Paris: The End of Freedom of Speech in the US?

“The prophet has been avenged.”

In 2012, Charlie Hebdo ridiculed Mohammed in one of their cartoons. Back then, they was the target of President Obama who criticized them for publishing religiously sensitive cartoons. Today, Charlie Hebdo was the target of terrorists looking for revenge. They succeeded as they killed the cartoonist and 11 others, including a police officer who was pleading for mercy on the sidewalk.

For the record, multiple religions have also been ridiculed by this magazine, not just Islam. No others have responded violently.

As tragic and senseless as this act is, it forces us to ask what impact it has on our freedom here in the US – specifically, freedom of speech or expression. For many years, America has been going down the path of restricting speech or expression, so the question is not whether or not this act of terrorism will start us down the road to silencing opinions or thoughts on religious matters. The question should be whether or not this act of terrorism will be the cherry on top that ends it for us in our immediate future. Go ask Phil Robertson (Duck Dynasty) if he feels the freedom to express his religious thoughts freely, or the head of Hobby Lobby, or Chick-fil-A, Tim Tebow, or the former head of Mozilla. Ask the pastors of Christian churches in Houston, Texas if they are a little more sensitive to their sermon topics on Sunday after the Mayor wanted copies of their sermons to see if “hate speech” was included in them.

It’s a widely held practice around offices that you do not speak about politics or religion, and if you choose to do so, a firestorm may ensue. Recruiters and HR have to be extremely careful not to ask anything of candidates that might reveal someone’s belief system, or lack of one altogether. A good sales person knows to avoid those topics as well. You’ll never hear them bring up religion at a lunch meeting.

We have gone down this path where we fear expressing an opinion because there seems to be a severe penalty that follows if the other person doesn’t agree with you. Politicians dance around it, although the public is deeply interested in their stance on social issues and why they have formed that opinion. An executive at Sony Pictures recently had to scramble to try to save her career and reputation because she made “insensitive jokes” regarding President Obama. She even sought out Al Sharpton in an effort to win his forgiveness before he led his troops to battle against her. We no longer know how to debate or disagree respectfully. We attack. Call people names. Humiliate the other person. End their careers. Bankrupt them. We can’t win our debate on substance, so we have to shut down all dialog altogether and we do that through making one point a view socially acceptable and everything else considered “hate.”

There are very few positives that come in the immediate aftermath of tragedies like today’s, but I was encouraged to see 100,000 people gather together at Republique Square (near the scene) to honor the victims, holding signs reading ‘Je suis Charlie’ – ‘I am Charlie’. One of the great things that we have always appreciated here in the US is the freedom to express our opinions and thoughts freely, but I feel like we are on a see-saw at the moment. Either we will say that we need to stop and censor certain speech, or we will rally in defense of this freedom and defend it passionately. I don’t have to agree with your opinion. You can hate my opinion and be fully convinced that I am wrong. But why do we have to hate each other as a result? Why can’t we discuss, see the other’s point of view, and try to understand why we have come to a certain conclusion?

We say that we have evolved and are the most educated people in history, yet we behave like barbarians when someone disagrees with us, or dares to poke fun at us. Maybe we haven’t evolved. Maybe we have regressed into sensitive babies who cannot reason, think, or defend a point of view any longer. I sure hope not, but the evidence is proving it to be true.

My deepest condolences to those families impacted by the events in Paris. May we never experience these types of actions again.

Paris Tragedy




He’s the Man


I saw a remarkable video this morning of a company celebrating their leader’s 11th anniversary running the show. The guy, completely unaware, walks into his company doors like any other morning, but what a celebration would soon erupt!

As I watched him stroll through his office, surrounded by so many people who likely had never had a one on one encounter with him, they honored him nonetheless. By watching his mannerisms as this celebration was taking place around him and for him, his shoulders were slumped with humility. The sheepish grin on his face indicated to me that he felt a bit unworthy of such a spectacle. But in watching the participants of the party, the employees, you could tell that they felt the freedom to be themselves and do whatever was natural for them. Dancing. Singing. Yelling. Applauding. Total freedom to just celebrate in this moment that included a mariachi band, gospel choir, headdress-adorned dancers, acrobats, and even a naked guy holding a sign, surrounded by all of the employees wearing black and white.

I had no idea what company this was, or who the leader was, but I can tell you that by watching the way these employees responded to him and the freedom that they felt…I was drawn to that company and that leader. I wanted to know who they were. As it turns out, this is Mark Sebba and he is the CEO of Net-A-Porter. He had announced his retirement after 11 years. By watching the video, you didn’t see him wearing an expensive suit. You didn’t see him go to a corner office isolated from everyone else. As a matter of fact, if you had lined up the employees side by side and you had to go down the line and try to pick who the CEO was – you wouldn’t have picked Mr. Sebba.

From an executive standpoint, I am sure that he had a lump in his throat and was trying to maintain his composure. I also imagine that he might have reflected on some of the sacrifices that he made over that 11 year period – sleepless nights, tough decisions that had to be made, disappointments that were experience, big wins that changed the momentum of the company. But above all, my guess is that Mark Sebba reflected on those employees – the people. Conversations he had. Knowledge of struggles that they might have faced. I cannot imagine that he knew each one personally, but I can imagine that each one of the employees felt that they knew him personally.

When it comes time for you to retire, what will be the sentiments of those who have shared their careers with you? Will they feel that they knew you personally? That you were part of the team? These employees found an incredible way to say “Thank you and job well done!”

You can see the video here.

FROZEN Out of Talent? Let It Go!

The following is the transcript of a webcast I did on 8/26/14 for SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management).  This should not be copied or used without my permission.

Frozen - Title Slide











Hello everyone. My name is Doug Douglas. I’m speaking with you from Austin, Texas today where I live and have my business. Let me just say a couple of things before we dig into our topic today:

  • I love to have people connect with me at the end of these sessions, so if you’d like to connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – please feel free to send me an invitation. I’ll put my contact info up at the end of today’s session.
  • The biggest challenge for me in doing these webcasts is the diversity of the audience and the types of information that might be specifically useful to you. We have some on the call today from major global brands that all of us would recognize, and we have some on here who are from very small companies. Some have big budgets, and some have no budget. Some have a team of people working on recruiting, and others are a single person trying to do recruiting along with other responsibilities. So, in planning the information to share with you today – I really do try to consider all of those factors and try to make sure there is something for everyone.

In 2013, the movie “Frozen” was released by Walt Disney. This was based on the Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” The movie was wildly popular, but there is a song that came from the movie that has been sung by just about everyone imaginable now…

  • Demi Lovato
  • Idina Menzel
  • Pearl Jam
  • Boxer Manny Pacquiao
  • And countless parents singing it at the top of their lungs as they drive with their kids

The song is “Let It Go.” And the chorus says…

“Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore.

Let it go, let it go. Turn away and slam the door.

I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway.”

As you face recruitment issues and executive expectations and reduced bandwidth among your team, it requires a leader to stand up and say, “We are going to fix this and not just keep doing things the way and expecting different results. I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage one…the cold never bothered me anyway.”


As you consider the current state of your recruitment efforts, you might find that you are getting frozen out from the best talent.

  • In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 30% of employers say that recruiting qualified candidates is their biggest concern.

Maybe you are seeing that your employees aren’t content and you fear a mass exodus at any moment.

  • Did you know that in a recent poll, 78% of people currently employed say that they would leave their current job if someone would offer them another?

Or possibly you just see your recruitment costs rising and putting a strain on your budget.

  • 18% say that recruitment costs are the most critical concern they face

If you work in an industry that employs skilled trades, you are undoubtedly getting hit hard in your recruitment efforts.

  • Over 10 million skilled labor jobs went unfilled last year.

You live in this world. You see these very real concerns. You are tasked with trying to find solutions. Yet sometimes your bosses don’t see and understand the challenges that you face, the shifts that have taken in the workforce, and the demands for specific types of talent.  In order to face these challenges, it takes someone who is confident, sure, and steadfast – committed to the big picture – and when the storms rage on, they just say – “Let it go, the cold never bothered me anyway!”

Recruitment Optimization. That might be a new term for you. I have been involved in this for years, but I finally named my process that a couple of years ago. At the time, you could go online and Google “Recruitment Optimization” and you would get less than 5 returns – mine being a couple of them. But today, you can search for it, and you get pages of returns. The trouble with bringing to market a fresh idea or term is that others quickly latch onto it and run with it. It is beginning to take on the same kind of feel as SEO did several years ago. Initially, SEO was a luxury for a rare few, but as it has become more complex and algorithms are changing moment by moment, then it is now seen as a mandatory aspect of a company’s marketing initiatives.


The days of posting an open job and waiting for people to apply so you can sort through them and pick one are over. A modern day recruiter must have a wide variety of skills, or the company must outsource this aspect of their business to an agency that has the tools, technology, and talent to compete for the best talent on your behalf. Consider what a modern day recruitment model looks like, according to Josh Bersin of Forbes Magazine:

  • Development of an employment brand
  • Developing creative advertisements and promotional materials
  • Developing job requisitions (working with hiring managers)
  • Placing and managing recruitment advertising and promotion
  • Managing university and college recruiting
  • Developing candidate relationship management and “farming” programs
  • Sourcing key candidates for critical roles
  • Screening and reference checking
  • Use of pre-hire assessments
  • Creating an interview process and using video and other interview tools
  • Training and engaging hiring managers in the recruiting process
  • Creating a career website
  • Selecting and implementing an applicant tracking system
  • Creating a mobile career website and experience
  • Supporting candidates through the process and creating a positive candidate experience
  • Globalizing each part of the process and localizing many steps
  • Understanding local labor markets to localize programs and promotions
  • Hiring and training recruiters
  • Accessing third party agencies and executive recruiters
  • Measuring and managing the process and focusing on speed, quality of hire, and efficiency
  • Onboarding new people
  • … and staying up to date on hundreds of new tools and technologies.

That’s a lot of responsibility, probably far more than you anticipated. If you asked your current recruitment team to write out their responsibilities – do you think they would hit on all of those areas? Most of them? Some? Or would they name just a few of those? Do they understand the strategic end of their efforts, or do they just smile, dial, and repeat?

Because some organizations understand the complexity involved in today’s recruiting efforts, rather than try to do it all themselves, they have made the decision to outsource this function to a 3rd part firm. Apple uses recruitment firms to assist them in their efforts, especially when starting up a new location. Very well-known Fortune 50 companies use firms because internally they haven’t figured out how to attract young talent or create a work environment that is appealing to Gen X or Millennials.

And for those who remain steadfast in doing everything in-house, they are often forced to deal with low performance, high turnover, and poor customer service if they do not have a well defined and appropriate recruitment model in place. Places like Google believe that hiring great HR and Recruiting people make a big difference, so they spend 4-5 times as much as other large companies.


Like so many businesses, families, and even our government – when we see that we are behind on our metrics, we tend to assume that if we add more people or money to it, that we can “fix” whatever the cause is. But when it comes to recruiting, that isn’t necessarily true. If your strategy, processes, and metrics are bad – then putting more money and more people into the machine that executes bad strategies, processes, and metrics won’t fix anything. You might get a temporary boost, but the problems will overtake them at some point.

Other companies go to the extreme the other direction and decide that things are so far behind that they just need to quit trying to do it themselves and outsource everything to someone else to do, or maybe they do a hybrid approach and keep a small internal team and supplement it with outsourcing other searches to a firm.

But there is another option that often gets overlooked or ignored. In most cases, current strategies, processes, technologies, metrics, social media efforts, etc. can be optimized to increase effectiveness and efficiencies, while also reducing costs and turnover. This shouldn’t be the last resort – it should be the first option! By making these adjustments, a team can increase bandwidth within their existing team, reducing or even eliminating the need to hire more people or to further outsource some of the workload.

A comprehensive optimization program should be one that addresses all of the following:

  • Recruitment Strategies
  • Recruitment Processes
  • Recruitment Technologies
  • Social Media Efforts
  • Metrics
  • Team Structure
  • Recruitment Costs
  • Team Performance

Many companies continue to use strategies and processes that were set in place 10-15-20 years prior. The six most dangerous words that a business can say is, “We’ve always done it that way.”

In my opinion, strategies and processes should be evaluated and optimized every 2-3 years now. There are two main drivers behind my opinion:

  • Technology changes quickly. Tools change quickly. “Go-to” places change quickly. If you have had your same strategies and processes for the past 10 years, Twitter wasn’t even created until 8 years ago. Pintrest came along 5 years ago. LinkedIn Recruiter came about 2 years ago. How do you not include things as widely used as Twitter, Pintrest, or LinkedIn Recruiter in your recruitment efforts, or at least consider them? Mobile recruitment is a huge part of the current landscape, yet a vast majority of corporate websites are not friendly to mobile browsers.
  • Generational changes. Think with me of how the internet has changed the way business is done today. Things are radically different!
  • The way we communicate with each other
  • The way we solve problems
  • The way we research
  • Our customer base is no longer local but global
  • Expectations for speed and efficiency are higher

So, if the internet has changed the way that business is done today, wouldn’t it stand to reason that it has also changed the way the first generation to have the internet every day of their lives would go about living their lives and addressing their careers?

When we consider those two things alone, the use of technology in our recruitment efforts, and the generational shift in expectations – I have to make a big point on this…

We have shifted too far to the technology end of things when you consider the modern day and next generation candidate.

There was something else that we have done that has also reshaped this modern day candidate. When they were kids, we decided that it was important that every child think things are equal and fair. There are no winners. There are no losers. Regardless of their contribution, they will be treated just like the one who contributes the most. So, we gave every player a trophy, ribbon or certificate.

As they continued to grow and go throughout their middle school and high school days, teachers would consistently provide a curve to the grades, so those that under-performed wouldn’t be punished as severely and gave them higher grades – many times allowing someone to pass a class that really hadn’t earned it.

Well now, little Tommy and Susie aren’t on the soccer fields, baseball field, volleyball or basketball courts – they are now in your offices and applying for your jobs. And what do you think their expectations are for the way they will be treated? They have a deep need for human interaction, assurance, collaboration, and recognition.

The technologies being used today remove the human element from the process almost entirely. A person can spend two hours applying for a job online, only to have an answer on their candidacy within 30 seconds of them hitting “submit” on your career page. Don’t get me wrong, it would be impossible today to have an effective recruitment model without numerous technologies involved, but the important factors are their balance and in the motivation behind them.

The key to the modern day and next generation candidate is influence, engagement, and personal value. These things are so far removed from what companies are doing currently that it is having a huge impact on the quality and quantity of qualified candidates for their open positions. Any changes to your current strategies and processes need to be centered around these things. Companies like Zappo’s have gone to the extreme in this direction and placed all of the eggs in the engagement basket. We don’t have time to go and take a deep look at what they’re doing, but there are plenty of articles online that point out the positives and negatives to their approach that you can learn on your own.

There is a definite need for optimization when it comes to recruitment strategies, processes, and technologies. However, there are a few OBSTACLES that come into play when considering optimization:

  • To get the best optimization recommendations possible, it requires someone who is unbiased to evaluate current strategies, processes, technologies, spending, social media efforts, team structure, performance, metrics, etc. When an internal person does this evaluation, there are personalities to be mindful of, there are existing ties for a current process to a current employee who developed that process, and obvious general preferences would be in play. The idea here is to get the most effective and efficient recruitment effort possible. PERSPECTIVE MATTERS!
  • HR/Recruitment leadership worry about their own personal reputations. To bring in an outside evaluator, the HR/Recruitment leadership worry that they will be seen by their own bosses as not capable of handling their function or not being knowledgeable enough to optimize it themselves. When you look at this from the standpoint of #1, this removes all personalities from it. When you look at it from an executive’s standpoint, the issue is establishing a world-class recruitment structure that will be beneficial to the company through reduced turnover, faster turn-around times to fill open positions, and saving money on the recruitment efforts across the board. It still requires an ongoing person there to manage and drive that new process, which the HR/Recruitment leader would continue to do.
  • Time. Time is always a factor. I began doing recruitment optimization several years ago, and now I do it exclusively. The biggest misconception that people have is that for me to come in an lead a full evaluation of the their current efforts in order to make recommendations for optimization, that I would require a month, or a couple of weeks, or even a full week of everyone’s time. While I’m sure there are consultants out there who make that their model because they are charging by the hour, this is not true of me. I have a comprehensive document that I created that walks me through every element of the recruitment function and I can almost always complete this in a single day. The most that I need any one person to sit with me and go through information is 3-4 hours. This allows each person to go about their normal responsibilities without a huge time commitment from them to support this process. When considering a consultant to do this type of evaluation – find someone who charges a flat fee for the service, and not charging you by the hour.
  • Cost. Again, if you bring in a consultant that is charging you hourly, they will likely want that process to take as long as possible so they can bill for as many hours as possible. By going with a consultant who charges a flat fee for the consultancy, they want to wrap things up as quickly as possible, but also want to make sure they do a great job for you so referrals will potentially come. The cost – at least in my world – is not substantial, but the benefits of the optimization efforts will provide a very significant ROI quickly to your organization.
  • Lack of options. Surprisingly, there aren’t many consultants out there who focus specifically on Recruiting, and those that do typically work for a recruiting firm and their finding will always include recommendations that you outsource some or all of your recruiting to them. You have many consultants out there who are HR consultants, but recruiting was just a piece of what they have done in the past. When it comes to evaluating technologies used and the various capabilities of those technologies, or knowing the modern day and next generation recruiting models, they have some exposure to it but maybe not much. Also, many HR consultants were at the executive levels prior to transitioning to a consultancy role – so it may have been several years since they were involved in transactional recruitment efforts. As someone who is exclusively involved in Recruitment Optimization, I only know of 2 or 3 others in the country that I am aware of who are focused on this much needed area.

Optimization can provide a significant ROI for you. It should be included in any evaluation of current strategies, processes, technology and so on so you can measure the overall return on your optimized plan. Typically, you should see a positive ROI in the following ways:

  • Reducing turnover costs by hiring better. Many companies, even when unemployment is high, are facing a limited number of reasonable candidates for their open positions and they end up settling on someone out of desperation instead of making sure to fill the position with someone who is functionally capable and culturally non-threatening.
  • Transitioning to a pipeline approach and away from a just in time approach. Several factors go into this, but the idea is that through engagement, you have prequalified candidates who are interested in your company and just waiting for an opportunity to become available. When it does, then you can move quickly to plug in the correct person in a much shorter time frame and minimize any lost revenue potential.
  • Minimizing lost opportunity costs. Many companies deal with this, but don’t even factor it into their recruitment costs. It’s when a company has to turn away potential business because they are understaffed and do not have the capability to ramp up quickly enough to gain that new business.
  • Strategically planning the best path forward. So many companies just post jobs here and there and then never track to see where the bulk of their candidates are coming from. Or maybe focusing on an internship program would be a better route. Maybe reducing the money spent on advertising and increasing referral bonuses makes more sense. Depending on your company and the specific issues that you face, a deep strategic look could provide an overwhelming ROI.
  • The use of technology. Technologies must be used in recruiting – there is no way around that. But they should be used to speed up efficiency and convenience for the candidate and the recruiter alike…not just the recruiter. That’s how we have gotten into the mess we are in now. The average time a recruiter spends on a resume today is 6 seconds. A solid recruitment optimization consultant should have a great understanding of the tools available today and how they can be plugged into the overall processes to give it a balance of high tech and high touch.

Bottlenecks in your current process also impact not only the speed and efficiency of your efforts, but your recruitment costs and ability to close those great candidates. The problem here is that many companies do not have the correct metrics in place to measure the data needed to realize these bottlenecks. They certainly aren’t included in the default reports that come with your Applicant Tracking System. Specialized adhoc reporting is required. By doing so, you can uncover where the process is consistently slowing down and potentially losing candidates or costing the company more money as delays occur. Here are a few areas that I like to measure because it tells me where I can make improvements:

  • Total days open – goal should be under 30 days
  • Total days before candidate submitted – no bandwidth or tight market or neglected
  • Number of candidates submitted (the recruiter doesn’t understand or the hiring manager doesn’t know what he/she is looking for or there was a misunderstanding between the two)
  • Total days from candidate presented to hiring manager feedback – a search may be open for 45 days, but many times it was because it took the hiring manager 2 weeks to get back to the recruiter on each candidate submitted – hold managers accountable too
  • Percentage of candidates presented who were interviewed by hiring manager – is the recruiter finding acceptable candidates or does the manager just interview everyone sent over
  • Total days from hiring manager feedback to interview – are we scheduling interviews too far out and losing candidates / are we cancelling and rescheduling interviews
  • Total days from interview to offer/decline – Are we constantly in an undecided mindset and thinking the next one might be a little better


I hope you have begun to see the importance of optimization efforts. It’s far more than just advertising in the right places, asking the right screening questions, or getting people in empty seats…it carries with it the profitability and stability of the company.

Most, if not all, of us drive cars. On a day to day basis, most of us think about how much gas is left in the tank. You can’t just put gas in the tank once and expect it to run forever. You have to continue to monitor where you are and every so often, you have to stop what you’re doing to fill that tank so you can continue to move forward. But solely focusing on how much gas in the tank doesn’t solve your problems if the car is out of oil, the engine overheats, the tires are flat, and the car won’t stop because the brakes have been worn away. You have to consider the whole car and make sure that everything is running as it should for the car to do its job.

Optimization – if done correctly – can help you to be effective and efficient in your overall recruitment and retention efforts. For some companies, you may only need some gas in the tank, but in others – you may need a complete overhaul. But for most, it falls somewhere in between those two extremes. I encourage you – have an unbiased person come in who understands modern day and next generation recruiting strategies, technologies, and processes and have them see where you are today and provide the road map to get you where you want to be.

On a topic that is this big, and so many unique and diverse companies listening in – I was only able to give you some basics to think about when optimizing your efforts. I’m hopeful that you were able to get something useful from our discussion today, but knowing that I wouldn’t be able to give you great detail – that is why I offer to have you contact me afterward with specific questions.

I have seen optimization work time and time again – reducing recruitment costs, increasing bandwidth, lowering turnover rates, and providing big ROIs. The point of today was to let you know that this should be your first option and not your last resort.

The Blurred Lines Coming to HR

Blurred Lines - AmericaIn 2013, Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell Williams brought us a song called “Blurred Lines” that  reached #1 on the charts for 12 consecutive weeks and sold 14.8 million copies. If you aren’t familiar with the song itself, you probably are familiar with the stir it caused when Thicke performed it at an awards show and Miley Cyrus came out and started twerking.

As I look at the happenings around us, whether it be economic, political, personal, professional – there seems to be a blurring of the lines that is beginning to take place that I believe will dramatically impact the way companies recruit and retain employees over the next 2-3 years. In most cases, forecasting changes on the landscape excites me, but what I see coming actually disturbs me and causes great concern. I am seeing, and I bet you are too, that an individual’s point of view on social or political matters can now put them at great risk of losing their current employment and making it very difficult for them to find new employment.

In recent months, news 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. 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 promoting him to be 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.

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 is acceptable? 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.

Where are we headed? I’m afraid that if things continue as they are, our government, lobbyist,  and those with a platform 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 or risk losing your job.

Yes, the blurring of the lines has started. Will laws need to be altered so companies can now ask about financial contributions to causes or charities that each applicant has made? Will recruiters start coming up with clever ways to find out which political side of the aisle someone is on under the banner of “cultural fit?” Will this cause further divisions in our society as all left leaning people work at companies A, B and C, and all right leaning people work at companies D, E, and F? Oh, and if you work at or do business with one of those sets of companies and the political party in power at the moment disagrees with your stance, get ready to be audited, regulations to increase on your business, and other ways to make it impossible for you to survive.

You may think all of this is far-fetched and ludicrous. You may be right – quite honestly, I hope you’re right and things don’t continue to move in that direction. But go ask Brendan Eich if it seems far-fetched to him. Ask Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty. Ask the people from Hobby Lobby. Ask the people at Chik-fil-A. Ask those who claim to have been targeted by the IRS in the last election. I hope I’m wrong, but I would love to hear your civil and respectable opinions on this topic.


The Revised and Balanced Bucket List

bucket-listBucket Lists. They used to just be referred to as “goals.” A few years ago, I went through cancer and I created a short Bucket List of things that I wanted to accomplish in the near future. I’ve done all but one to this point. I guess my teenage daughter liked the concept and she created her own Bucket List…and as a dad, I have been trying to find ways to help her accomplish the things that are important enough to her for her to add to her list. About a month ago, we crossed off the #2 item on her list (go to an 80’s concert). I took her to see Journey when they came to our area – great show by the way! As of this past weekend, we have crossed off the #1 item on her list (to meet Dirk Nowitzki). Dirk plays basketball for the Dallas Mavericks and is in the top 10 in NBA history in scoring, and he’s an all around great guy and role model.

I mentioned to my daughter that now she can dream even bigger and set new goals to achieve as we have completed the top items on her Bucket List. I need to do the same as most of my items are completed. I think we, as people in general, get to a point in our lives when we accomplish a few things – maybe even big things – and then we get stuck not knowing what to do next. I see many businesses who are the same way. We put our goals out there and day-in and day-out we work to accomplish those things. When we set the goal initially, we thought it was big and maybe unattainable – but slowly as we worked our way towards it, it started to be achievable! Then, it happens…we accomplished what we set out to do and it leaves us not knowing what we’re supposed to do next.

I’m assuming that when McDonald’s started, they had one burger joint and they wanted to just survive the first year or two. Excuse me if this is untrue because I am not a McDonald’s historian. But like most businesses, we just want to make enough money to survive and continue to exist early on. Then we want to grow our market share. Maybe next we want to expand into new geographic regions. We set sales goals. And eventually, if you are one of the rare companies that pulls it off – you’ve become a massive global brand that everyone knows. But then what? What do you do next? What is the big dream that you set out there as your target to work towards?

The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

If that’s true, and I believe that it is, we must always have a revised Bucket List, regardless of who we are, what we do, big or small, well-known or not. It gives us a target, a direction, and a purpose. In a poll that I read a few months ago, 78% of employees say that they would leave their current job if someone would offer them something else. That amazes me! 78% is a huge number of dissatisfied workers, and I have to believe that a good portion of them feel this way because they either lack direction or feel as though they serve no importance in the life of that company.

I have no idea what types of things my daughter will add to her Bucket List now. She’s going to be a Junior in high school next year, so I’m sure I’ll start to see things about colleges that she wants to attend, fields of study and degrees, but I’m certain I’ll also see a few things on there that just put a smile on her face because they’re fun and quirky. I think we need those too. A balanced Bucket List that holds personal, professional, and family/friend goals. I’ll get started on my revisions today…will you?

1982 Relived

JourneyTime travel is possible! How do I know? Because last night, I was transported back to 1982 as I went to see Journey in concert.

Back in 1982, just a freshman in high school at the time, I went to see Journey. They were my favorite band and Steve Perry was my favorite singer. Now, at the time, my aspirations were to be a professional singer and things were going well for that to be a reasonable expectation. So, I probably immersed myself in these concerts in a different way than others might have. I was, of course, enjoying the music and the show, but I was also studying and imagining myself doing the same thing one day.

As I sat in the audience last night, this time with my daughter who was attending her first rock concert, and my wife, I was having flashbacks to 1982. It was crazy! I could remember exactly where I was sitting and the angle of the stage to me. I remember exactly what I wore – green and grey parachute pants and a sleeveless grey t-shirt with high tops. I was once again singing the songs to the top of my lungs and no one in the place could hear all of my failures on hitting those incredibly high notes that only 2-3 people in the world can hit. This time it was extra special though because I was both reliving the past and making new memories with my daughter.

On the long trip home last night, I began think about how we hold onto the past – I know, I get all philosophical after a long night of rock n roll, and this time I didn’t even see or smell any pot in the crowd (unlike 1982). Were those better days? Would I want to go back to those days and relive my life from that point? I certainly made a lot of mistakes along the way and wish I had some do-overs, but all in all those mistakes and those positive and negative experiences shaped me and have gotten me to where I am today. My life isn’t perfect, but it’s my life. My current life allowed me to have a very cool experience last night with my daughter and my wife that easily rated as one of the top nights of my life. Do-overs come with a pricetag and that do-over might have changed things in a way where last night wouldn’t have occurred at all.

In business, this is also true. We experience some success in some way or another, and then we latch onto that strategy or that process and we make that our go-to weapon of choice. Soon, many years have passed and we are still holding onto the glory days. I speak with HR and Recruiting leaders all of the time and they readily admit that the way they recruit now is very much like the way they were taught many years before – some of the tools are different and new, but the strategy and process is very much the same. By allowing honest evaluation, optimization, and change to occur – better things could be waiting for you that will take you to greater places professionally and personally.

The world is far different now than it was a couple of decades ago. Think of just the way that the internet has reshaped how business is done. It’s also reshaped an entire generation of people who have grown up with it every day of their lives. Attracting, recruiting, managing and retaining them is far different now than when we worked with their parents and grandparents. It’s not all about optimizing through technologies, it’s finding the right balance between high tech and high tough to effectively reach modern day and next generation candidates and employees.

It was fun to relive 1982 last night. But I’m not that skinny, curly haired, zit faced freshman anymore. There is very little in my life now that was present in 1982. I’m an adult. I’m married for 25 years. I have a teenage daughter. I have big responsibilities that impact many other people. I’ve had to adapt, change, optimize along the way in order to get to where I am. 1982 rocked…but so did last night!

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.