Monday, February 21, 2011

360 Degree Reviews

I got good feedback from my interview questions blog so I thought I would continue in the vein of HR. Clearly the most critical thing for any business is staff. In most cases it is the biggest line on the P and L. One way to keep HR on track is with reviews The way I do that is to send an email to everyone who interact with the person being reviewed asking for 3 things they are great at and anything they could use coaching on. I then cut and paste that into a review. This has huge impact because the person often hears similar feedback many times (and usually it is highly positive).

In some cases, I filter it a bit (usually only the coaching points). Tact is key in a review. People only are as open to coaching as they choose to be. The manager or leader can increase receptivity by sharing the good as well as any coaching suggestions.

I am not sure why so many reviewers seem to focus on the bad and not see the good. By definition, if the person still has a job with the company, they are likely good. So tell them.

We want high self esteem people.

Of course I do not think reviews should be "saved up" for once per year. Feedback should be continual.

Should reviews be done all at the same time of year? The advantage to this is the psychological outlook of the reviewer is the same. They will be equally impacted for all by recent sales, profits etc. The challenge to doing them all at once is they can become "something to just get off the list" and that can make for shallow and not useful reviews.


I read "Conversations for Change - 12 Ways to Say it Right When It Matters Most" by Shawn Kent Hayashi. As with many books, the title almost says it all (without giving away the real meat)

It has things like "phrases to get started", "tips for being a great communicator" and even "sample scripts and scenarios".

Part one covered the foundations. EQ, Vision and Communication Styles.

Part two goes on to cover the 12 Conversations. The background from part one guided the reader into which conversation should be had.

One sample conversation was chapter 11 - Conversation for Conflict Resolution. It talks about the different types of conflict. How to recognize conflict. What happens if conflicts are not dealt with (thus raising the need to deal with conflict) Then it gets into how to actually deal with the conflict.

Great quote "The first man to raise his fist is the first man who ran out of ideas" H. G. Wells

Parts of it reminds me of an article I wrote on dealing with difficult people.

Communication is key in any company. When I ran SYNNEX Canada and even EMJ, I had a lot of staff in various locations. I would spend time crafting a perfect positioning or vision statement for the company. I would email our goals, I would say them in speeches, by teleconference and try to cover them whenever I could in person.

It was still a challenge to get to everyone and make sure they "got" the message. So I recently invested in a company called Sparkologee that really helps with one to many communication. Watch a short video (or read a PDF or email), do a short quiz and if desired, get a reward. Knowing there will be a quiz increases the comprehension. Well designed questions can also focus people on what the important message is. Makes sure people get the message.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview Questions

I was in Boston yesterday and was asked for the best questions to ask in an interview. The following list largely comes from Double Double - the book I recently reviewed. Clearly the questions used varies from interview to interview and is based on the person and position.

I welcome feedback with other questions:

Problem Solving and Ability to Deal with Adversity

- What are your personal goals, and have you achieved them? If not, why?
- Who was the most difficult person you've dealt with? How did you respond?
- Describe a frustrating experience from work. How did you deal with it?
- What are some of the greatest personal challenges you have faced?
- How do you handle rejection?
- What aspects of your past jobs were most frustrating?
- What life experiences have given you the greatest reward?
- Can you tell me about the toughest job you've ever had?
- What was the most difficult aspect of obtaining a college degree?

Career Goals and Objectives

- What are you career interests?
- What are your standards of success/goals for a job?
- What are your goals and aspirations for the next three years?
- What are your long-range goals and how are you preparing to achieve them?
- If you could create the perfect job for yourself, what would you do?
- Can you tell me about your plans for the future?
- What work would you like to do that really interests you?
- What is your timetable for achievement of your current career goals?

Relevant Experience

- What skills do you possess that will help make you successful in this job?
- Why should we hire you?
- Have you ever worked in a similar position with another organization, and what did you enjoy most and least about it?
- Can you discuss some of your past jobs and what you accomplished in them?
- What prior work experiences have you had?
- What were your accomplishments in these prior work experiences?
- Please tell me about the duties and requirements of your last job.
- Elaborate on one of the work experiences listed on your resume.
- What did you enjoy most about your previous job experiences?
- What did you enjoy least?
- In addition to your educational and professional experiences, what else would you like us to know about you in order to make an appropriate decision?
- What skills will you bring to the job that will enhance our team or company?


- What are your major strengths and weaknesses?
- What did you see as your major strengths and weaknesses on this job?
- What would your last two employers say about you, good and bad?
- How would you describe your supervisor/leadership style?
- Who or what had the greatest influence on your life?
- Can you describe the difference between motivation and inspiration, and how these apply to you in the work environment?

Initiative and Follow-through

- What are your greatest achievements at this point in your life?
- Tell me about your accomplishments during college that make you proudest.
- If friends and colleagues were to describe you to a stranger, what would they say?
- What do you consider most important when evaluating yourself?
- What were your most significant achievements during this job?


- How would you describe your style of communication?
- Tell me about a time you had to sell an idea to someone else.
- What do you enjoy doing most?
- Tell me about a time you had to present information to a large group of people. How did you feel and how successful were you?

Working Effectively with Others

- How well do you work with others?
- What are some of the pros and cons of working on a team project?
- When have you led a team to achieve a specific goal, what were the results?
- What have you admired in people who have previously supervised your work? What haven't you admired in these individuals?
- How would you resolve conflict in a group situation?

Creativity and Innovation

- What changes would you make in your school's academic program?
- Tell me about a time you found a new and better way of doing something.
- What was the largest, most creative project you've been involved in to date?
- Tell me the most creative solution you have come up with to solve a problem.
- Tell me about a time when you had to bring out the creativity in others.

Decision Making

- Please tell me about a conflict and how you resolved it.
- Tell me about a time you had to make an important decision with limited facts.
- Tell me about a time you had to make an unpopular decision.
- Tell me about a bad decision you made and what you would have done differently in retrospect.

Delegation and Organization

- How do you organize your day?
- Tell me about a time you delegated a project effectively.
- Describe to me a time when a supervisor delegated a task to you when you had a full workload. How did you handle the situation?
- Describe what your closets and garage look like today.

Customer Service and Sales

- What personal qualities will you bring to this firm?
- Tell me about a time when you dealt with an irate customer.
- What does the term "the customer is always right" mean to you?
- What's the best example of awesome customer service you've provided?


- What starting salary do you expect as an employee?
- When comparing one company offer to another, what factors will be important to you besides starting salary?
- How would you describe yourself?
- Name three people who have inspired you and why.
- What do you know about our company?
- Why are you interviewing with us?
- Why do you want to work in the position you are seeking?
- What are your expectations of us?
- Why did you select us?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Why were you laid off?
- Tell me about the best boss you've ever had.
- Tell me about the worst boss you've ever had.
- What can you offer me that another person can't?
- If you could choose to work anywhere, where would you go?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cloud Computing Trends

I thought the following press release was of interest. I invested in Hatsize and sit on the board.

Hatsize releases first annual Cloud Automation Trends Survey results. Landmark survey identifies 2011 cloud automation trends and indicates cloud automation will spur sales growth. Hatsize conducted anonymous survey of 181 North American business leaders.

Calgary, AB (Vocus/PRWEB) February 16, 2011

Hatsize, the leading cloud automation software provider for hands-on demos and training, today announced the results of a landmark survey on cloud automation trends based on feedback from a broad range of businesses in North America. It was delivered as an anonymous online survey to potential users of cloud automation in sales, channel, training, IT, and other functions. There were 181 respondents from businesses of all sizes and types. 57% of the survey respondents were director level or above.

“Hatsize conducted this anonymous survey to provide more concrete information about business users' plans and budgets for cloud automation,” said Sue Miller, Hatsize CEO. “The high percentage of respondents that indicated they have budgets in 2011 for cloud-enabled demos, proofs of concept, training and product launches is a very strong indicator of the immediate potential of this vibrant, emerging business.”

Business leaders who completed the survey cited the single, biggest challenge facing their companies in 2011 as sales growth (42% of respondents). Other growth challenges included differentiation (8%), channel sales (7%), and product launches (4%). Only 9% were concerned about cutting costs compared to 61% of respondents who were concerned about these growth-related challenges. This indicates respondents believe the economy is improving and corroborates the investments they plan to make in key cloud-automated revenue-generating initiatives in 2011.

The majority of respondents see cloud automation technology as a clear way to increase sales revenue in 2011. Specifically, 74% of respondents said they need one or more types of cloud automation. The most popular cloud automation solutions are ones aimed at improving demos, proof-of-concepts and training to drive more direct and indirect revenue faster.

Summary of Survey Results: Top 2011 Cloud Automation Trends

Clear Business Need

* 74% of respondents said they needed cloud automation
* 67% of respondents said they had budgeted projects

Top Challenges & Focus

* 61% of respondents are concerned about growth especially increasing revenues from direct and indirect sales
* 50% of respondents are interested in using cloud automation for demos, Proof-of-concepts (POCs) and training to achieve their growth objectives
* 54% of respondents said cloud-enabled demos and training are extremely important or very important in 2011

Due to the strong interest expressed in the results, Hatsize plans to conduct this survey annually.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Double Double

I have long advocating asking big questions in order to get big results. It is much more powerful to ask how to double sales than how to increase them by 6% because asking for a 6% increase can cause no fundamental change - just doing things a bit better. Asking for a double usually requires a major change.

I am also an advocate of asking "how" rather than "why". Why can spawn "excuse thinking" and reinforce why something cannot be done.

So I was attracted to a book by Cameron Herold "Double Double - How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less"

Of course the first thing he did was to break the big problem down - Double in 3 years is only 25%/yr. He also advocates visioning and goal setting. "Think where (you want to go) - not how".

At first I was disappointed that he did not give the ONE big secret to doubling. Rather he wrote about all the little things. And of course I realize that it is all the little things that create success and not one big thing.

He advocates Preparation and talks about the 6 Ps. "Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance" Memorable.

At the end of the book he has a great list of 58 musings. Ideas he wrote in his journals for himself. Some of them:

3. Don't React: I move too fast without thinking about the ripple effects of my actions or words. I make decisions too quickly without thinking about the effects on other departments or about whether we're even ready for the large initiatives to happen. People think I'm shooting from the hip even when I'm not. I need to stop and try to clearly think about what I'm going to say before I say it.

9. Running: It's amazing for me. It relaxes me, helps me think, clarifies my mind and quiets me. I always feel better and more confident not only during the run but afterward too.

16. Intuition: I have it. I am learning to trust it, to listen to it, to call on it.

31. Deadlines: Build the habit of "doing it" at a specific time in the calendar vs. saying it'll "be done" by a date. Schedule time to do the tasks or projects right into the calendar.

35. Top 5: Easily one of the most impactful tools if it's used daily. It's the daily focused effort that moves mountains. What are the Top 5 things I need to do today? This simple tool should be used in every company.

55. Nice People Are Nice at ALL Times: If someone is rude to a taxi driver, waiter, etc., that person will be a kiss ass, rude, arrogant, etc., with leadership, customers, and coworkers too.

Friday, February 11, 2011

8 Ways to Get Good Sleep

It is interesting how SEO is changing and becoming more mainstream. NY Times even had an article on it. One of my portfolio companies is SEO Pledge.

I usually read business and self help books (since I need so much self help). Last night I read one that is slightly out of that genre although the title (Emotional Freedom - Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life) sounds like a regular self help book.

The author - Judith Orloff shares much of her personal story. This makes the book more gripping.

The first Chapter has an awesome title - Emotional Freedom - The Secret to Serenity. The rest of the book basically goes on to backfill how to implement these secrets.

Part 2 of the book "Tools for Liberation" covers 7 transformations that must happen for serenity:

1 - Facing fear - building courage
2 - Facing frustration, disappointment and building patience
3 - Facing loneliness - building connection
4 - Facing anxiety and worry - Building inner calm
5 - Facing depression - building hope
6 - Facing jealousy and envy - building self esteem
7 - Facing anger - building compassion

As with everything, there may be answers but making them into reality is always the real challenge. Orloff gives examples and practical tips to try to achieve each transformation.

One point the book makes is the importance of sleep. Of course the book was interesting enough that I stayed up to read it so it hurt my sleep.

I believe that part of maturing and wisdom is being able to change your view on things.

I am embarrassed to say in the first four editions of my time management book "Time Leadership - Using the Secrets of Leadership for Time Management" I suggested that sleeping less was a great way to create more time. I have yet to publish the 5th edition (Know any good publishers who might like to publish it?) but will definitely change those sections.

Huffington Post has a good video on the Cult of No Sleep.

Mayo Clinic says you need 7 hours to be healthy. I strive for that although would not yet be there.

There is lots of studies on the health impact on sleep deprivation.

I now know that we need some optimum number of good sleep hours and I now even include that on my goal list.

Top 8 Ways to Get Good Sleep

1 - Have a good place to sleep. Cool enough, dark enough, with a good mattress etc. A small amount of investment and planning can make a huge difference.

2 - Avoid drugs. The obvious ones - caffeine and alcohol both impact sleep.

3 - If getting to sleep is a problem, learn to still the mind. Some ways to do this include progressive relaxation and meditation.

4 - Avoid "mindless" end of day activities that are too easy to keep doing. The most obvious one of these (that is not a problem for me since I have no TV) is TV. Computer games can have the same effect.

5 - Have a going to bed ritual. I find I cannot get to sleep easily if I do not give myself a bit of wind down time before bed.

6 - Try not to eat too late. I tend to have a problem with this one since I often do not get home until late. I often eat dinner at 8:30 or 9 and know this is too late.

7 - The obvious - go to bed early. Sounds simple but it takes planning.

8 - Learn to nap. This one is a bit of do as I say because I can go weeks without napping. That said, I do know how to nap well. I like napping for just 21 minutes. I can get up without feeling groggy and 21 minutes is not enough to make me feel guilty.

9 - Exercise. I like to exercise first thing in the morning. exercising too close to bed keeps me awake. In my SYNNEX CEO days I would take the redeye back from California and run for an hour. That run revved me up enough to stay up for the day.

Please add your comments with other ways to get a good sleep and I will recompile them into a future post.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

What Could Happen if You Do Nothing

Everyone who knows me (or is connected to me by linkedin, facebook or Twitter) knows I like quotations - especially motivational business quotations. There is one quote by Anthony Robbins that is often used that I do not like is "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten"

I guess this could be motivational if you have not been successful.

I see the opposite in successful people and businesses. The quote should be "If you do what you have always done, you will go bankrupt". Why? Because the environment changes. I see too many people wishing for the good old days. Things change - adapt to thrive.

I read a cute little book on coaching tonight "What Could Happen If You Do Nothing - a Manager's Handbook for Coaching Conversations" by Jane Murphy.

I am a big believer in coaching, training and mentoring. This book focuses on the coaching.

It has 3 sections -

1 - Listening - clearly a key management skill. It has a ton of practical ideas on how to listen well.

2 - Asking. A well thought out question can definitely guide someone in the right direction.

3 - Suggesting. It includes such things as how to be tactful.

I have found the larger the company or the more perceived power that the person speaking (or coaching) is, the more careful they need to be. The greater the power, the more people take suggestions, questions and comments at criticisms or as commands. This can be dangerous and have unintended consequences. Followers should not blindly follow but they seem to the more powerful the leader is.

I have often found that the leader or manager does not know the "right" answer. They simply need to give confidence to their coachee to make decisions and take a path. Confidence to trust themselves.

Communication is a key leadership skill that can be studied and learned. Tact is a good part of it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Great Workplace

I am just back from a week of travel that ended with a break for Québec Winter Carnival.

A plug for some of my investee companies (I don't often make my investments public): is having a free sample promotion. Online drugstore (not prescription stuff) made easy to buy.

Hitfix continues with awesome content.

And I hope RuMe saves the world with nylon bags.

I am not a big sports follower but General Sentiment has an interesting article on the Superbowl.

And not my company but I have been asked to help with a Leadership Survey. Click to help with that.

I was interested to read in the Globe that only insane people are entrepreneurs.

I read "The Great Workplace - How to Build It, How to Keep It and Why it Matters" by Michael Burchell and Jennifer Robin. Clearly I believe in having a great workplace so no need to sell me on that.

The book speaks of several factors that contribute to a great workplace:

Credibility - Belief in the Leader

Respect - People want to feel they are valued members of their organization.

Fairness - People are motivated by the feeling that things are fair.

Pride - People want to feel pride for their work and their company.

Comradeship - People need to feel a part of a group and are happiest in their work if it gives them that sense.

It goes on to elaborate on each of these factors including how they can be fostered.

My view is different people will be inspired by different things. And inspiration is relative - does it mean someone is willing to stay 5 minutes late or give up their weekend to the job.

I always ascribe to a "treat people right" philosophy. Or "be nice", "treat people as people" etc. In most cases this works. The challenge is if people do not view it as "being nice" and "being nice" means different things for different people.

The final chapter was on taking action. Critical in the success of any plan. It speaks of the Balances -

Responsibility and Humility
Passion and Patience
People and Results

I liked them all, although I am not sure they are opposites, exclusive or that they need balance. For example, inspired people are happy AND get great result.

Good book - every leader should read it.