Monday, July 21, 2014

INTERVIEW WITH A HIRING MANAGER


Obviously, there are lots of memories. It doesn’t seem right to have a favorite one though.  Sure, some of them stood out more than others, but the time spent with all of them taught me about the good and bad in this world and that no matter what I thought I couldn’t have them all.  The few that got away humbled me. The few that failed hurt me. The countless others that never got a chance left me thinking. Nonetheless, my job was to hear their stories and make a decision. If someone kept my full attention for an entire hour it didn’t necessarily mean they would be chosen—“time in chair” was not a contributing factor.  I was often repulsed by the smells of my company.  Rarely for foul odors, just for aromatic stimulation that distracted my brain from working as efficiently as it could.  Perfumes, colognes, aftershaves, lotions, shampoos, and even fabric softener derailed my thinking.  It’s as if I needed to offer them the advice prior to our first face to face meeting about how to smell or how not click their pens or answer their phones. Other inconsistencies that made it impossibly difficult to take people seriously were tardiness, a lack of confidence, poor communication, disingenuousness, and did I mention the perfume. Catching people in a lie was disappointing.  Explaining my expectations and seeing the fleeting enthusiasm leave their skin pale and clammy was a letdown as well. You are not selling me, I’m buying you!  I can recall one stretch of time when it was particularly tough.  For 40 straight days I watched set after set of desirous lips spew self-centered propaganda at me as I trained myself to actually care.  If they weren’t what I wanted I ended it quick and painlessly.  I sent them on their unsuspecting way—“Don’t call us, we’ll call you”.  Life is tough enough with those you love.  Spending your precious finite time with someone who doesn’t at least seem to care is a bit deflating, don’t you think?  That’s why I forced myself to smile and nod. And as a courteous final test I gave them a chance to quiz the quizzer.  I yearned to be exposed and tested in those final vulnerable moments. Overwhelmingly, the masses infrequently took the opportunity to reciprocate.  They were willing to change their life for me and they didn’t have one single question. Impossible! It’s the equivalent of getting married without knowing your bride’s middle name or her favorite color! For God’s sake why didn’t more of them just ask a question.  No one is exempt from extreme boredom, not even me.  Once I asked someone which of the NSYNC members they wished they could be.  Timberlake is the apparent leader, Joey Fatone was clearly the workhorse, Lance Bass represents growing diversity, and the other 2 dudes are, well, who gives a shit. Creatively I pushed the envelope of what the law allowed me to do. The law says nothing about overstating simple phases, asking leading questions, or sitting in silence knowing that its uncomfortableness will be broken with invaluable information that I will use to my advantage. My life existed to research, sit, listen, interpret, discern.  Don’t be nervous I told them, it’s just an interview. Without me, no one would ever have been chosen.

Remember, no matter how tough it gets, Every One Counts!

Happy Interviewing,

Clint Hamner

Post Script- This was Satire!

 

 

 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Invention of Sexting: Building Trust Through Risk


I pity the adolescent generation of today.  Their lives are too “plugged in” and excessively automated.  They were raised on cushy playgrounds with heavy supervision. They have never known a world without an internet. They have never known a life without a Facebook or Twitter account. They have never known what it is like to get last place.  They have never known a life without the fear of being screenshot. Consequently, their ability to take risks is diminished because everything is assumed to be automatic.  This diminished ability to take risks is troubling to me primarily because of the lessons we learn about trust when we take risks. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we always learn a little bit about how far we can go and, at the end of the day, who has our back.

AOL Instant Messenger was the social media heavy hitter of my generation.  If you had a dial up connection and 1.5MB of available hardrive you could set up your account in minutes and connect to general groups of people or engage in person to person chatting by sending a message to their unique screen name.

For the sake of protecting the innocent I will refer to my friend in this story as Barney. 

Barney came through the screen door of my trailer with a look of confusion and opportunity.  These were the days before cell phones so an unexpected guest was always welcome and never viewed as rude or imposing. 

“You have a digital camera, don’t you?”, Barney questioned.

Earlier that month I had opened an account with the Internet Service Provider Earthlink.  The conditions of the contract stipulated that I would receive a 3Megapixel 16MB Digital Camera.

“I need you to take a picture of me.”, Barney muttered.

I agreed and told him that the camera was in the middle bedroom and that I would go get it. Barney followed me into room and said, “let’s take the picture in here”, as he began to take his shirt off!

What the heck was this guy doing, trying out for REALWORLD Auburn!  As uncomfortable as I was, it apparently wasn’t that bad because I spent the next five minutes clicking photo after photo until the memory was full on the promotional Earthlink camera.

“Why do you need shirtless pictures of yourself?”, I inquired.

“There is this girl in Georgia that I’ve been chatting with on AOL Instant Messenger and she told me that if I sent her a topless picture that she would send one back.”

Unbeknownst to us, Barney had just invented SEXTING!

We plugged in the camera and reviewed the photos until he decided on the one that would seal the deal. It was a nice shot of Barney. He was quarter-turned to the lens, shoulders back, face and lips tense, the eyes of a mustached van driving pervert, and  unkempt chest hair like a mangy dog-- how could this not work!

This was in the days before “To Catch a Predator”, but I’m sure Barney’s Georgia Peach was really a Cheetos eating fat dude passing the days being whoever he wanted to be online.

“I sent those pics to that girl last night”, Barney proudly told me over the phone the next day. “I haven’t gotten her’s yet, but I’m not giving up!”

He never enjoyed the sight of the mysterious stranger’s bare chest, but he took the chance, invented sexting along the way, and has some really nice shots of his 20 year old self to remember the time he took a risk, trusted a screename, and learned just how far he would go to see a naked girl.

Barney can teach us lesson.  Even the most calculated risks still require a certain amount of trust. So, are the differences between these calculated risks and impulse risks so vast that the trust component is significant?  Maybe, but I propose that through risk taking we develop a better sense of trust in people so that no matter whether the chance is calculated or impulsive we engage them transparently and open handed.

Most trust is compromised when the parties begin to develop a sense of uneasiness for any reason.  Perceived vulnerability is, in my opinion, crucial to the development of any relationship. And through the power of synergy the vulnerability is often reciprocated.  Trusting partnerships have no more or less risk associated with them; the risk is simply more easily accepted.

However, just like Barney, we may get disappointed.  In these circumstances we have to remain positive and quickly identify the lesson to be learned.  Becoming callous, jaded, and bitter will only lead to resentment in all relationships, even the ones that currently have high levels of trust.

Society tells us to be conservative concerning risk, but risk is a building block of trust in any relationship. Trust is critical to any organizational growth.  Everyone is affected and the weakest link will break the chain.  Restore broken trust, don’t resent it.  Be vulnerable and take risks, calculated or otherwise. The outcomes will really surprise you.

Thanks Barney,

Clint Hamner

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Excitement of the Moment and the Taste of Regret


 

On October 13th, 2001 the Auburn Tiger Football Team upset the visiting #1 Florida Gators in Jordan Hare Stadium under the lights in front of a raucous crowd.  The game has been ranked as the #1 most exciting game in Auburn football history; and I was there to witness it as a college sophomore sitting in the student section. 

As if the game wasn’t wild enough, the post-game celebration took on a life of its own as the field was stormed by the Auburn faithful and the chaotic frenzy ensued until the south end zone goal posts fell as a spoil of victory into its captor’s arms.  For a fan base that had grown accustomed to being on the losing end of such a tough fought game, the on the field celebration must have been liberating; like a newly potty trained child who can finally triumphantly enjoy their clean dry life. 

The goal post uprights came down slowly, still connected by the crossbar.  The giant yellow letter “U” then began to creep across the mass of people, arms raised high.  Like a crowd surfer at a rock concert the goal posts made their way to the student section seating area and passed by me a few feet away.  One fellow student of mine yelled out across the crowd, “Let’s take it to Toomer’s”.  “Toomer’s”, was in reference to Toomer’s Corner, a sacred piece of campus about 500 yards away where all things Auburn are celebrated.  Luckily, the vomitory was too narrow for the posts to pass and alas the celebration could relocate to outside of the stadium walls, sans the goalposts.

While it was the most exciting thirty minutes that I have ever experienced at a sporting event, it was the most regretful for some students that night. Whether fueled by spirits, adrenaline, or emotion, a few students, like the one pictured above, were pepper sprayed, arrested,  and aggressively subdued by law enforcement. I even observed one student punch a State Trooper!  The moment can change everything.  Eminem raps about losing yourself to the moment; my only caution is don’t lose so much of yourself that you end up punching a Cop!  Excitement should help us remember how good things were, not how regretful we feel about our resulting actions. 

The emotions and excitement of the workplace are a lot like elated sports fans.  Our actions have to be the results of good decisions.  For some people, excitement never ends up in regret because they are cool under fire and maintain great restraint even when faced with emotional or valued based conflict.  For others, the heat of the moment drives a wedge and creates irreparable hurt; this is the taste of regret. It is extremely hard to fully recover from an outburst of regretful excitability of a situation. Peers and followers will question your consistency and will always wonder when the next outburst will be.   

So how can we combat our weak human spirit of excitability?  Should we stop being passionate about our goals? Should we force ourselves into not caring enough to get upset?  NO! We have to practice using controlled productive language that identifies the issue and quickly brings resolution. We also have to continuously state our expectations of each of our employees.  Most of the time when we become negatively excitable, it is too late to reverse the damage of the moment. At this point stating your displeasure like a mad man is counterproductive to the problem.  Maintaining an attitude of resolution and learning from your experience to continuously state your expectation is the optimum approach. 

Too much time is lost and regret born from moments of excitability and displeasure.  Leaders have an obligation to achieving their organization’s mission through influence and respect.  Popping off at your peers and subordinates is just another sign of weakness and reason for distrust.  Everyone wants the best from their employees, but that starts by giving them our best.

Stay Calm and Don’t Punch a Cop,

Clint Hamner

 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Dilemma of Sorts


Harming someone with the intention of bringing their life to an end is murderous, right?

If you asked 100 random people on the street that question, I bet that most all of them would answer yes.  To most people murder is murder. However, the reality of that question can be very complicated and our emotions can cause us to be critical of the context in which the “murderous act” took place.

Consider this example.

Last week I overheard a retired judge telling a story of a murder case that he resided over in a small town in rural Alabama.  The accused was being charged with the murder of her husband. As the judge polled the jury to ensure that there were no conflicts of interest present, he asked if anyone was related to the defendant.  A shy young lady raised her hand and sheepishly responded to the judge, “Yes, she is my mother and my sister”.  The entire courtroom gasped. If he would have known that such an answer would have been given, he may have not asked the question because it ultimately, in his opinion, was the one statement that swayed the jury into a “not guilty” verdict.  Under any other circumstance she was just another murderous wife, but because of the implication of incest the jury was acutely more responsive to the testimony of abuse and harassment that led to the defendant killing her husband.

I’m sure some of the jurors felt conflicted, because murder is murder.  But we can’t be so ridged on matters of circumstances and relationships. Compassion sometimes trumps Justice, and vice versa.

That individualistic criticism of circumstances is what fuels most of our ethical dilemmas. The truth is muddled, and emotions sway our logic.  Simply stated, sometimes our head loses out to our heart. Nonetheless, we always have a choice and must be prepared to make it. Both decisions may be right on some level, but we have to trust our own moral compass to find the “most right” answer.

Leaders are remembered for the decisions that they make.  Too often we only remember the bad decisions and refuse to put our judgment through the lens of an ethical dilemma.  Issues of the heart are not so easily understood. 

My wife is a beautiful woman.  However, there is always one question that she will ask me before we leave the house, “Do I look fat in this”? Now, if she were a plump lady with a complex about her body image I would be forced between making a decision.  Do I tell her the Truth or do I show her Loyalty?  This dilemma, if not handled correctly, could put us back in the courtroom watching another murder trial!  So how do you answer a question like this? YOU LIE LIKE HELL! You choose Loyalty and live with the consequences. That is how you make the “most right” decisions! Does it make you any less of a liar? Of course not, but it is a perfect example of how frequent and potentially damaging ethical dilemmas are to those involved. Judging a leader on an ethical decision means more than snap decisions of disagreements, it means understanding their heart.

Since ethics are simply principles of right conduct, the definition of the word “right” can help us in our understanding dilemmas.  Good leaders, more often than not, do the “right” thing.  Each leader has several options to consider when faced with a perceived ethical dilemma.  Will your decision serve the greatest number, cement your stance on how everyone should always act, or transparently portray expected reciprocity. Each proposed resolution should play a part in bringing peace between the head and heart.

We manage and lead in a world so full of corruption and deceit that passing judgment on someone’s “best decision” when faced with a dilemma is not where we should focus our criticism. Circumstances of situations don’t change the truth, but the best decision making practices of good leaders, doing the right thing, can shape the outcomes of our dilemmas.  Some decisions may affect many people and others will confirm your resolve of good behavior.

You have a choice. Trust your gut and do the right thing.

Clint Hamner

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Focus on Employees


Leaders and Managers across every industry stand in front of their respective congregations of pulsing warm bodies and sound off this riff of motivation that fizzles out before the echoes finish bouncing off the production line floor. It is the biggest half-truth ever spoken by any level of management about its employees; “People are our biggest asset.”  It should state, “People can be our biggest asset”!

It’s a half-truth because our employees are also our biggest liability.  I’m sure if you decide to stop reading this entry right now you can easily convince yourself that I am the worst manager of all time and with an attitude like that will be destined for a swift and justifiable firing.  The statement has nothing to do with our employee’s actions that can create litigation or risk for your organization, rather the type of employee that we often fail to nourish and grow.

Lowder Hall on Auburn University’s campus houses the business school.  As a sophomore I walked into a large auditorium and sat myself in the back of the class and took out a piece of paper eager to jot down notes in Acct 2110-Financial Accounting.  Even through the distraction of the pack of football players around me not paying attention I was able to decipher the main point of the professor’s lecture that day.

                Assets = Liabilities + Owner's Equity

Although I’ve purged from my memory almost everything I learned in that class, I’ve never forgotten that simple equality. (I also remember from that class never to abbreviate ASSET and the kid in front of me having a hardcore seizure!)

By accounting standards, assets are not fully realized until all debts against them are settled.  The fastest way to convert liabilities to assets while circumventing unavoidable depreciation is to supplement the debt with current equity.  For an employee, these liabilities can be minimized and possibly mitigated by creating value in each employee that is perceived as stock, or equity.  This is done through empowerment and creating an environment where employees feel essential.

Under my opinion, and adhering to the equality of the equation above, no matter the quality of the employee or asset, their liabilities never create more than a net zero effect into our simple balance sheet equation.  The good news is that employee liabilities are merely short term debt that can be eliminated through the transference of “capital” from management. As managers we can elect to make the minimum required payment against each employee or choose to invest additional equity.  Both ways will require us as managers to create the environment and supplement the resources that our employees need to be successful.  Understanding that without us as managers deliberately providing the equity into the relationship, the best we can ever hope for is a set of unreinforced employees that are touted under a facade as “our greatest asset”. 

Try it for yourself. Take your best employee and list all of their admirable assets to the organization. The list will include things like work ethic, dependability, and technical expertise. Now use that same employee, and be honest with yourself, and list out the things that could create production and satisfaction problems. These liabilities include promotion hurdles, distractions outside of work, and benefits and compensation.  Those unhinged “assets” soon begin to be neutralized even in our best employees.  (It would be terrifying to do with our worst co-workers!)

So, what can we do as managers to eliminate the liabilities? Probably nothing to eliminate them completely, but in the long term we can certainly keep each employee’s balance sheet appearing as an asset through the timely injection of equity into the equation and assuming the liabilities are short-term.  Every manager is 100% percent responsible to shift the mathematical equality and make their case that the employees are indeed significant assets.  Its sounds unreasonable, but we only eliminate the liabilities through our hard work as managers.  From the minute they are hired until the day they retire, it is our job to coach, cultivate, and reinforce each employee in a way that first, addresses and minimizes potential liabilities and second, transfers a trust and appreciation for each task that each employee takes part in.  Never doubt the power of how important and essential an employee feels relates to their ability to be a true asset. 

Eliminating worry, creating value, and empowering each employee requires managers and leaders to transfer their own equity to their employees.  Deferring this equity transfer is a choice. The result is a liability that depreciates the asset to a point that a total reinvest could be required to create a positive value in that employee.  Unfortunately, in business when an asset gets to that point we list it in a “write off” or “salvage value” category.  This is an avoidable lose/lose situation for both sides of the table.  As hard as this may be for us take away from our own value, it’s the only way we can really make employees “Our Biggest Asset”. 

 

Give a Little Bit,

 

Clint Hamner

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Rich Dead Uncle Reality


There once was a great and powerful man.  He had earned more riches than most from buying and selling the things that people wanted and needed to seem fulfilled in life.  On the day of his death, gasping for the last ounces of life, he learned that his only brother, who had died years before, bore a son in his younger years.  Since the rich man was married to his job, he had no time to meet a wife or have children of his own. Ultimately, he would have no one to leave his massive fortune to.  On that somber Sunday, just before his life was to be no more, he ordered the executor of his will to leave it all, every single penny, to his nephew; a man whom he had never met.

The unsuspecting nephew was well-respected and, over the years, had earned his job as an operator in the shipyard.  The news of his impending inheritance came to him on the following Monday afternoon.  Being a man of modest means and high integrity he woke up on Tuesday and worked through the day with a heavy mind.  He loved his job but the reality was that he was only a few years away from retiring anyway.  On Wednesday morning he finally made up his mind to use his long lost uncle’s money to launch him into retirement.  That morning he went to his supervisor and made his intentions known.  Refusing to leave without honorably working out a 2-Week notice, the next 14 days set the stage for everyone on the shipyard to solicit for his soon to be vacated position.

The shipyard supervisor was an experienced manager.  He had hired and fired hundreds of employees throughout his career.  However, he had never filled the position of a retired millionaire operator!  Unexpected circumstances, whether due to tragedy or opportunity, had prompted him into filling quickly vacated position before.  This one still seemed different.  No one could have imagined that the millionaire nephew would be so fortunate.  No one had their eyes set on his job just yet because he should have worked for another five years. No one thought that being impressive mattered right now.  The shipyard supervisor was sad to be losing a valued and hardworking employee, but he was even more saddened at the fact that none of his remaining employees had cared to perform as though someone’s rich dead uncle would be able to give them a shot at a better tomorrow.

I made up this fable like story to prove a point---

Work hard each and every day, leaving nothing about your work ethic unanswered to those you answer to because you never know when someone’s rich uncle is going to die!

Organizations of all sizes pit us against each other when it comes to promotion and opportunity.  The dangers of competing for positions in any organizations are that they typically only occur with conventional attrition in mind.  For example, if you know that someone is retiring in two years you may subconsciously think to yourself that the time to shine for your supervisors is next year.  Or if you know that a co-worker in a higher ranking position than yourself is on a slippery slope and is at a high risk to lose their job you may step up a little to show off for you superiors.  But what if the person decides to retire early or the slippery slope takes the poorly performing employees sooner than anticipated? Where do you stand then?

Bear Bryant, the beloved and famed college football coach, taught his players a similar lesson after a loss in the 1965 Orange Bowl.  A call from one of the officials was overturned by the head referee on a quarterback sneak into the end zone.  As time expired, Alabama star Joe Namath was pulled from the bottom of the pile only to see the head official signaling for a Texas first down.  The team was devastated.  Walking off the field somebody from the crowd yelled to Bryant, “Coach, we scored!”  Bryant was not much for splitting hairs on matters like this and sternly responded, “If Joe walks in, there would have been no question about it.”  The wisdom in Coach Bryant’s response can teach us all something about making ourselves the clear choice for those around us during situations of self-promotion.

Sitting back, idly by, convincing yourself that now isn’t the time to put forth the effort that “might” get you recognized or “could” get you promoted are signs that any supervisor will be wary of. When transporting extremely wanted criminals from place to place a device called a Sally Port is used.  The operation of a Sally Port is simple, two synchronized gates trap the prisoner transport vehicle in a corral to hinder any type of break out or escape.  Sitting in the Sally Port can take seconds or hours depending on the extent of the vehicle inspection.  As the rear gate closes the car is trapped, but it is only when this gate is closed that the other gate can open for the vehicle to proceed out of the secure facility.  We aren’t prisoners, and my intent is to build a connection with the Sally Port’s operation and not its intended use.  However, being the best employee everyday while leaving no room for anyone to question your ability and commitment is like sitting in the Sally Port waiting on the exit gate to slide open. To the contrary, some employees will miss out on opportunities because they think opportunity is just one open door away, when in reality the first door opens the moment you decide to make yourself the best employee you can be. 

Working hard is hard work.  Years can go by sitting in the confines of the Sally Port.  But remember, the best opportunities often present themselves to those who prepare.  Don’t leave any score to be contested and try your best to walk into the end zone with everything you do because you never know when someone’s rich uncle is gonna die!

Poor Dead Uncle,

Clint Hamner

 

 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Character Crisis


For me the day was like any other.  It was a Friday. School was boring and lasted longer than I felt necessary to have such a beautiful spring sky.  The final bell rang and a wave of hormone imbalanced teens made their way through the halls of Riverside Junior High School.  In those days, much like today, you were one of three classifications of students; a walker, a bus rider, or a car rider.  That particular day I was a car rider. I very rarely rode the bus home and fourteen miles would have been a tremendously long walk.
I waited unenthusiastically for my mom’s grey Aerostar MiniVan to creep up the car line.  It was understood that I rode in the front seat after school; I was the oldest, of course.  My little brother who was in elementary school knew the rules and the punishment for breaking them.  My little sister was still in a booster seat and usually exhausted from her long day of being a busy toddler.  But as my mom inched closer and closer to the covered walkway on the west side of the school I started to notice that someone was in my seat; my coveted front seat. I began to stew and rehearse the verbal lashing that my little brother would absorb. Something wasn’t right though.  The person in the front seat wasn’t my brother; it was my dad. 
I slid the back door open and sat down quietly in the middle row of seats next to my baby sister.  Why was daddy here anyway? Mama looked at daddy with a sullen face as he turned around in his seat.  He let us know that he didn’t have a job anymore and that the company that he was working for was closing down.  It took a lot of courage to look his family square in the eyes and tell them he was unemployed.  Daddy was in his mid-30s with a wife, three kids, a mortgage, and, at this moment, a heavy burden of how to lead his family through this seemingly unimaginable crisis.
The word crisis can mean different things at different times to different people.  For a young man providing for his family it could be losing his job. For a Fortune 500 CEO it could be the loss of a major contract.  When experiencing a crisis the relativity of the situation doesn’t matter and to overcome the impending consequences of inaction takes several universally accepted traits.
Dignity is a respect for one’s self. A good leader will maintain an elegance and dignity through any crisis.  Disrespecting yourself or someone else doesn’t make the situation go away or lead to any constructive outcome.
Valor is courage at all costs.  Remember courage is not action without fear, it is action even after realizing the fear.  I will gladly follow any leader who sees the adversity in a situation and still continues confidently.
Ambition serves as the catalyst to continue.  Without ambition the pursuit of resolution in our times of crisis dwindles.  Most leaders, even in times of crisis, resort to summoning an inherent gut response. Other leaders never realize that they have ambition until the cost of losing something they love is worth more than the displeasure of fighting it. Motivation is when ambition and love drive someone to bring direction, intensity, and persistence to asituation, unwilling to accept anything but the best result.
Dignity, Valor, Ambition, and Motivation are all key elements of a true leader’s character.  The true character of a leader will only reveal itself in times of crisis.  Coming into a crisis unprepared is not failure or inadequacy on behalf of your character. Rather it is the way in which you respond and the lessons you take with you for the next crisis.
Daddy let us know that he lost his job on that Friday.  That next Monday he had a job.  He came home a lot more tired and dirty, but never complained.  We never missed a mortgage, a meal, or a vacation.  Daddy led us through that time in his life with dignity and valor. No matter how much it might have hurt his pride it couldn’t touch his character. 
 
Amor Vincit Omnia,
Clint Hamner
 
Post Script- This entry about leadership reminded me of a brown zip up KMART fleece jacket I got when I was fourteen and wore throughout college.  Over the years I received compliments from time to time on my coat when I would wear it.  I remember giving thanks to someone for their niceties concerning my jacket one evening by responding, “It keeps me warm as long as it’s not cold outside!”  Essentially I was saying that it was a crummy jacket even though it looked good and I wore it as if it met all my bodily needs.  Some bosses and company leaders are like my Kmart jacket.  They look great and appear to serve a purpose, when it reality when the cold winds of crisis blow they are really just as useless as cheap fleece and polyester.