Sunday, December 20, 2009

Don't Mistake Activity for Achievement

John Wooden at UCLAOne of my favorite quotes is from John Wooden, the greatest college basketball coach of all time.  He said, "Don't mistake activity for achievement".  I think about this quote a lot when I evaluate myself and my employees.

Just the other day, I had to give some rather harsh feedback to one of my employees which led to that employee getting less responsibilities at work.  The employee was not too happy with this (although for many employees it would be great news since all it did was give this employee less work) but I knew it was the right thing to do.  The difficult part was that this employee works extremely hard.  If extra hours are needed, this employee puts them in.  So how do you tell someone who worked hard that their work just wasn't good enough?

It was something I learned a long time ago in my own basketball experience.  Growing up, I spent hours practicing.  I would go to the local park and work on my jump shot until they turned off the lights.  But in the end, I just wasn't as good as the other guys on the team.  While they didn't practice as hard, they had more talent than I did.  The facts were that they didn't need to work as hard as I did because their talent and natural gifts naturally made up for it.

Sure it wasn't "fair" but when is life ever fair?  While I empathized with this employee, I have an entire organization to think about.  There was no way I could look past the fact that despite all the long hours and hard work this employee put in, they had not actually achieved the goals I had laid out for them.  I could not mistake their hard work for any actual accomplishment.

Have you ever been in this situation? One where you worked harder than anybody else but yet you couldn't accomplish what you set out to do?  How did you handle it when you came up short?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Never Drink Around Coworkers

My company's holiday part was this weekend.  It was a fun event, I had a pretty good time.  There was food, entertainment, a lovely venue, and of course an open bar.  However, I myself did not take advantage of the latter because I have a hard rule which I always follow.  I NEVER drink around coworkers.

Now I'm not a heavy drinker anyway but I do enjoy having a few drinks occasionally as much as the next guy.  But if I am in a work setting where the majority of the people are my coworkers, I do not have a single drink.  Not one.  While it may sound uptight, I am following very logical reasoning.  There is absolutely no upside to drinking with coworkers yet there is huge downside.

Nobody thinks it is odd when I do not drink.  I usually just tell people I am driving so I don't want to have anything.  This is true anyway so nobody thinks it is too odd.   But there is more to the story than just this.  I am making a very conscience choice not to drink so that I am viewed as someone who is always in complete control of myself.  To rise to the top, which is one of my goals, you have to be viewed as a leader.  Leaders are always in control.  Therefore you should not drink around those who make decisions about your career growth.

Now, I'm not saying that if you drink you can't rise to the top.  That would be silly as I'm sure plenty of America's CEO's drink when around coworkers.  But I highly doubt anybody made it there because they drank and I bet more than one person has had his career derailed because of some foolish drunken mishaps at a work function.

I watched as a coworker and a friend of mine who had a little too much to drink made several off color remarks in front of the entire executive and management team.  Everybody was laughing, and I'm sure nothing bad will come from this.   He will not get reprimanded or anything even close, and he really should not be.  But will anything good come from this?  Do you think that when it comes time for promotions people won't remember these types of situations and think someone less "colorful" would not make a better choice?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Moving to California - Two Years Later

Beach in San Diego

I recently got a message from this blog asking me if, two years later, I thought it was worth it to move back to California.

Before I get into this, I have to say it did not really occur to me that I have been back in California for two years until I got this e-mail.  I knew the two year anniversary of my job was coming up but it did not really sink in how long it has been until I got the message.  The past two years have been such a blur and it seems hard to believe I have been at this job longer than I was at Microsoft.  Maybe that says more about the job I have now compared to the one I had before.

Now on to the question.  Was it worth it to move back to California from Washington?  Ironically I answer this question the same day that it was pouring rain in Los Angeles.  But this makes my answer to this all the more certain.  Yes, it was absolutely to move back to California from Washington.

I was thinking about this as I rode the elevator to work.  I am in a very high skyscraper and the elevator has a television in it that I find myself catching news clips as I enter and leave the building.  On the ride down today, the news had "Storm Watch" flashing on the screen.  Now, after living in Washington for two years, I can tell you.  The rain wasn't all that severe.  It came down hard, but it would be a pretty normal day in Seattle.  The reason this made me think of how good I have it is because weather like this is so unusual we make a big deal about it here.  This is the first time it has rained in the last several months.  Think about that for a second.  It is December and it probably hasn't rained of any significance in several months.   I actually can't even remember the last time it rained. You can't buy weather like that.

Of course, that is not the only reason I am glad to move back to California (but it is a big part).  I'm happier with my job and I am glad to be around family and friends.  My wife is happier (weather affects her more than it does me) so that makes my life better.  So if I had to do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

But I caution anybody from taking my experience and translating it to your own.  My situation is unique in many ways.  First off, I grew up here.  The culture and lifestyle just really work for me since I grew up here.  Moreover, I have a base of friends and family here.  Moving out here, not knowing anyone, can be really difficult. I find it easy to make and meet new friends but this is not true for everyone and California can be a lonely place if you don't have any friends or family.  But perhaps the biggest deterrent to moving out here has to be the money.  Can you make it work?  Moving to California with no money is not an easy tasks.  It is not easy even if you have money.  Housing is expensive and taxes will take whatever you have left.

My situation is likely not the same as yours.  I make very good money and I live very frugally.  While I certainly "miss" the money that California extracts from me, I probably will not miss it as much as those who live paycheck to paycheck.   The cost of living does not affect me nearly as much as it would other people.  And make no mistake about it, California has a high cost of living.  You combine that with our high unemployment rate and (still) high housing prices, and it can be a daunting financial burden.  This has gotten so bad, I have written how I think the California Dream is vanishing for many, even myself.

So while I have no regrets about moving back here this is not to say I won't once again leave.  High taxes and high housing is driving me away, I'm sure it will drive others as well.  In fact, I had such a conversation with someone about this on Saturday.  But I'll write about that in my next blog.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How Technology will Save Marriages

I was reading a book today that was talking about the keys to marriage success. One of the main pieces of advice was to communicate with your partner on a daily basis for several minutes on topics not including work, family, or household chores. According to this book, the couples who are the most successful are those that know each other intimately and this requires good communication on a constant basis.

This got me thinking about my own marriage. I tend to think I know my wife pretty well. We constantly talk about things and almost never talk about work, family, or chores (although she does nag me quite a bit J) But we don’t really “talk” in the traditional sense. During the week, I’m pretty busy at work. I’m running around to meetings all the time and would never have the time to call my wife in the middle of the day to talk. But the one thing that is contant throughout the day is that I’m tethered to my laptop. It goes with me everywhere except the bathroom.

This means my wife can get a hold of me pretty much at any time through Instant Messaging. I may not answer her right away but I do eventually get back to her. We normally don’t chat for very long, and the topics can be pretty random, but I get a pretty constant play by play of her day. If, for whatever reason, we are not chatting on IM I can probably she how her day is going via her status on facebook. While I don’t use facebook all that much, it is a constant stream for many people meaning your significant other can stay pretty connected to you throughout the day.

Technology is allowing people to stay connected in so many different ways and in time frames that are suitable in a variety of circumstances. While it is by no means a silver bullet for marriage, especially in an age where divorce is rampant, it can definitely help those who know how to use it and take advantage of its convenience. It has gotten to the point where I actually miss the communication I have with my wife throughout the day if for whatever reason we can’t chat.

How about you? Have you found your relationship strengthened with your significant other because of technology? If yes, how so?