConceptRecently the big news story was Brendan Eich and his stepping down as the CEO of Mozilla under pressure from his board due to the calls for his firing by OKCupid and their followers. Six years earlier, Mr. Eich wrote a personal check to a cause that he supported aimed at defeating a gay marriage law in California. According to everything I have read, he had never been accused of discrimination or any unlawful act in his professional responsibilities. At issue was what cause he chose to support as a private citizen…the same stance, by the way, that Barack Obama held at the same time. OKCupid believed that his own personal beliefs and contributions from 6 year prior were grounds for him to lose his employment at Mozilla, where he had been employed for 13 years.

As someone in the recruiting industry, I’ve begun to ask myself how this scenario will impact how recruiters will do their job, and how they will need to respond to hiring managers or clients who may want to know more about their potential candidates. Although I haven’t been asked to yet, what if a client asks me to lead a search for them and they only want people who support gay marriage? Or what if I have a client who says they only want to see candidates who are against gun control? Or pro-life? Or pro-choice? What if they want financial records for the past 10 years to make sure they haven’t donated to a charity or a cause that the hiring manager doesn’t personally support?

Obviously, I cannot legally ask these questions. Or at least I can’t yet. But is that where we are headed? Will recruiting take on more of a private investigator persona so we can only have people working alongside us who think identically to the way we think?

It is troublesome to consider these scenarios. Individuals should be able to form and hold their own personal opinions, beliefs, and convictions. They should be able to support a cause if they feel it appropriate and lawful. If they can maintain those opinions, beliefs, and convictions without unlawful issue in their professional lives, then so be it. Mr Eich’s story is something all of us should consider. It isn’t about what side of the gay marriage argument you support. The next time, it could be another hot button topic that you adamantly oppose, and someone just like you could be fired because the boss doesn’t see things exactly as you do.

Share your thoughts with me…is this where we are headed?

America: Unfree?

tape on mouth

Gay marriage. Abortion. Equal pay for women. Display the 10 Commandments. ObamaCare. Keystone pipeline. Gun control. Global warming.

Where do I stand on these issues? I’m not sure I should tell you. As it turns out, we have gotten to a point in America where no one can share an opinion or donate to a cause they believe in without another individual or group crying foul, labeling you with a harsh term, and asking people to fire you or stop doing business with you. Freedom of Speech is one of the foundational elements that this country was built on. We have always held to the idea that any of us can say whatever we want and the listener can take it or leave it. Of course, there are some rare exceptions to this – yelling “fire” in a movie theater, etc.

The news recently broke of the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, having to step down from his position because of the outcry of those who were offended that 6 years prior, he donated $1000 to a California Proposition 8 cause aimed to defeat those who wanted to legalize gay marriage. By the way, Barack Obama held the same point of view as Eich in 2008, so I’m sure he will be resigning soon as well, right? The effort to make Eich pay for his financial support was led by OKCupid – a dating website. They instructed their subscribers to make Mozilla aware of their outrage at making him the CEO. Keep in mind here, Eich has never been accused of any type of discrimination of gay employees or anything along those lines, he just wrote a check 6 years earlier to support a cause that another group was opposed to. Now he’s unemployed after 13 years of employment with Mozilla.

Is this a one time thing? No. We just recently heard endless reporting about Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty. He was asked for his opinion of homosexuality during a magazine interview, and he answered with a deeply held and honest answer. I don’t for a second think that the interviewer was surprised by his answer…he likely asked him knowing what type of answer he would get and also knowing that the fire storm around it would generate lots of interest in the article and the magazine. He was right. Organizations were immediately calling for his firing because he dared to share his own personal beliefs and opinions.

Crystal Dixon, a former employee at the University of Toledo, was fired because she wrote a letter to the editor of her local newspaper disagreeing with the characterization of homosexuality being the same as a race issue.

Juan Williams, formerly with NPR, was fired because he gave a personal opinion that seeing people in “Muslim garb” made him feel uneasy on airplanes.

Johnny Cook, a school bus driver in Georgia, heard one of the students talking about how hungry he was because he was denied lunch at school because he owed 40 cents to his lunch account. Mr. Cook posted a comment on Facebook about it and was fired. He stated, ““This child is already on reduced lunch [program] and we can’t let him eat. Are you kidding me? I’m certain there was leftover food thrown away today. But kids were turned away because they don’t have .40 on there account. As a tax payer, I would much rather feed a child than throw it away. I would rather feed a child than to give food stamps to a crackhead.” The reason he was dismissed is that he openly criticized (to his personal Facebook friends and family members) the school district’s policy on these matters.

While losing your job is of great concern, more troublesome is the labeling of people with whom you disagree. We have seen routinely over the past few years that if anyone on the right disagrees with President Obama, it is often labeled as being racist. It couldn’t be that they just disagree about policy or the direction of leadership. Those on the right are quick to say that anyone who agrees with Obama is a Socialist, Communist, or a Nazi. President Bush was often portrayed at rallies with an Adolf Hitler moustache, a noose around his neck, or with gun sights targeting a shot to his head. Both political parties cry that there should be respect for the office of the President, but political leaders are often the ones who begin the labeling process.

If someone disagrees with gay marriage, then they are immediately labeled as a bigot. If someone takes issue with abortion, then they are sexist and perpetrating a war on women. Nevermind that for some, opposition to gay marriage and abortion are deeply held religious convictions. For some, these are non-negotiable beliefs and they simply cannot change based on popular opinions or polls. From the other side, these are very personal issues and likely reflect acts of hate that have been demonstrated towards them over many years.

America….we are rapidly losing our sense of civility, kindness, and tolerance. We no longer debate, persuade, or influence. Instead, we target, attack, mock and label. I’m curious, if we are only allowed to have a single opinion on the various issues of our lives – who gets to decide what acceptable is? If there can be no debate, if you cannot express altering opinions, then how will the best course of action for a group collectively or for an individual singularly be decided? What if there could be no debate or dissenting opinions in our past? We would still have slavery. Women wouldn’t be allowed to vote. Schools would still be segregated. Abortion would be illegal. Alcohol would be illegal. Prayer would still be allowed in schools. Times certainly change – but does right and wrong, good and evil?

Where are we headed? I’m afraid that if things continue as they are, our government will begin to dictate to us all what is acceptable and anything beyond that will be a crime. You may think that’s a good thing, but you likely won’t when they tell you that you must believe, support and verbally praise something that you vehemently oppose internally. This is what the leadership of Hobby Lobby are fighting right now at the Supreme Court. This is not progress. This is tyranny. America used to fight to defend countries that had this type of leadership in place…now we are becoming it.

Employees are cautious about sharing opinions in the workplace already. Now, they must also be afraid to have an opinion period, or to support any cause with which they agree. Is this really how we want to live? Are we really a free society?

Experience? I Don’t Need Experience to Build an ATS!

QuestionsI have made a decision. I think I am going to write a book on the safest way to skydive. Now, I’ve never been skydiving, nor is it likely that I ever will as I am afraid of heights. But really, how hard can it be? Stick a parachute in a backpack – hitch a ride on a plane – open the door – jump – scream – then pull a cord and let the parachute do the rest. Easy, right? I should be able to write a best selling instructional guide with no problem.

Or instead I could become a survival expert and I could start taking people on adventurous trips around the world where we experience extreme situations! Yeah, that would be awesome! Granted, I have no medical training. I have no background in extreme sports or survival situations. However, I have watched Man vs Wild, Naked and Alive, and Survivor. I’m sure I’ve picked up enough knowledge from that to do okay.

As absurd as it sounds for me to undertake either of those scenarios based on my background and lack of experience, and even more absurd that people would trust me in either of those endeavors, I have found that there are some in business who have made equally absurd assumptions and created products to market to an industry they know nothing about. While I’m sure there’s a list of things we could name here, my culprit today is Applicant Tracking Systems.

In a discussion yesterday with a long time friend, former manager of mine, and mentor who has taught me many things regarding the recruiting industry, our conversation turned nerdy quickly and we started talking Applicant Tracking Systems. We both feel the same pains from the ones on the market and agree that there are a few common sense things that could be done to them to dramatically improve them. If you want to see my list of those things, you can read a previous post of mine here. But our discussion took a bit of a twist and focused on WHY so many of these ATS companies miss so many obvious things that would benefit recruiters. The answer: Most often, in our experience, the people who start these ATS companies are software or technology people, not recruiters. Their perspective is unique to the world that they live in and requires assumptions to be made regarding what a recruiter would need or want.

User interfaces, bells, and whistles are not what makes an effective ATS. It’s knowing various recruiting models that are out there and being able to customize your tool on the fly to fit any of them. It’s counting clicks to see how many steps it takes to get from point A to point B, because that may not seem like a big deal in your demo sessions led by other non-recruiters, but for those of us who have to click those buttons thousands of times a week and wait for the page to load – it matters. Speed matters! It’s knowing the unique needs of a corporate recruiter vs an agency recruiter. What about the metrics we need? What about including a CRM and accounting suite to it so everything can be done seamlessly within a single tool?

Obviously, I have made a sweeping claim here. I’m sure that not every ATS company has people running it with no recruiting experience. I’m sure most have someone on their team that has done recruiting at some level for some period of time. Product Development teams should have a well-seasoned person with a stellar track record of establishing strategies and processes for teams of recruiters as a critical piece of their teams. This person should have experience using a variety of recruitment tools and technologies in order to know what the competition has and how it can be improved. And you CEOs of these ATS companies – this person should be your most trusted advisor and best friend, not the CFO!

Once your Product Development team has that person in place, the next thing would be for you to actually go find sales people who know what in the world recruiting is and why our questions matter. I would be a very wealthy man if I had a dollar for every time a sales person said to me during an ATS demo, “I don’t know but I can find that out for you.”

I guess I have two points for this post:

1) If you don’t have a background in recruiting, please quit trying to create tools for us that do.

2) If you ignore #1, then please go find extremely qualified people with a recruiting background to talk to us and build the products for us.