Intent vs. impact

Effective communication (in Corporate America)

As a guy working in HR, effective communication matters. I need to be careful with what I do and say. As much as the rules and policies apply to everyone, they apply more to the people in HR. When the team that is supposed to make sure company policy is maintained is breaking the rules, it hard to hold credibility.

Effective communication boils down to intent vs. impact

It isn’t what I do or what I say, it is what the employees see me do and what they hear me say that matters. Regardless of good intentions, my actions and words are open to interpretation. It doesn’t matter what I say, it only matters what is heard. It doesn’t matter what I do, all that matters is what folks see.   

Held to a higher standard 

With this in mind, today’s post points out potential differences in what we say and what is heard. I want to share a few ways I try to encourage trust and teamwork. This is especially true when the words are coming out of Johnny Law HR who is already viewed with skepticism and mistrust.

The goal of this blog post is to show how these interpretations are not just extrapolated from the folks in HR. They are also left to interpretation by:

  • Executives who are viewed as the authority of a particular discipline
  • Leaders, managers, or employees with seniority
  • Employees who are on a Personal Improvement Plan
  • Individual contributors who are potentially up for a raise, promotion, or new opportunity
  • Candidates in an interview

It isn’t just the HR policy makers that are under scrutiny. We all fall under scrutiny. So today I provide a few phrases to marinate on when you are communicating with anyone inside, or outside of work. 

As often as possible, I like to present an attitude where the cup is half full vs. the cup is half empty. Below I share examples of phrases commonly heard in corporate American that represents the cup half empty. This is not effective communication and can subconsciously create doubt. I also present the cup half full version which will not create any disturbance in the force. These phrases maintain momentum when pitching ideas, interviewing for a job, or working with teams. A presentation with glass half full moments doesn’t create or maintain momentum.  

effective communication

Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty, thinker

You vs. we

When helping someone else to solve a problem, effective communication makes a big difference. It is very easy to fall into the trap that this is “their” problem and NOT “our” problem. The following are statements that emphasize the problem is “theirs”. These statements sound like accusations vs. an offer to help:

  • “If you don’t follow this procedure” 
  • “If you didn’t do that” 
  • “When you did this, it broke” can sound like “You broke it.”
  • “You are stupid, that will never work” can sound like “YOU ARE STUPID”

One easy way to signal we are BOTH trying to solve the same problem (and are on the same team) is by substituting the word “You” with the word “We”.

The above sentences sound much different and set a different tone:

  • “When WE do this”
  • “If WE hadn’t done that”
  • “When WE did this, it broke”
  • “WE are both stupid, that will never work”
  • “We should try this”

The above statements signal “we” are on the same team. I really appreciate hearing these types of statements in an interview. When a candidate uses the word “we” vs. “you guys”, I get the feeling that I am talking with a team player.

Manager vs. Boss

This one will probably cause some controversy, but as an HR person, it is a signal to me when a manager refers to their team as any of the following:

  • “Employees below me”
  • “My team”
  • “These are my people”
  • “My direct report”

Employees are not servants. In my 20 years of experience, I have found that most individual contributors know who they report to and don’t need to be reminded in a demeaning manner. The following statements encourage an attitude of equality vs. one of hierarchy. 

  • “Employees around me” vs. “Employees under me” 
  • “Our team” vs. “My team”
  • “Our employees” vs. “My employees”

I completely realize most companies are a hierarchy but do I need to be reminded of my place in this particular manner?

“I want to introduce you to MY employee” vs. “May I introduce you to my colleague?

How someone introduces a colleague is a reflection of the person making the introduction. This type of introduction comes from the person that needs to establish who is in charge of whom. The second introduction set a tone of equality. Regardless of the difference in seniority, age or experience, I just really appreciate the introduction using the word “colleague”. The first introduction smacks of a guy I knew who, after meeting you, would shake your hand and say:

“That’s a firm handshake you have, just like the mechanic who works on my Ferrari”

Do we really need to establish who’s who in the zoo within the first 3 seconds of meeting?

“I am going to “LET “John Smith talk about our next subject” vs. “I am going to “ASK” John Smith to talk about our next subject”

When I watch a presentation with multiple speakers, it always seems like a weird transition when the next speaker is “given permission” to speak. “You are going to LET me talk????” I think the transition between speakers is much more seamless and shows a stronger team dynamic when we “Ask John Smith to speak”.

Are you creating possibility or crushing it?

“We can’t” vs. “We can, if. . . .”

The “Can’t” attitude will be the biggest blocker to landing your name in the promotion hat.  Replying to an idea or request with “I can’t” or “We can’t do that.” is a Career Limiting Move. When you think about it, humans have built pyramids and put men on the moon. Unless you are working at Blue Origin or NASA, you aren’t going to be asked to put a man on the moon and OH, Guess The F*&%$ What peoples? We have put a people on the moon and we are going to put more people on the moon. If you haven’t seen the Ridley Scott movie “The Martian” with Matt Damon, I highly recommend it. This guy did not have the word “can’t” in his vocabulary and kept a sense of humor. 

Instead of saying “I can’t”, try “We can if we do XY and Z”. Or “We can. if I can get some help with XY and Z.”

“We Can “if” “, is a much better way of saying “I can’t”. Managers, leaders, vendors, and clients want people who CAN. They don’t want people who can’t.

“Can’t” is just an indicator that we are a too lazy to figure out how we “Can”

Are you an American or an American’t  (Is it OK to ask that question?)

I partner with a team of two people on a very regular basis. Over time, I have stopped asking one of the folks for any assistance because I always get pushback. A typical response to a request for help is, “I am really busy right now” followed by a deep sigh. The other member of the department is always open-minded to new projects and his usual answer is “Now isn’t the best time, but IF this afternoon works, I can get started then.  This guy uses the word “if” and he also receives a LOT more opportunity.

“They won’t” vs. “They might, if”

As a career coach, I hear a lot of assumptions that include the word “won’t”. This is very similar to the word “can’t” in my mind. On a regular basis I hear the following:

  • “My manager won’t go for that idea.”
  • “My department won’t have the budget.”
  • “The Accounting department won’t listen to me.”

The assumption that NOTHING will happen, results in the employee not even trying. This is bad for the employee’s career and bad for the company. Instead, try thinking a little differently. 

  • “My manager might go for this idea IF we suggest. . . “
  • “The department might come up with the budget IF we do. . . .”
  • “The Accounting department might listen to us IF. . ..

Effective communication can make a difference in your business proposals and your career. It’s not what we say, but how we say it.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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15 applications later, things are getting desperate. I will listen to dad.

Proven Cover Letter Format

Have you turned in 10 plus resumes with no response and heard less than crickets? It’s a wasteland. It’s a silent black hole. Not even a “Don’t call us, we will call you?” If you have experienced the application black hole, this post is for you. There is hope. It can be done.

I have a long time friend whose son just graduated from college. The son is in the process of trying to find a job and experiencing little luck. He has held some temporary jobs and is now willing to settle. The biggest part of his frustration is that he has submitted a string of letters/resumes in response to job postings and heard nothing. Sound familiar? In my work with candidates, I see a lot of this and I know why it happens.

Dad doesn’t know anything!

My buddy knows I work with candidates and shared his side of the story. The son is a typical recent graduate and doesn’t want to listen to dad. Now, dad may be over 55, but he is well versed in technology and makes a great living doing business development for tech companies. This is not your old school dad who hasn’t stayed in touch. He has a huge reach and is an expert at connecting online. Dad knows how to network.

Of course, dad as given feedback on the search to the millennial son. Heck, in my opinion, he has been doing the search for the kid, and really, who can blame him. The father wants to see his kid succeed and part of him wants him to STFU already. Unfortunately, the millennial son wants to do it his way and remains his own biggest obstacle. I don’t have kids for this exact reason.  

Dad finds a job ad the son is qualified for

Like most millennials who feel their dad is out of touch, the response was as follows:

  • “Dad, I am not qualified for this job. Out of the 10 bulleted requirements, I don’t have half of what they are looking for.”
    • But you do have half of what they are looking for!
  • “Dad, this isn’t the kind of job I want!”
    • Son, this job is in your field of study, it is with a very hot brand you have heard about and frankly, at this point, we can’t afford to be choosy.
  • “This is never going to work”, heavy sigh

Maybe it was the 15 prior gut punches of silence that turned the son around. He started to listen to the father. 

Two old guys strategize

Dad comes to HRNasty for a collegial discussion on strategy, and frankly, I am flattered. I ask my standard questions trying to triangulate the problem/opportunity for improvement.

HRN:”How many resumes and cover letters do you think your son has sent in?”

Father: “15”

HRN: “Has your son had any interviews over the phone or face to face?”

Father: “He had one interview over the phone, but trust me, he is a really smart kid.”

HRN’s inside voice: “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, every parent’s kid is a special snowflake.”

How far in the process is the candidate progressing?

When I ask these questions, I am trying to figure out what the biggest hurdle is. If we are declined after the face to face interviews with the recruiter and the hiring manager, then it is probably HOW we are talking with the hiring manager. The recruiter and the hiring manager are looking for two completely different things.

If we are NOT getting very many responses for the very first phone interview, then it is probably our resume, cover letter format, or both.

Overwhelming cover letter format 

I asked to see a copy of the job description. I then asked to see a copy of the cover letter and sure enough, it was filled with text covering three-quarters of the page. The cover letter format screamed “overwhelming.” I didn’t need to see much more than this because I knew this type of document wasn’t going to be read. I knew I wouldn’t take the time to read it. (When I have 50 resumes to look at, 50 cover letters like this might as well be the Iliad.) When I did look at it, my suspicions were confirmed. There were a lot of qualitative statement vs. quantitative statements.  The cover letter included a lot of qualitative statements like:

  • I am a fast learner
  • I am a hard worker
  • I get along with everyone

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

The above is the candidate’s opinion. The hiring manager feels their team members are AMAZING. After years of experience, it is hard to take a recent graduates word for “hard work” when they lack actual job experience.

The way to catch the recruiters attention is to capture the first few bullets of the job description. These are usually the most important skills/experience the hiring company is looking for. The father completely agreed and explained when he reaches out via email to do business development, he concentrates on what the potential partner is looking for and not what he “THINKS” HE brings to the table.

Winning Cover Letter Format

I provided the father with a cover letter format I like, which I blogged about here. We then discussed why it works and why it is effective. I also explained why qualitative statements about ourselves are generally ignored.

I won’t bore you with the next 24 hours of discussion with the father acting as a middleman between the son and HRNasty. Two days later the kid got a call from the VP of the department asking the son to come in for an in-person interview. The kid could not believe it. Mind Blown. The father tried to call me three times that evening to give me the good news, but in usual HRN style, I was giving him the Heisman. (I was out and had turned off my phone, but hey, he is in business development, he is persistent)

Who got the interview, the father or the son?

The next morning I saw the father in person. The father was so excited, you would have thought he was the one that got the interview. Dad had a couple of wins.

  • His son connected with the hiring company and had set the hook.
  • The son listened to the father and realized dad wasn’t such a stick in the mud
  • Father was right, Right, RIGHT!

The prodigal son was brought in and interviewed for not one, but TWO jobs! The guy was on fire because he was offered one of the positions after the interview. He needs to wait a few days before he hears about the second position.

Boom Biatches. Old Guys Rule!

If you have turned in multiple resumes with our without a cover letter, please check out the above link. This shit works!

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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I talk with a recent graduate who takes the right attitude and asks great questions

I have been working with millennial’s recently and running into a similar theme. The millennials I am meeting with are clearly smart and they are driven. This generation just doesn’t have the experience to know how the system works and from what I am seeing, the schools are not providing any insight. Thankfully, this is a generation that is taking the time to ask the correct questions. Today and next weeks post are real-life examples of the challenges millennials are facing. Hopefully, these posts help not only the millennials but the managers that manage them the older generations working with alongside them.

Managers, please take this as a lesson that millennials are NOT selfish. They just don’t have the experience to “know”. If we take a few moments to give them perspective, they catch on quickly. 

I recently met with a Millennial who is young in his career and “doing it right”. I thought this conversation would be a great post for others because this guy took the initiative to ask such great questions.


  • 3 years out of school
  • Database background with a degree from a great school
  • Enjoys his employer and manager and wants to stay there long-term
  • Clearly, has social skills and can carry a conversation

I had helped his manager with a career negotiation and his manager sent him to me.

We sat down at a local pub and I asked my standard questions, a few are listed below:

HRN: What do you like about your employer?

Millennial: I like the work-life balance, I like the culture, I have a great manager and the people work together as a team.

HRN: Do you plan on staying there a long time?

Millennial: Yes, I could see myself staying there a very long time.

HRN: What do you do in your off time?

Millennial: I like sports, I work out, I am engaged to my wife. We want to buy a house but this is Seattle so I worry about that.

HRN: What is your 3-5 year plan?

Millennial: I want to manage people. I am great with people, I am a leader. 

HRN: Are you a manager now?

Millennial: No, I am a born leader, my manager says I am great with people and I mentor younger people.

He stated he had a great skill set and he was great with people. He just had his performance review (not attached to a salary review) and he wanted to negotiate a raise.

I asked him a couple more questions:

HRN: What are you making now?

Millennial: I make “$X”

HRN: What do you want to be making? What do you want your raise to be?

Millennial: I want to make “$X + 50%”.

HRN: When are you needing to make “$X + 50%? 

Millennial: I am hoping to make that in 4 months when I have my next review.

I didn’t say much. There was a pause of silence that was probably uncomfortable for your young Jedi in training.

A 50% increase in salary

HRNasty’s inside voice: “These millennials. This guy has been working for 2 years and expects a 50% increase. OK, not impossible, but not easy. We might be able to get him a job at one of the large tech companies in town that pays at the top end of the band. Actually, he said he wanted work-life balance. Actually, it was the VERY FIRST THING he said. The big tech companies in town are not for this guy. They pay top dollar but the average tenure there is 18 months and work-life balance is not part of the equation.”

So I asked him where he was getting his “X + 50%” number. He explained he looked at Glassdoor, talked to his friends about what they are making and although he didn’t find solid matches on Glassdoor or with his friends, he had triangulated “the number”. That would be “The Number” with a capital T and a Capital N.

HRNasty’s inside voice: “Geeze, I know I helped his manager with his career, but I am not a miracle worker. 50% in 4 months? 2 years out of school? WTF? I am good, but I am not that good.”

HRNasty: “Dude, I just want to put things into perspective. You are asking for a 50% increase. Average salary increases are 3-5%. We have 3 years of experience.”

A Millennial asks the right question

His response was the following:

“I am young in my career and I don’t know what I don’t know. This is why I am here talking with you. I need perspective. I have a thick skin, so please tell me what I need to do. What should I be focusing on?”

I gotta hand it to the guy. He transitioned off the money quickly. I didn’t think he had it in him especially with the work-life balance comment being the first words he uttered. He came around really quickly. After about 15 minutes of discussion which I won’t bore you with, my overall message to him was:

Let’s not chase money. If you only want money, hiring managers are going to recognize that you are only looking out for yourself and NOT for the company.  Your manager will quickly realize you are NOT looking for a job to help a company or because you are passionate about the job. They will quickly realize you are a mercenary. 

A Millennial gets it

And he understood this message. He really did. He came here as a blank canvas and open to new ideas. I was beginning to like this guy. 

I am sure that there are a number of folks that are thinking, “I can show I am looking for opportunity and hide the lust for money”. Trust me, most managers and HR folks have seen it all. They can spot the “I don’t care about anything but money attitude” as soon as the mercenary enters the room.  

So what else did we talk about?

People skills vs. technical skills: I have all these technical skills? I thought tech skills were valuable in this town. Why am I not worth more money? 

The gist of the conversation is that we can teach technical skills and it is very hard to teach people skills. With only a few years of experience, we haven’t established a real expertise in our field. There are a lot of candidates out there that have a few years of technical experience. With only a few years of experience, we don’t have the experience or maturity to lead projects. When we have 4-6 years of experience, we have started to enter into the next step of our careers by building a reputation of expertise and thought leadership. It is hard to build this reputation with only a few years of experience. Yes, we might be the smartest young graduate in our company, but there are a lot of companies in the city. It is supply and demand and there are a lot of candidates out there with just a few years of experience or less.  

What can I do to increase my value quickly?

Some things just take time. There is maturity that comes with experience and frankly, it is the asking of these questions that demonstrate a lack of experience. There are steps we can to speed up the maturation process. We can volunteer for projects, keep our manager updated and consistently give them the information they need so they can sell us to the higher-ups. Just doing what is expected of us is what everyone else is doing and we need to stand out. 

Working on your people skills is huge. Joining a Toastmasters group to learn how to be an effective speaker is a very easy step. Volunteering to help train others on topics where you are a Subject Matter Expert can gain quick visibility. When you accomplish something, let your manager know the following:

  • What you accomplished
  • How it helped the company or the department (Make sure your time spent relates to the company goals)
  • What you learned from the project (What new skill did you pick up)
  • What you would do differently next time (Demonstrate that you are being purposeful about improving your game)

Without a demonstration of the value of the work and your professional learning, it is hard to justify more opportunity. 

Large company vs. Small company

We talked at length about the different opportunities at various companies. Our milleniall is currently making $X and said he was interviewing with a local tech behemoth in town and the rate was about X + 35%. Obviously, our millennial was excited. But we started to break down the opportunity without putting the opportunity down. 

The first thing he stated was that he wanted work-life balance. He KNOWS that the company he is interviewing with is notorious for long hours and an average tenure of fewer than 2 years because of burnout. He logic was that if he got an offer at X + 35%, his current company would match to keep him. 

I explained that if I was your current manager, I would say “Sorry, you obviously are going for the money which I respect. It is an expensive housing market in Seattle and you want to buy a home for yourself and your fiance’. We pay less, but as a company, we value work-life balance. As a smaller company, we don’t have the financial resources that a Fortune tech company might. We can not compete with the hugely profitable companies. Money isn’t something I am going to match. We wish you good luck.”  And at this point, I the manager know you are not committed to your current company. 

There is hope

It was a great conversation and what started off rocky in my mind turned into a great discussion. He understood the importance of getting a different perspective. The guy even bought me dinner. Like I said, there is hope for these millennials, we just need to give them the benefit of the doubt and some guidance.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Halloween Costume

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Company Culture, What HR Really Thinks

Inappropriate Halloween Costume

Great costume for the workplace

Inappropriate Halloween Costume

Not just Halloween costumes, but Inappropriate Halloween Costume is today’s topic du jour. It is the middle of October and some of us are thinking about costumes for the company Halloween costume contest. Remember, it is a Halloween costume contest. It is not an Inappropriate Halloween costume contest. In HR we don’t just worry about payroll budgets and sensitivity training. Oh no, my little innocents. If there are two holidays HR looks forward to, (and takes bets on) it is Halloween and the Holidays, AKA Christmas, AKA Hanukkah, AKA Kwanzaa, AKA “Holiday party”.  

Bets you ask?

Yes, Bets!  Financial odds are played and predictions are made on who will wear the inappropriate Halloween Costume. HR isn’t just a bunch of stick in the muds trying to keep alcohol off the premises. Behind these closed doors, we have a rabid betting pool on who is going to get drunk at the holiday party and make a fool of themselves. Money is on the line for who is going to be inappropriate in a creepy way and who is going to wear something too short, too sheer, or too low. I personally have never bet on naked Xerox body parts, but I have seen the aftermath. It ain’t pretty folks. Why is it on my shift, that the Sears Roebuck granny panties are turned in and not the Xerox copies of Victoria Secret thongs? 

1st time to an Open Bar

Do we bet on who is going to get drunk and make a fool of themselves during the holiday / Kwanzaa /  Hanakkah party? Abso-Fricken-Lutely. We all pride ourselves on identifying and predicting the individuals who provide our job security. 

Employees early in their careers are not used to the open bar concept and suddenly feel like they are working at the best place on Earth! All the booze I can drink?  Bartender, another one of whatever this is! For the record, these hires rarely come through HR. They are usually the nephew of someone in the ivory tower. Oiyyyy Veyy!   

Predictions are a HRNasty Halloween Tradition

For the past number of years, I have tried to predict what inappropriate Halloween costume will show up and result in a career that is cut off at the knees. Some poor sap who thinks it is cool to show with an inappropriate for work costume doesn’t realize they just committed career suicide, AKA CLM, AKA, Career Limiting Move. Unfortunately, that employee doesn’t realize they have been cut off. This dumbass will show up to work the next day like it is just another day bragging about their costume at the water cooler. Everyone in management is whispering behind the closed doors. Even peers are rolling their eyes behind that employees back. Make no mistake, that career with the current company is has stalled. Actually, the battery is dead and the tires are flat.

News from prior years has shown that some clown has shown up as a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing. I feel insensitive for even mentioning it here, but with the recent Las Vegas shooting, I feel compelled.

Inappropriate Halloween Costume

Showing up as Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice and bruised wife, simply not cool.

2017 Predictions   

This year, with all the politics in play, Trump and Kim are prime candidates for an inappropriate Halloween costume. I recently posted that the times have changed and being over passionate about your political choices can surface a number of haters. We never know where are managers politics are so buyers beware.

Harvey Weinstein, the movie tycoon is in the news for using his power to take advantage of actresses. I wouldn’t go here either.  

I won’t go on. We have all seen these eyeball rolling costumes. I am only speaking to the workplace, but these costumes are not appropriate. Wear these costumes after hours if we must. Take the opportunity to show you are engaged with the company and your team. We need to demonstrate that we have good common/business sense. Even though our department MIGHT be OK with your costume, we need to keep our customers in mind. If there is a chance our customers might be offended, we should think twice.

Just because no one complains, doesn’t mean they are not offended. 

Themed costumes

I love when children and parents come into the office with themed costumes. This isn’t because I like the little crumb snatchers who become even more grabby this time of year. I am a “turn off the house lights on Halloween” kind of guy. For me, employees who bring in significant others or children show they are engaged with the company. Arriving to work in themed costumes is next level engagement. 

This is just a classic. Look at the attention to detail, the stitching, and attention to fonts

I really like the teamwork involved when a department comes in with a group theme. Last year, I participated with our Test group and we all came in dressed as circus members. Me, I came in as the guy that shovels up the circus poop. I bought a few large sponges, trimmed them up and then spray painted them. The department was decorated in the circus theme and it showed the rest of the company and leadership that we cared about company engagement and knew how to work as a team.

So if you are going to come dressed up, think about your career and the little grabby kiddies running around the office trying to fill their pillowcases with sugar.

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Career momentum

Momentum will mean the difference between a career that moves and a career that stagnates.

Career Momentum

Wondering how you establish credibility and career momentum as a new hire? Whether you are a recent graduate or a veteran of the corporate game, credibility is the one thing that doesn’t take any special skills to acquire. If you just landed a job and feel like you have no credibility in a sea of experienced peers this post is for you. HRNasty is here to guide you through your first couple of weeks on the new job.

The goal on the first day and with the first couple of weeks on a new job is the following and not necessarily in the order listed:

  1. You have a great opportunity. AKA, “Don’t fuck it up.”
  2. Get on your team’s good side. AKA, Don’t piss anyone off.
  3. Build momentum with your career.
  4. See rule number 1

Number 1 and number 2 should be obvious. If they aren’t obvious, god help your company and your new manager. If number 1 and number 2 are not obvious, god cannot help you. New hires have momentum coming into a new job. The hiring team just went through a lot of work to hire you. The team sifted through 100’s of resumes, conducted phone screens, interviewed candidates in person. When they found you, they pitched your candidacy to the finance department for budget and the VP of the department. They wouldn’t have gone through this effort if they didn’t believe in you. You have credibility. 

Momentum in sports

When two sports teams are playing against each other and one of the teams makes a couple of big plays, there is an electricity in the air that doesn’t just run through the entire team, it runs through the stadium. Michael Jordan was an electric player that could get on a hot streak and literally change the momentum of a game. When a team has momentum, you can see it in their performance and you can feel it. It is the exact same team with the same players and the same coach but they are unstoppable. The difference between a team with momentum and a team without momentum is the emotional tide in the air.  Momentum can be built to where the team can do no wrong. They are literally creating their own luck. The team with momentum can get lucky breaks and more importantly, will seem to magically capitalize.

Momentum in your career

Career momentum can be both positive or negative in your career. There can be times when you can do no wrong and there can be times when you do no right. When you have forward momentum in your career, managers will give you more opportunity. Your name will come up in closed doors meetings as someone who will make a difference.

All employees have momentum when they are hired and the trick is to capitalize on this momentum and turn it into credibility.

Even if you lack experience in an industry or a job, you have momentum. You may not have credibility just yet, but you have forward momentum and momentum can be turned into cred.

As a new hire, the team is excited about you joining them. Don’t worry about if you are personally liked or not liked. You are an extra set of hands that can help make their lives easier. If they didn’t have the work for you to do, they wouldn’t have opened up your position. They need help and you are there to provide it. This means:

  • The hiring team is looking forward to you starting.
  • After going through the interview process they have a high degree of confidence you will not only do the job but do the job well.

During the interview process, the interviewers are wondering if you can do the job and be successful. This is the reason you are asked so many different types of interview questions. Once they conclude that you CAN do the job successfully, their mentality turns. They believe in you and convince themselves you will be the next “best hire.” No one is going to say “We offered the job but we don’t think they will be successful.”

Why your hiring team believes in you

No one wants to admit they made a bad decision. No one wants to admit their interview skills are lacking and they made a bad hire. To the contrary, they move away from a mentality of doubt and towards a mentality of confidence in their decision. The manager owns the decision to hire you. As a group of interviewers, the team owns the decision to hire you. The tribe doesn’t just own the decision, they celebrate it. And this is the forward momentum you can capitalize on.     

Build momentum with your career

We have momentum. The hiring team is excited for you to learn and help. More than likely they were short-staffed. There are several moves you can make to build on that momentum.

Dress code

If I can see up it, down it or through it, it is inappropriate. If I can see a tattoo up it, down it or through it, it is inappropriate. 

Even if you are going to a small tech startup, dress appropriately. Dress a half step above the company’s dress code. Like most candidates, you showed up to the interview dressed professionally. This was the first impression you made with the hiring manager and the team when you interviewed. If you show up in flip-flops and a baseball cap is worn backward, you will be giving the team a shock. They will feel like they got a bait and switch. Continue to dress appropriately for the first week and let the illusion of the first date continue. Don’t worry, the team will tell you to dress down.


As a new hire, we are not adding much value until you are done with training. Once we are done with training, we still need a babysitter to answer our questions. Not only are we NOT adding value yet, we are taking time away from other team members productivity with our questions. Volunteer for all the grunt work and bring some value to the team. No job should be too small for you at this point in your learning curve. Department birthday party? Volunteer. Need to pick up sandwiches for a lunch and learn? Volunteer. You may be making $15.00 an hour, $50K a year or more with this first job, but relatively speaking, compared to the rest of the team, grunt work is what we are good for at this stage.  

Build relationships

No one wants to have a new hire on the team that doesn’t talk with anyone, eats alone or doesn’t take breaks with the group. When ANYONE asks you to go to lunch or take a break, you participate. No hesitations. Just smile and get out of your chair.

 You are working with this team for 8 hours a day, so it is in your best interest to be known as someone who gets along vs. someone who doesn’t want to put in the effort.

Ask questions

A lack of questions is the equivalent of a lack of interest. I take that back, it is worse. A lack of questions is equal to “I don’t have any questions because I don’t care”. Ask questions during training. Ask questions when you meet with your VP or your manager. In the least ask for advice on what successful employees do at your new company.


No company or team wants to hire a naysayer. Having a positive attitude may not build us credibility but having a negative attitude will crush it. We are hired to solve problems. Problems are not solved by people who don’t believe. Your initial goal is to be trained quickly. It is tough to train someone with a negative attitude. No one wants to train someone in a new skill if they have a downer attitude towards life.

None of the above require specific training or specialized talent so we have no excuses. As a new employee, remember that you are NOT expected to solve any complicated problems. You are NOT expected to know the in’s and out’s of the company’s products. We do have an expectation that you will chip in where we can, make lives around us easier and have a great attitude.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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body language

Sit like this during an interview and you will send the wrong message

Body language and the interview

Body language during an interview is the topic of today’s post. We might be saying the right things, but if your body isn’t communicating a consistent message, we might as well stay at home. If your body is communicating disinterest, the person conducting the interview will pick up on it. Interviews are about building relationships. Positive body language can reinforce weak interview answers. Weak body language can blow a strong interview.

I am not sure what it is. Maybe I am becoming like my colleague GOM (Grumpy Old Man). Maybe the new generations are just a little more relaxed, but I am noticing a lack or “mindfulness” during the interview.

Decision makers have different values

Interviews have definitely become more casual over the years. If you are a recent graduate, remember the decision makers are usually a generation or two older. These hiring managers have a different set of values and beliefs and make their hiring decisions based on these values. Body language is as loud as the answers to the interview questions. 

I will cover the normal body language points like eye contact and the handshake, but I will also add a few you probably haven’t heard of.

Turn off your phone

When you are waiting in the lobby for your interviewer, stay off your phone. There is nothing worse than the first impression of a candidate than seeing someone hunched over their phone. Actually, there is something worse. Waiting for the person to finish typing their email and hitting send on their phone, and yes, it happens. Sitting up straight and reading the company literature is a much stronger move.

Walk next to your escort

Years ago, I blogged about walking side by side when being escorted from the lobby to the interview room. Too many times, I have escorted a candidate from the lobby to the interview room and found the candidate walking 3 steps behind me. There are a couple of things wrong with this.

  1. As a candidate, it is tough to build rapport with our host when we are walking 3 steps behind.
  2. It signals that you are NOT an equal to the recruiter. It signals that we are weak and not very confident in our selves.
  3. Did I mention it just looks dumb when I am escorting someone through the building and they are walking 3 steps behind me?

Body language matters and in the above situation, the interview was over before we even made it to the interview room.

Below are a few simple ways we can telegraph we are confident and want to be in the interview because we are excited about the new opportunity.


I can’t stress this one enough. People that smile just telegraph a very different message than those who frown. I blogged about the importance of the smile in the job interview here.   You can set a completely different tone for the rest of the day if I come out to the front lobby, you as the candidate stands up to greet me and gives me a big smile. Sitting down and waiting for me to introduce myself is a no go. 

Firm Handshake

The handshake is meant to be a gesture of peace, showing a hand that is not holding a weapon. It is used to start a relationship off on the right foot. Take the handshake seriously. Don’t be afraid to take a firm grip. You only hear about this so much in interviews because so many people get it wrong. The bar for handshakes is low and you be a bar raiser very easily. Firm yes, but avoid the death grip and avoid shaking with two hands.

Are you leaning in or leaning back?

I worked with a guy who used to lean back in his chair with his hands behind his head and his feet stretched out. It was a little offensive. He came off like he was too cool for everyone else. This is not the posture you want to take in an interview. Sitting straight, facing your interviewer, leaning forward and showing interest will always send the right message.

Eye contact

This one seems straightforward, but maintaining eye contact is one of the big misses for candidates early in their career. When you begin your answer and when you end your answer, look your interviewer in the eye.

Panel Interviews

When being interviewed by more than one person, be conscious of maintaining contact with all the interviewers. There is nothing worse than sending a candidate in to talk with two interviewers and the interviewers say that the candidate ONLY maintained contact with one of the interviewers.

College recruiting fair

I blogged about the candidate’s presentation layer at college recruiting fairs here.  Coming to the booth with a jacket, a backpack and a bag full of free swag from 12 other booths isn’t the way to show sincere interest in the company. It looks like we just came to the fair to pick up free stuff. Optimally, we have done our homework on the companies attending the fair and picked one or two companies and are making a beeline to these booths.

Accepting the offer of coffee or water

When you are offered water or coffee, take it. Declining the drink can make you look submissive and as if you don’t belong. If we went to our friend’s house and they offered us a Coke, we would take it. In war times, when two enemies start a negotiation, a cigarette is always offered and even though the other side doesn’t smoke, they accept, light up and cough up a lung full of smoke. It is obvious that the person who accepted the cigarette doesn’t smoke but the gesture of accepting the gift is appreciated.

If you are the recruiter or hiring manager

Try to sit at a 45-degree angle to the candidate. Sitting across from the candidate on the opposite side of the table gives sets the wrong tone. It gives the impression that this is a negotiation and two sides are ready to do battle. Sitting at a 45-degree angle (on two sides of a corner) will create a more inviting atmosphere and make the interview more relaxed.

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Use the Gallup Q12 questions to manage your manager

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Manage your Manager

Gallup Q12

Manage your manager using the Gallup Q12 questions

Gallup Q12 for employees

This week’s I want to blog about how we can use the Gallup Q12 questions so that you, as an individual contributor, can set yourself up for success. I believe that employees should take control of their careers. If we wait for our manager to get us promoted, give us a raise or talk about our successes, we could be waiting a very long time. Manager have large teams and their own careers to worry about. We shouldn’t count on our manager to take care of our career. The Gallup Q12 questions can be used as a foundation to set individual contributors up for success.

The Gallup Q12 questions are used by corporations to measure employee engagement. The premise is that an engaged employee is a productive employee, a happy employee and someone who will stick around. For reference, the questions are listed below and companies want their employees to answer each of the question in the positive.

Gallup Q12 questions

  1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
  2. Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
  3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
  7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
  9. Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do you have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
  12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

Gallup Q12 for new manager training

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my perspective on how the Gallup Q12 questions could be used as a basis for new manager training. To be clear, the questions are not intended to be used as a new manager training course, they are intended to measure employee engagement. I believe these questions can be used as a foundation for:

  • New managers who have NOT received new manager training
  • New managers who realize they are probably NOT going to receive new manager training
  • Individual contributors who want to become managers. Being able to lead your peers and answering positively to the Gallup Q12 questions will get your name in the hat and at least qualify you for promotion.

If you fall into one of the above three bullets, that manager training post is here. 

Individual Contributors

If you are an individual contributor and want to take control of your career, we are getting into the meat of the post.

If you read the 12 Gallup questions as an IC and are NOT able to answer in the positive, there is a problem.

Whether we believe it or not, your manager wants you to be able to answer the Gallup Q12 questions in the positive. Your manager’s behavior may not represent this intention, but if we want to be successful, we need to LOOK, SMELL and SOUND engaged.

Put another way

The employees that have their managers support and ARE successful appear engaged in their manager’s eyes. We are NOT going to wait for our manager to pay attention to us. We are going to take the initiative so we look, smell, and sound engaged.

So, for those of you that are thinking:

  • My manager hasn’t come to me with any new opportunity
  • I have a manager that doesn’t care about me
  • My manager hasn’t asked me for my opinion

We are going to change that.

Gallup Q12 number 1

Do you know what is expected of you at work?

You would be surprised how many people do NOT know what is expected of them at work. They THINK they know what is expected, but they don’t really know.

If you are a bank teller, you know that your job is to help people with their banking needs. Your responsibilities include:

  • Cash checks
  • Deposit money
  • Withdraw money
  • Help customers with safe deposit boxes

All well and good. If we show up at 9:00 AM, perform the above and leave at 5:00 PM, we would think we are doing well. If we are getting the occasional customer raving about our service, we probably think we are doing great.

Quantifiable results

  • But do we know how many transactions we should be conducting each day compared to the rest of the tellers?
  • Do we know if the rest of the tellers are closing out their tills to the penny at the end of each day? Or are they short or over in their receipts and if so, what is the banks average on accuracy when closing out the tills?
  • Do we know if other employees are coming up with new procedures or modifying current procedures to save the bank time or money?

If our manager is not sitting down with us and sharing quantifiable, number driven feedback with us, we really don’t know how we are doing. What employees think and managers think can be two very different story lines.

As an individual contributor with a manager who may not know how to engage their teams, we can take the initiative by turning question number 1 around.  The initial question from the Gallup Q12 is: Do you know what is expected of you at work?

We would ask our manager:

“Am I performing to the expected level of performance and is there anything I should be improving on?”

“You are doing great” isn’t enough

Don’t settle for “Yes, you are performing to the level of expected performance”. That is the easy answer that most managers will give. This cop out answer doesn’t move you forward. We need to show that we are the engaged employee that WANTS to improve. Insist on feedback for improvement.

If you really are perfect in every way and there is no feedback, ask for a raise or more opportunity. Asking for a raise will generate opportunities for improvement. The point being, we need to start the hard conversations that our manager may or may not thinking about, or worse, may not want to have.    

Gallup Q12 number 4

In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

If you have NOT received recognition, then this can be a problem. We want our manager in the mindset that we are doing a great job. You want to do such a solid job, your manager takes notice and comments on our performance.

We are NOT going to tell our manager that we want positive feedback on what we are doing.

What we do instead is to update our manager on what we are doing. Updates usually generate a response and feedback, and this my friend is “Nasty”.

The conversation looks like:

“Hey manager Mikey. Last week, I handled 25 customer transactions a day and balanced out my till to the penny all 5 days.  This week, I handled 27 customer transactions a day and balanced my till to the penny all 5 days. Next week, I am shooting for 29 customer transactions.  For my level of experience, am I on the right track? Is there anything else I could be focused on because I would like to learn about creating cashier checks.”

The point is that we are showing improvement and showing a desire to learn more.

Some folks may think that this sounds braggadocio, but if you do this for 3 weeks and remain consistent, the reports will become routine in your managers mind and it will be hard to NOT see improvement.

Gallup Q12 number 11

In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?

Most of us have probably not talked about their progress with their manager. Per my Nasty way, my thought is to make moves SON! Do NOT wait for your manager to come to you. We should take the initiative and schedule the appointment. You should bring the talking points.

We want our manager to play the role of consultant to our plan of action. You do not want to put your manager into a position where they need to come up with a career plan. Our career should NOT be their responsibility. Our career is OUR responsibility.  

Again, this does not mean we are going to approach our manager and ask, “Can you tell me how much progress I have made in the last 6 months?”

It’s just a progress update

What this should look like is a progress update. This update would generate feedback.

“Hey manager Mikey. I am currently a bank teller 1 and I want to be a bank teller 2 in the next 6 months. This is what I plan to do (this is the progress I plan to make) so that I qualify for bank teller 2.”

  • Learn how to process cashier checks and process 35 of them without errors.
  • Learn how to open a safe deposit box account and process 20.
  • Have 99.9% accuracy in closing out my till
  • Train a new teller in opening and closing a till

Just get your manager to agree to a list

Your manager will agree or disagree with the list, but the goal is to negotiate a list that WOULD qualify you for your next opportunity. Forget about the timeline, just agree on a list and start ticking them off.

Meet with your manager on a regularly scheduled interval and give them a progress update. The point is that we do not have to wait for your manager. If everyone on your team was doing this and getting promoted, your manager would look like a super manager. The point is, your manager will not be offended.

As you can see, taking a pro-active approach and updating your manager on what you are working on, what you have done, and how it helps the company is more of a clarification for your manager. It doesn’t have to be a braggadocio event for yourself. 

Take a look at the Gallup Q12 questions and leverage them to start a conversation so you can manage your manager.

See you at the after party

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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New manager training

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Manage your Manager

Manager training

We have all been told to inspire, coach and motivate. But how does that translate to management behavior?

New manager training

Disclaimer: The following is not a preferred new manager training course. A new manager training would actually have a start and continue throughout the entire career. Even CEO’s receive management training. Most new manager training consists of their manager pointing to the team and providing the following encouragement: “There’s your team, don’t fuck it up”. The below is what I shared with a newly promoted manager over coffee. I was looking for the most bang for the buck I could provide while catching up over coffee. (We don’t work for the same company)  

I was just talking with a newly promoted manager who came to me because he didn’t know what the new role entailed. He didn’t receive any new manager training. There were no expectations set. So, in line with my Nasty style, I suggested we take responsibility of our destiny.

6 steps to success

  1. Create a job description by combining similar job descriptions from Monster or Indeed which they believe matches their managers expectations.
  2. Approach the manager and explain, “If I look good, you as MY manager – look good. I want to make you look good. This is what I think you want out of me, but I want to make sure we are both on the same page so I am set up for success. I don’t want to focus on the wrong projects for the next 3 months and fail because I didn’t know what I should work on”
  3. Get agreement on the job description and the priorities.
  4. Set up a weekly check in where we explain’s what we are going to do next week and what we did last week against prior predictions.
  5. Rinse, lather, repeat 
  6. Check in with HRNasty on a quarterly basis

Only a starting point

Obviously, there is a LOT more to being a manager. I think this is a s good a starting point as any. Let’s face it. The absence of new manager training program is pretty common. The initiative shown in the 6 steps isn’t a bitch move. This is a pro-active move and a move any manager can appreciate of their newly promoted protegé.

But my 6 steps to success got me thinking. All I provided was what our newly promoted manager could do to protect HIS career. And frankly, this is advice I give to individual contributors. It didn’t help him become a better manager of the team. Of course we talked about soliciting advice and making it easy on his manager to manage him, but how much guidance can a guy provide in 1 hour over coffee? The above was strictly bang for the buck.

Student of the game

I work with an up-and-comer HR colleague who is a real student of the game. She just returned from an employee engagement presentation where the Gallup Q12 Index was discussed. Yes, she puts in the work! In our debrief of the session, I specifically asked her about the “Do you have a best friend at work?” question and explained it’s intent. (Which I will dive into below)

I like the Gallup Q12 Index because it is a measure of how engaged employees are. Best Place to Work surveys have VERY similar questions. Engaged employees are usually more productive and easier to manage. It is proven these employees add to the company’s bottom line. Engaged employees are also much less of a pain in the ass to the HR team and you know the elliptical path of the sun and the moon revolves around me! Managers who are NOT engaging their teams are usually losing employees. The employees they do hang onto are usually less productive. Below is the list of the Gallup Q12 Index. A manager with a team that answers in the positive to the below questions is on the right path to enlightenment. 

The Twelve Questions

  1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
  2. Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
  3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
  7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
  9. Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do you have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
  12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?
  13. But at the end of the day, if a manager can strive to have their employees answering positively to these 12 questions, I would say “Winner!”  If I only had 1 hour and 30 minutes to train a new manager, I would go over 6 bullet points above and the Gallup Q12 Index.


Minimal collateral damage

The questions are not rocket science and a manager can have direct impact on how they are answered. If a new manager is striving for positives on these questions, we can be assured that there will be minimal collateral damage. In the least, the newly promoted manager has a guide on what to ask for further mentorship. My personal advice is not to attack all questions at once. Prioritize and pick one or two questions and make an effort to move your team’s responses on just a couple specific questions. Build off of these over time a few questions at a time. 

Of course, every company culture, ever team, every manager and their direct report are a little different. With this in mind, we can modify any of the parameters to our personal situations.

  1. “In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?” (Can be shorter or longer.)  
  2. “In the last seven days, have your received recognition or praise for doing good work?”  (Not everyone gets a trophy folks! 1 compliment a quarter is more than plenty)
  3. “In the las six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?” (Depending on your company, this could be shorter or longer.)
  4. I was kidding on item number 3!!

“Best friend at work” question demystified 

When testing the wording, Gallup found this was the best way to discriminate between groups in which friendships are sufficiently supportive and those that have only surface relationships that are unable to withstand adversity.

I personally stuck through a start-up after being laid off a number of times including a lay off on my birthday because I was so tight with the team. (The CEO hired me back on my birthday as well) Ten years later, we still hang out on a regular basis. Just this morning, the CEO from that company reached out with a recruiting question. I keep in constant touch with the HR team from that company. A few weeks ago, I introduced one of the team members from that company to a Chief Human Resource Officer I know. That HR peer just accepted a position with the CHRO.

Can your entire team answer “Yes” to the questions?

The point is that we were “next level” engaged at that company. It’s easy to do a good job when deals are being signed and the money is flowing. Will your employees continue to work when times are tough? When you have great relationships at work, your employees will last longer. I can honestly say we answered “yes” to all 12 of the questions. 

Here is how I usually explain the “Best Friend” question. We may have a significant other at home. Sharing our work trials, and celebrations with someone who isn’t familiar with our work isn’t as fulfilling. When I shared my hard times with my prior CEO and he understood and could help. When we celebrated a win, he knew the effort needed to score that win. Working in HR, I just do not share my work with folks outside of the company. Even within the company the pool is very limited. A best friend at work makes a big difference. I will sacrifice for a tribe of best friends. I won’t abandon them.

New Manager? Manager who hasn’t received training?

Are you a new manager and haven’t received any new manager training? Check out the first 6 bullets and the Gallup Q12 Index. It’s not a guarantee of success, but it will increase your odds and give you a starting point to ask further questions.

Corporate life is a game, you don’t have to sell your soul to the man to win it!


PS. Next week, we look at the Gallup Q12 Index from the individual contributors view-point and use it as a tool to win the game of corporate life. 

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Dream Job

Are you willing to “do”

Find your dream job

Today’s post is a success story of a candidate going from frustration to dream job. I couldn’t be happier or prouder of this guy. He worked his ass off and he deserves every bit of his success. He went from frustrated fishing guide to Exec Director in his field of study.  #DreamJob 

Several years ago, I was drifting down a river in Southwest Montana, fly fishing with a couple of good friends. This wasn’t a working trip. We all have different backgrounds and all of us work in very industries, but eventually talk of work comes up.

The three players:

  • Angler 1: Played college football and is the founder of his own very successful business. He’s a Ballah’.
  • Angler 2:Fishing guide: Early 30’s, Masters degree working as the head guide at one of the most successful fishing lodges in Southwest Montana.
  • Angler 3: HR Flunky


Dream Job

Which position would you like to be in for 8 hours a day 6 days a week? Angler #2 in the “middle of the boat”

Angler 2 was our guide for the day, consequently in the middle of the boat. The middle of the boat means you are the person rowing the two anglers down the river, AKA, you are doing most of the work. (OK, you are doing all of the work. Rowing, untangling knots, making lunch and cleaning the boat at the end of the day.) Depending on the people in the front and the back of the boat, you can be the bitch or the best friend. In our case, we consider Angler 2 to be a mentor and best friend. The days are filled with cigar smoking, shit talking, and more shit talking. We have all known each other a long time. We have had enough adventures together you could call us all Brothers. I know these guys would give me the shirts off their backs and they have.

The conversation

Angler 2 (fishing guide): “I am never going to get out of the middle of the boat.”

Myself and Angler 1 were both thinking: WTF is he talking about. He is living the dream. He lives in the best trout fishing country in the United States and is a Pro for a number of great fishing brands. This is the guy that makes paying yuppies like us anglers. Without him, we are nothing but 13 year old’s fumbling around trying to unfasten bra hooks. In other words, without him, catching fish probably isn’t on the agenda. If it happens, it will be because of dumb luck and a lot of alcohol.

I got no skills

Growing up, I dreamt about being in the middle of the boat, but didn’t have the skills, the strength to row two anglers or the local knowledge. Zero out of three does not get you to the middle of the boat.

But I get it. Angler 2 went to school and post grad so he could do civic work like his parents. Solid American stock this guy. He supported his wife while she was getting her Masters. He wanted someone else to untangle his knots and clean up the gear at the end of a hot day on the water.

The motivational speech

HR Flunky: In my most motivational voice, “WTF are you talking about dumbass? You have a Master’s degree, you can get out of the middle of the boat.”

Angler 1. “Yeah dude, you are living the dream. We both wanna be you!” (Seriously)

Angler 2. “I probably could have gotten a job if I found one right after I graduated, but I have been guiding for so long now, employers are going to look at my resume and wonder why I didn’t start earlier.”

HR Flunky: “Dude, you can get a job. You are a good-looking guy (under that baseball hat and scruffy beard at least) You are articulate, and you have the post grad degree.”

Angler 2: “It’s too late, I missed my window.”

Angler 2 is one of the most positive guys I know. Now he sounded like the hunting dog he grew up with since childhood just died. I was beginning to understand his frustration. He didn’t want to be doing this when he was 50, he wanted a retirement plan. He wanted to do his civic duty.

HR Flunky: “Dude, I know you can find a job. I will help you. I KNOW you can get a job.”

Angler 2: “I know I can get a job, but I want to use my Masters in my field of study. I don’t think that is possible anymore.”

Angler 2 wasn’t convinced but over the next couple of days, we continued to talk about the next steps in his journey. Some of his hesitations:

  • No relevant experience
  • Not sure I can afford to take a cut in pay. I am going to have to start with recent grads and as the head guide, that would be a significant cut in pay.
  • I have been fishing for years since my graduation. Employers will want to hire fresh graduates.

HR Flunky’s hesitations

  • Does this guy have a suit he can wear to an interview? I have only seen him in fly-fishing clothes and waders, and this stuff isn’t meant to be pressed.
  • Will this guy shave his curly-haired beard or even trim it up some?
  • Here is a video of our civic-minded leader from back in the day. He starts casting at 1:30 and rocks the beard at 2:00.

Obviously my concerns are easily solve-able, but that is what was running through my mind.

HR Flunky’s pitch

“Dude, let’s get on the phone when I get back home. I have an hour-long commute and we can go over resume’s, job search strategy and interview questions and answers. We are not going to go with your perceived weakness of being in this boat for too many years. We are going to go with your strengths.

“Dude, you have what no one is able to train. You have social skills at the highest levels. The sports in your boat are all CEO’s and rich successful dudes. At $650.00 a day, they are the only guys who can afford you.” (I was coasting on Angler 1’s coat tails)

You got skillz!

“All day long, you are directing C levels, execs and guys who run their own businesses and industries. I have seen these guys roll into Montana with their 125K plus SUV’s and sports cars. You taught me what Long Moneyis. You instruct these CEO’s, you joke with them and you are stern with them. Your voice literally changes when you are in the middle of the boat. You are their friend, their mentor and coach. As a guide, you not only help them fish, you help them decompress and deal with their professional AND family lives. You can’t train that skill. We can train the civic duties. You can NOT fricken’ train what you have!”

And here is what was holding him back. 

Angler 3: “But who is going to hire that? That isn’t a job.”

It’s not a job, it is THE interview

HR Flunky: “That isn’t a job, it is an interview and it the networking. You have these C levels trapped in your boat for 8 hours a day. You have been doing this full-time for years and have an extensive network of C levels. Hell, a C level bought you this $8,000.00 boat as a fricken’ tip! Do you know how many people would LOVE to be trapped in a boat for 8 hours with these CEO’s but wouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation for more than 20 minutes? That skill will sell itself.”

To put this into perspective, how many of us are hesitant to be trapped in an elevator with our VP or CEO for just a couple of floors. How many of us would TELL our CEO what to do, joke with them or get stern with them. Not many folks under the age of 30 could do that and even fewer would. I am talking 8 HOURS STRAIGHT bitches! 

Putting in the work

Over the next few months, Angler 2 did the work. We got on the phone, he sent me versions of his resume and we practiced our pitch. He worked on his blog to show off his passion for the state of Montana and his writing style. 

The truth of the matter is that after Angler 2 completed his post grad, he continued to guide because he was making great money. He was supporting his wife while she was going to school working on her Masters. He wasn’t guiding just because it was fun, he was guiding because he was taking care of his family and his responsibility. That is the story we told.  

The first real job

Soon there after, Angler landed his first corporate job doing civic duty for the State of Montana in his field. He took a cut in pay but he continued to guide on the weekends and was able to make up the difference. He knew that it would be a temporary setback and frankly, he knew when he was making great money, he would continue to guide. Catching fish for him is too easy. Watching his clients have fun and success on the river gets him high. He had attained enlightenment. We call him a Jedi.

Middle of the boat

When he landed that job, he called me up and I couldn’t have been happier for him. On that call, he told me I am coming out to Montana and he was taking me fishing. “You are never paying for fishing in this town again.” I didn’t do it for the fishing, but I have to say that fishing with Angler 1 and 2 over the years have been a lot of fun and very meaningful. The three of us make it a point to fish on my birthday every year and I couldn’t ask for a better gesture. He is in the middle of the boat with us, but it is completely his choice. He is now able to fish internationally in far away destinations and he is an angler and not a guide.

Continuous learner

Over the years, he has asked me for a list of books he should be reading which resulted in this blog post.  

Angler 2 didn’t stop there. He asked me what classes he should be taking. Angler 2 flew to New York to take a Facilitative Leadership course which he swears by. This leader is also sending his team to these sessions. Yes, he is running a team at work.  

The point is, he took the initiative, he had the curiosity and he did the fricken’ work.

Men want to be him, companies want him with them

Twice, he has been offered high level jobs with well-known brands in the fly-fishing industry. Both times he was able to turn the offers down. 

About a month ago, he was juggling 2 offers. The first offer was for one of the top positions with one of the biggest names in Fly Fishing. The other with the State of Montana doing what he loves to do. To find out which job he took, click on this press release.  

Yeah, he cleans up well. Not just the quiet confident dude, he also has a great presentation layer. And yes, he still guides on the weekends for fun.

Just do the work

The moral of this story is that we all get down on our careers. We have all been at a point where we thought it was over. But it doesn’t have to be. With work, initiative and a positive attitude / positive spin, it can happen. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what your situation, things can improve. It’s our choice. A guy that I am proud to call a friend made the choice.

Corporate life is a game. Win it!



nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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HRNasty’s business podcasts for the corporate lifestyle

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Networking

business podcasts

Commutes are a great time to listen to business podcasts

Business Podcasts

I receive requests for a list of recommended business books on a regular basis. If my parents knew that folks were coming to ME for a reading list they would be rolling over in their graves. Growing up, they were big on the classics and I was more into Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Anarchists Cookbook. There are PLENTY of great lists out there put out by a lot of smart people so I tried to take a different spin on it.

Not your traditional list

It isn’t your traditional list of MBA reading material. The attitude that I used in putting together this list is that it would provide insight into what other execs are reading. It would also provide some background on the terms that executives use like “10,000 hours”, “bottom 10%” and “KPI’s”. I also included some personal favorites that showcase dedication to a craft and next level commitment. HRNasty’s list of reading material is here.

Late entry

One book I would add to this list is FYI, For Your Improvement by Lominger. I seem to be talking about this book a lot lately and everyone that has picked it up after our conversations has appreciated it immediately. It is expensive, but really worth it. It is so expensive, I recommend folks buy an earlier used edition which is what I have been working from for the past 10 years. My birthday was a few weeks ago and a longtime friend and colleague just gifted me the most recent edition. I couldn’t believe it! I want to just carry it around and perpetrate that I am a ballah’ and a shot callah’ / HR nerd just to show off. This book is my new pair or Louboutin’s. Thank you, Lotus!

FYI lists out specific business skill sets and what they look like when they are demonstrated effectively AND in effectively. It is a great resource if you want to improve or help someone improve business skill sets like professional courage, active listening, communication, etc. Highly recommended. 

Magazine recommendation

Lastly, I would add a subscription to the Harvard Business Review. It is common knowledge that a lot of folks subscribe to this magazine so they can look smart and name drop the rag. But I read this before I read 4WD and Flyfishing Magazine every month. It is that good. This magazine not only contains business articles but case studies as well. HBR informs me on what I should be paying attention to. I blogged about the HR issue of the Harvard Business Review HR issue here. 

In the new age of the interwebs, I am updating the book list with a few business podcasts that I am addicted to. I have an hour commute into work every day so this is the perfect time to for me to keep up to date, learn about entrepreneurs and expand my knowledge. I may sound like my parents recommending the classics, but I wish I listened to them earlier in my career. Hopefully, I can inspire the reader to “THINK” about expanding the knowledge base. I have listed a few of my favorites but I would love to hear what others are listening to.

How I Built This

How I built This is hosted by Guy Raz and an NPR based podcast. Each episode is about 35 minutes and each episode, Guy interviews a successful entrepreneur. I have listened to every episode and even enjoyed listening to the sessions of entrepreneurs I wasn’t familiar with. Recent episodes include interviews with folks like Richard Branson and Mark Cuban. But they also include episodes with the founders of and Toms shoes.

I have shared the Rent the Runway episode a half a dozen times because of all the learnings on tenacity. The trend that I have noticed is that all of these entrepreneur’s sound like really nice people. For the most part, they are humble, have a positive outlook on life and entertaining. Guy asks a consistent question to each of the guests. How much of your success was intellect, hard work or luck. I won’t spoil the fun.

20 minute VC

The 20 Minute VC is a business podcast which discusses the VC world. The host, Harry Stebbings interviews well-known VC’s. At prior roles, I held the role of head of HR for a company that did a lot of M&A work. More recently I held a COO role where we raised a number of rounds of capital, and conducted M&A work. I just find these sessions really interesting. Harry has an English accent and is energetic so it doesn’t sound stuffy or stiff upper lip. Harry also edits the interviews with these VC’s so you hear what I would imagine is an hour long interview condensed to 20 – 25 minutes.

There is very little pause between the question and answer. Harry has edited it out. Think speed listening instead of speed reading. Even if you are NOT involved in M&A this is a good one. VC’s consistently share the WHO, WHAT and WHY they invest in.

Joe Rogan Experience

Joe Rogan is probably more famous for being the host of the reality television show Fear Factor and most recently a commentator for the UFC. Don’t let that turn you off. This guy goes DEEP and WIDE. When I talk about the Joe Rogan Experience with my colleagues, they say they don’t listen to him, but their kids do. Each podcast is close to 3 hours and I just listen to them in chunks. He interviews a wide range of individuals from conspiracy theorists, to theoretical physicists, to ex CIA cover agents to coffee experts. Even when I don’t think the podcast is going to be interesting based on the preview, I always find myself listening to the entire episode. The guy is VERY smart and very articulate. He just interviewed the GOOG engineer Jame Damore. Yes, I am a big fan.

Hardcore History with Dan Carlin 

Dan goes DEEP into a series of events in history and his podcasts are really well done. It may not sound like your traditional business podcast but what we learn from the past we can apply to the future. Dan is articulate. He knows how to speak with credibility.

I just listened to the series Khan of Khans. This series is in 5 parts and part one is 2 hours long.

We all learned about Ghengis Khan in school and we all saw the a movie about Kubala Khan at some point in time. Dan goes deep and behind the scenes so you understand not just the story but the WHY. He explains the mentality and the beliefs of the people at that time which puts the history into perspective. This is the one of the few podcasts I pay for. Each session is about 1.99 and well worth it! I am not a history buff and my past doesn’t show me paying for history lessons. Money well spent!

Dirt Bag Diaries

The Dirt Bag Diaries isn’t a podcast which focuses on entrepreneur’s per se. This is more of a story telling podcast, but I really the enjoy the format AND what they are doing here. O know many of these stories could be shared with corporate America during a motivational speaking event. For those of you who are wondering what “dirtbag” means, let me explain.

A “Dirtbag” in the outdoor lifestyle is a person who dedicates her or his entire existence to the pursuit of climbing. They are barely making ends meet. A dirtbag will get their food out of a dumpster, get his clothes from a thrift store, and live in a tent or vehicle to save money. They don’t have a job because they would rather climb. The vehicle of choice is a Subaru Outback, never new, but a later vintage. Big enough to sleep in full-time and easy on the gas as dirtbags travel to cool destinations. Often found living near major climbing destinations the dirtbag is a rebel with a cause who finds happiness in nature.

There are a number of dirtbags that have left successful corporate jobs and exchanged the cubicle walls for the mountain cliff face.

Flyfishing dirtbag

Every outdoor sport has their version of a dirtbag. I love the outdoors and my outdoor passion is steelhead fly fishing. A few years ago, I took a year off from work with a dream of being a fly-fishing dirtbag but couldn’t quite pull it off. I found I needed a regular hot shower, hair conditioner and didn’t want to eat rehydrated food, let alone eat out of a dumpster.

I missed my Origin face moisturizer and Clinique face scrub. #FirstWorldProblems to be sure, but doesn’t mean I don’t have a passion for the lifestyle. 

The Dirtbag Diaries has a format where listeners submit their personal stories and share adventures. The host tells their story through narration and mixes in soundbites from an interview with the “dirtbag”. Usually the stories involve an adventure that inspired personal growth, or overcoming a challenge. This podcast has a bit of an outdoorsie, hippie vibe. It sounds professionally done and holds big name sponsorship. I can relate to most of the stories because the fly fishing lifestyle has similar challenges and offers a journey of personal growth.

It’s a new era

It’s not just books anymore peoples! It’s a new age and Barnes and Noble is no longah! Learning about new business podcasts and news sources is a great topic when networking. 

What business podcasts are you listening to? Anyone listening to a podcast that interviews restaurant chefs? Please leave your recommendation’s below!

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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