Shopping the Talent Store

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These remarkable times truly do afford anyone with an idea the opportunity to build something quickly and cheaply. The connected economy makes it easy to put together a site, market, drive sales, fulfill promises and ship products and services.

The missing ingredient for success is less about the resources and tools available and much more about courage. If you have the fortitude to start, build and see your idea through, you can get going. It certainly will not be without failures along the way. It will simply be hard. But it will be much easier to start or build something than your parents and grandparents could even conceive.

We have platforms today which allow us to shop  for sellers. And those that have talent from all corners of the globe can simply become a part of your project or idea with simple search on those platforms.

You can put a project such as building a website or programming a new software out on Upwork and you will get immediate engagement from highly talented, low-cost technical resources quickly.

You can put a job on indeed.com and have resumes in your hands fast.

You can search on LinkedIn or post a job and your elaborately connected world of business professionals will approach you for your offerings.

The talent store is abundant, accessible and convenient. Your job is to be:

  • Clear. Know what you want and what results/expectations are required.
  • Cordial. Networking with consideration and professionalism. It’s a small world and you tend to bump into people repeatedly.
  • Compensatory. Pay a competitive, fair price. Overly negotiating can backfire. Do you want someone working for you with a sour taste in their mouth. Make good deals.

Shopping the talent store can move your ideas and projects forward with much leverage. However, though the ease of accessing talent is unprecedented, your leadership and people skills become critical. You have to manage interactions, work and results. Thus, when you bring people into your projects, you have to know what you want, where you are headed and how to measure success along the way. Your skills as a manager become critical to success.

I am a big fan of modularity. I like building teams, finding talent and getting systems, processes and people aligned for different projects. That last part, the people, is always tricky because you can mess up relationships and projects if you are not careful.

When you shop, be wise, insightful and deliberate. I always say, go fast with systems; go slow with people.

Today, more than ever, the approach applies. Build amazing businesses and ventures with the abundant talent out there. Just be sure your approach has some kind of method that sets you up for success and mitigates the risk.

The Competency vs. Likability Conundrum

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Try doing business without being likable. Getting connections and deals become hard quickly. We live with immense choices in who we want to deal with, and unpleasantness can simply be ignored for the next great option.

Of course, there are a lot of charmers out there as well. They can be completely likable and know how to create that aura of likability through warmth, flattery, smiles, encouragement and so many other gestures we appreciate in friendship.

When given a choice we do business with people that we like. Ideally, the likable people are competent as well. Likability is fantastic when we are talking short-term, but long-term still comes down to competence. We have deliverables, customers to please and dreams to achieve. A likable, incompetent person is not going to help us if the goals are real.

We know to avoid incompetent, unlikable people. I think people will tolerate unlikable, competent people. But those relationships tend to dissolve over time when the right crisis or opportunity come along.

The tricky decisions come into play with likable, incompetent people. Do you have a blind spot, or a soft spot, for such souls? If you find yourself making excuses, rationalizing or defending such people, perhaps your sympathies have taken you too far from center.

The carrying costs for the likable, incompetent person builds up over time. And if times are fat or life is good, fine. Enjoy the company and friendship.

If you are building an organization, the competent folks can grow resentful when they see the deference and overlooking eyes you may have for incompetence. You may not call it that, but it’s there for everyone to observe.

A lot of trying to get where you want to go has to do with your decision making on talent, opportunities and risk. When you look at your results and what you want for yourself, consider this one area and get honest with yourself. Do you reward incompetence? Does likability simply disarm you? You might need a way of getting clear and avoid the traps you create for yourself.

Forget Being Well-Rounded

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I see people every day in business lost on what they should or can do. The old rules where you were a good boy or girl and advanced up a ladder doesn’t play out much today. You can’t simply rest on your laurels and hope someone notices enough to develop a career path for you.

In addition, we have this amazing world of access. You can find out what opportunities exist, and get transparency into jobs far away with ventures of all sizes and shapes. And if you research, investigate and talk to people, you see less of a correlation between formal education and credentials to the jobs that they take on. People are continually reinventing themselves because of necessity.

One strategy for talent has been to be well-rounded. Learning and doing a lot without focusing too much in one area was a conventional approach.

The problem is that you are competing against the world now. Someone looking for talent can find that person who is sharp, not well- rounded.  Sharp skills in areas are desirable because we have the options to keep finding what we are looking for out there readily and we want execution.

We pay disproportionately for top golfers vs. mediocre talent. Same goes for executives that have a special skill or all that cream we see rising to the top.

I think in a flatter world that moves extremely fast, you should forget about being well-rounded. Its better to be sharp and be extremely good at those chosen areas where your competition can’t touch you. It’s a way of standing out and letting your beacon of talent distinguish you when people are looking for solutions that get results fast.

If you find the carpet pulled out from under your feet, or if you can anticipate your comfortable position changing in the next year or so, then how about getting sharper in an area?

  1. Take an inventory of all the things you like to do.
  2. Pick one to move your skills, knowledge and ability to the next level.
  3. Find projects and customers that will pay for this one talent now. Do the research where to find them and put your shingle out.
  4. Execute.
  5. Promote your work.

Get that reputation that you stand out and are sharp in an area.

I’m not sure people have much choice otherwise in a hypercompetitive, accessible world of options. It beats obscurity.

Do What You Are

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When I find people unhappy in their work and listen to what’s dissatisfying them, the usual issue is that they are not doing what they are. It’s no secret most people hate their work. But why persist in misery when there is all this choice out there? You have one option. And then there are a ridiculous amount of options at your fingertips to move to.

But it does take strategy and intentionality. You have to be cognizant and articulate of who you are, how your brain works vs. those around you. There are things that you will excel at and things that will totally stress you out.

When you work within your makeup and groove, life and work gets easier and enjoyable. I know this because I have seen it firsthand so many times over many years working with so many clients and teams. It’s about alignment. And if you are not aligned, you simply struggle to bring your best. It’s stressful. And stress kills.

You can keep going the way you are, but something inside you tells you that things are not right. That’s your gut. Listening to your gut is good business. There’s a reason that voice is there.

What can you do?

  1. Get honest about whether you are happy or not doing what you do.
  2. Get clear and precise about who you are with a strengths test.
  3. Identify opportunities on LinkedIn and all the job sites out there to find what does fit your strengths.
  4. Take action and change towards what brings out your best.

Happiness is an indicator. It’s part of your gut, which again, is a valuable business barometer.

There are just too many good opportunities out there and you have so much freedom to go after it. Why waste time doing anything less than who you are?

The Amateur vs. Expert Chasm

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There are too many things I am simply an amateur at in life. If I pick up a sport or study a new topic, it’s hard and clumsy at first. Actually, it’s difficult for a while until I can get my brain and my body the reps and familiarity to be competent.

These days, I want to get better at a few select things that are important to me. I’m spending a lot of time with tennis, for example, and enjoy the cadence and fun of the game. I have experts that teach me and show me how to hit and move efficiently. It’s awkward at times to learn a new stroke. But the reps help me become more comfortable.

I could expend a ton of energy and rely simply on effort and athleticism. However, I am needlessly working harder, much harder than the experts I see and play with. They are getting the ball back and are relaxed about it.

The newbies are frenetic. They run and swing at everything with determination and hacking.

Without humility, amateurs can think they are working hard, being effective and even on the same level as those that are further down the path of competency. They may even wonder why they are not seeing the same result as those that are experts. The problem is that the delusion misses the reality that there is a wide chasm between how amateurs and experts see the game, whatever game they are in.

All talent is not the same.

Yes, we can all use the same tools now. They are cheap and accessible. It doesn’t mean that we are all experts.

Heck, if you ask people to go find an answer, they even search completely differently on Google. How do you measure the efficiency of each person’s brain?

Maybe it’s about how fast a task or project can get done. Perhaps it’s the least number of lines of code required to get a solution. Or the brevity of words to get an impact could be the clincher.

Amateurs with pride miss the differences.

Can you really do SEO because you learned a small bit about alt tags?

Are you now a writer because you figured out how to blog?

Are you truly an entrepreneur because you started a website and opened a business checking account?

Yes, we can all play now. That doesn’t mean we have arrived. There’s still a long journey to expertise. And that takes consistency and sustainability. When you know things because you paid the price to make complex things simple, you are more relaxed. You know what works and what does not work. You know the trade-offs.

There are going to be people that understand the chasm between your expertise and their amateur hour abilities. And they will value it accordingly with partnerships, ventures and friendship.

And then there are those that are simply oblivious to the amateur/expert chasm. Smile. Move on. Let them try their hand at the game. You know the real price to competency.

Exponential Growth

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Our human brains have a hard time understanding or accepting exponential trends. We prefer and interpret events and trends to be linear.

Like a nice Sunday drive that is steady in course, direction and speed, we think life events unfold this way.

However, the reality is that we have acceleration occurring at unprecedented speeds. Whether it’s world population, bandwidth or medicine. We are not linear. We are exponential.

This comes from the compounding effects of technology. When technology enters your marketplace, you are off the industrial progress of linear trending and onto exponential growth.

We used to watch blue collar factory work get replaced by robots and automation. Now, the same has happened for white collar office workers. Robots are faster, cheaper and don’t complain.

The network effect of using LinkedIn, Upwork or Twitter to find talent or get things done with a modular project team is within everyone’s grasp now. You just have to rally around your idea and lead. All the resources are a few clicks away to make your ideas happen now.

The network effect is accelerating and available to anyone that is connected. And everyone is connected now.

So, what happens to your position right now? The world is not standing still and the security you might feel could be a deception. You might feel like it’s a linear zone when you are merely in the first part of an exponential curve. It’s not inconceivable you will be replaced or your cost will dramatically reduce.

Once network effects and digitization occur, the commoditization process begins. Computing power, bandwidth and storage are near zero cost. And every day our hypercompetitive economy keeps changing the rules because someone is building on top of the collective knowledge that makes the next step of innovation easier.

The strategy for a world of exponential growth is not to go hope and find places where things are merely linear. That’s not going to happen. The trend across modern reality is efficiency and demonetization.

No, the fit strategy is to map yourself into an exponential mindset. You can participate, thrive and get rich by keeping pace with and trending with exponential growth. Make it a foregone conclusion that automation will replace your work today. But it doesn’t have to replace you.

Your opportunity lies with the ability to develop your personal leadership and use the existing and emerging technology of today to build something people will buy. Start with a few. Make it work. Then make it work at scale.

Have you accepted exponential growth?

The Fit Matters More Than Your Desire

Ever notice that there are things you might want but you are just mediocre at it? Most of the things you attempt, you will be mediocre at, for that matter. Your body, brain and coordination simply underperform compared to a person who naturally steps in and makes it happen.

Being mediocre at something doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. But you may not want to delude yourself into thinking you are going to get big bucks or a championship for your performance.

Fit matters. Your talent and aptitude for a certain thing matter a great deal. I liked John Maxwell’s assessment.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, you can only move up 2 spots with hard work.

If you are a 2 at something, then with hard work, you can become a 4.

The world does not pay for 4’s, especially when there are plenty of 8’s and 9’s around.

But if you are a 7 at something, you can become a 9 at something with hard work.

You can waste a lot of time with good intentions trying to become a 4.

We have this strange folklore in our culture that if we work hard at something, then we can become anything we want.

It’s a myth. Has that played out in your life?

The better approach to finding success is:

  1. Get brutally honest with yourself. Look at how good or bad you really are. We all think of ourselves a little better than others around us see. You can’t get where you want to go if you lie to yourself.
  2. Take inventory. What are you naturally a 7 or higher at? While we may be mediocre at many things, we have an inventory of things that we are likely very good at.
  3. Pick 2. Get really good by showing up every day and practicing those 2 things that are a fit. It is what you are good for, what you are made for.

It’s not a hard process. But you do have to be honest.

And for those areas you don’t have talent, partner with people that can augment you.

If you want to find out what those areas of strength are, consider getting tested.

What can you let go of? What can you commit to more?

Process For Finding Talent

Dare to be different...stand out from the crowd.
Photo from RiaPereira’s Flickr

Finding talent to work on projects or on your team can be a challenge. Often it is not a problem of too few applicants. The shear amount of resumes or inquiries can cause issues.

Too often, job sites or databases that are targeted have a shortcoming in their own process. It does not cost applicants anything to apply. However, HR reps have a cost of attention. They have to cull through mounds of data to figure out who qualified and worthy candidates are.

I like to use a different process which simplifies the work. You can consider designing a similar system:

  1. Create a challenge. Use a secure and flexible platform to create details of a challenge. Ensure the challenge is similar to what a candidate would be doing on your team. Outline the rules, steps and outlet for questions. A challenge is great as a qualifier and filter. Many will not take the time. This already tells you who is willing to work and push forward. Those that take the challenge are candidates.
  2. Create canned responses. I use Google Apps for canned responses. I ensure the email responses are personal and clear in instruction to direct them to the challenge. Be cordial and let them get to know you.
  3. Manage the relationship. Organize your CRM system with your candidates and the inbound and outbound communications. Post any notes, resumes and files in their record to keep things straight. You might not need them now, but you will have a resource for later. Be sure your filtering on a field or tag is clear to see what kind of talent is available in the future.
  4. Interview the workers. Those that worked and put forth a good presentation on the challenge warrant a discussion. They showed some passion. Capture notes in your CRM on who you want to filter as final candidates.
  5. Choose talent wisely. If it’s hard to pick between a few remaining candidates, go with your gut on who will work hard and fit within your culture. Those are important for a long-term relationship and building trust.

This process has some tools and systems that can be used. You can connect with me to learn more. I like using this approach because it puts the onus of creativity and desire back where it should be – on the talent that is eager.

Even after many years, its hard to get it right. People are variable. In the end, you have to go with your gut and see if the chemistry and work ethic are there.

What do you think?

Masterminds Trump Tools

If I had to pick between talent and tools, I would pick talent.  Talent knows how to use tools in strategic and profitable ways.  Tools hold the allure of success, but they are only as good as their owners.

We find great appeal in the toned bodies using weight machines and home fitness equipment.  The mass majority of these purchases go unused after a short period of time.

There are millions of users of CRM systems, blogging platforms and social networks.  Who is strategic and driving results and revenue?  The strategy is always far more elusive.

If you can put the pieces together and mastermind towards a result, then you are far more valuable than any tool out there.  It is a rarity to find those who can execute with strategy around technology that is otherwise unrealized in potential.

You invite failure if you are duped merely by the mirage of technology’s promises and miss rare talent that can make business dreams reality.  Look for the masterminds.  They hold far more promise than any tool out there.

What has been your experience?  Feel free to comment.

Have Tool Then What?

Your tools are commodities. Everyone can get access to them today. In fact, everyone does access the tools. The case, more often than not, is that they are underused, misused or irrelevant in most people’s business. The tools are a lot like sports equipment. There is a lot of hype to get someone to buy a workout machine, tennis racquet or bike. Visit the typical person in 6 months, and you find them as artifacts in de facto storage.

We live in an age of abundance. Tools are cheap and ubiquitous. If tools were the answer, then everyone would be wildly successful in their business. Such is not the case. There is typically a giant blind spot which makes success elusive. It has to do with strategy. Strategy is the enabler for making tools part of a system which makes money. Strategy comes from thinkers that can see the opportunities and deliver specific, relevant and timely systems to exploit those opportunities. Strategy comes from talent, not tools.

Putting the pieces together is much more of a challenge in an age of abundance. As tools continue to commoditize and approach in many cases, a zero price point, the real challenge lies in creating the processes which drive business results.

Social media does not make money for most businesses. Strategic lead nurturing does. Adwords is often expensive and wasteful. Relevant campaigns to connect and entice a clicker is what makes the return on investment.

From the outside, successful businesses and people look like they can be mimicked if we acquire the same accessories and tools they use. It is a grave misconception. Under the hood, they have refined an art form into a system. An actress makes her lines look easy. To be like her would mean to start the journey of countless iterations and working on the minutiae which separates mediocre from great performers. So it goes in today’s economy.

The truth is, talented people can take multiple tools to achieve the same result. A tennis pro can use any racquet and still outplay the vast majority of people. A world-class cook can use Wal-Mart cooking utensils and deliver a much more elegant meal than a housewife who has Williams Sonoma class cookware. It’s the player, not the racquet. It’s the cook, not the cookware. So it goes, it’s the talent, not the tools. Perhaps your success is only elusive because you see the gadgets and not the goal. Get the right talent and let them leverage the tools to help you. Focus only on the talent you truly have, which is likely one or two specialties. Strategy always trumps good tools.