Friday, July 29, 2011

Seven Things I’ve Learned Since Leaving Corporate America

A basic digital clock radio with analog tuningIt’s been more than two years since I made the choice to leave Corporate America after a career of thirty years – and I wouldn’t go back for anything. I’m not saying that corporations aren’t a great place to be or a terrific way to make a living, but they just weren’t the right place for me any longer.

Evidence of this is the changed perspective I have of myself after all this time. I expected to be less stressed, and I am. I expected not to have to set my alarm clock, and I don’t. I expected to be able to work on projects that were important to me, and I am.

Here are some things that I have learned:

1. I’m not really a morning person. If you asked me two years ago I would have said that I was. I would get up early to get into work early so that I could have time to get some real work done – before non-stop meetings started at 8 am (and went until 6 pm or later). Early mornings or evenings were the only times available to do work. I have discovered that I am my most creative in mid-afternoon – a time that was never available to me before.

2. Being the boss isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I became a boss early in my career. I never intended to be the boss, but my own bosses pushed me in that direction. Never being the one who likes to be told what to do, being the boss seemed like a good idea at the time. But being someone else’s boss is very different from being your own boss. I still don’t like other people telling me what to do, but I really don’t miss directing and appraising others.

3. Perspective matters. Ahhh yes, I’m talking about time to think, time to look at things from all angles, time to digest information and mull things over. I like to mull. In Corporate America I was forced to view the world through a very narrow lens, and often to take action before all avenues were explored. I’m enjoying new perspectives.

4. Laundry and grocery shopping don’t have to be done on the weekends. Nor do they have to be done on a weekly basis at all. The grocery store is surprisingly quiet in the mid-morning hours during the week.

5. Sleep matters. I am always amazed by executives who appear to be able to function consistently at a high level on what appears to be very little sleep. I truly wonder what they would be able to accomplish if they got more sleep.

6. Passion is key. This one isn’t really a surprise; I’ve always known this to be the case. What’s different is my perspective on how much passion matters. When you are doing what you love, time flies.

7. I prefer to work alone. I thought I would miss the people I worked with every day, and I do – most of them anyway. But I not only don’t mind working alone, I prefer it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t seek out advice and reactions to my work, but the execution is all me, and that’s just fine.

Which brings me to a big announcement:

Between now and the end of the year I will be busy working on my non-fiction book, Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, which will be published by The Experiment next spring. You’ve probably guessed that I will be doing most of my writing in the afternoons.

If you want to learn more about food allergies, or baking allergen-free, visit me at Learning to Eat Allergy-Free. Don’t worry, I’ll still be here too, but if I miss a week you’ll know why.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Former Beauty Queen Receives Her Sentence for Insider Trading

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21:  Danielle Chiesi, an e...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeDanielle Chiesi, who pleaded guilty earlier this year in the Galleon Insider Trading Case, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison.

As the femme fatale who reportedly flirted her way to luring secrets from top technology executives, including Bob Moffat (formerly with IBM), Chiesi will now have to put away her stylish wardrobe for a prison uniform.

In addition to her jail time, Chiesi was also sentenced to two years of supervised release, 250 hours of community service, mandatory mental health and alcohol treatment, and a $25000 fine – a stunningly low amount considering that it’s been estimated that she earned $1.7 million from her illegal activities.

As we near the end of this saga, the last to be sentenced is Raj Rajaratnam – the ringleader of the trading ring who was convicted in May, following a lengthy trial. His sentencing has been delayed until September 27th.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gen Y Speaks Out on Performance Reviews

The start of my "Trophy Case"Image by marusin via FlickrI’ve talked about performance reviews in the past. I’ve been on both sides of the performance review myself – as an employee and as a manager. I’ve also been in the middle, as a manager executing guidelines handed down from above. And I’ve been involved in performance reviews as a middle manager, attempting to ensure equity across a broader team.

The question of performance reviews for Gen Y – those entering the workforce now and for the past ten years – is of particular interest to me, as the youngest of my children prepares to enter the workforce.

About a year ago I responded to an article where Samuel Culbert, a UCLA business professor, said that performance reviews were “dishonest and fraudulent,” a claim that I declared was a bit of a stretch. But I’m not the only one who has a beef with Culbert’s position. Kyle Lagunas, an HR market analyst at Software Advice, recently wrote a blog post of his own, responding to Culbert and another article written by Ira Wolfe called Trophy Kids: What Goes Around Come Around.

Lagunas is a Gen Y employee, and proud of it. He takes exception to Wolfe’s view that “whether we hit foul balls or home runs over the course of a year, we expect to be applauded and rewarded,” arguing that his generation “doesn’t need their hands held or their egos stroked daily.” Here’s a summary of what he has to say about performance reviews, along with my response:

Lagunas: We don’t get it. If performance reviews are so important, why are they so poorly executed? Dust off your thinking caps, modernize your reviews, and capitalize on your most valuable asset (your people).

Martin: Ouch. I agree that people are our most valuable asset, but you need to recognize that (if you have a good manager) delivering bad news at a performance review is as hard on him as it is on you. It’s not just Gen Y employees who don’t want to hear bad news at a performance review; it’s tough to deliver that message to anyone.

Lagunas: Lose the sugar coating. We suffered through the recession, too. Though strong, our idealism has definitely been tempered. If our performance can improve, tell us. Give us strong, actionable feedback with measurable goals. We can take it.

Martin: Performance reviews are not black and white – they are fraught with grey. I agree that all employees need strong, actionable feedback, and I’m a big fan of measurable goals, but don’t expect me to be able to tell you exactly what to do to succeed. Success will change from day to day, and I need you to be flexible enough to roll with that.

Lagunas: Connect with us. Don't make regular feedback so complicated. There are simple solutions that can make this easy for you. Offices with instant messaging clients know this. They’re a great tool for maintaining informal lines of communication (which we love).

Martin: I’m all for regular feedback and communication. Clarity is key. That said, too much is lost when feedback is provided via instant messaging. A simple “nice job presenting today,” via IM is fine, but if you blew it today, IM is not the tool I would use to tell you that.

Lagunas: Positive reinforcement isn’t a bad thing. Whoever demonized trophies should think again. Rewarding good performance can be as simple as an “Atta boy!” or “You go girl!” sent via email – and they go a long way in giving Gen Yers a sense of accomplishment.

Martin: I miss the days when organizations regularly held recognition meetings and promotions and awards were announced and celebrated in public. I don’t think managers are neglecting Gen Y – in fact, I suspect they give more feedback to those newer workers than their more experienced workers – but with more on their plates, smaller budgets, and larger spans of control, there is just so much they can do.

My thanks to Kyle Lagunas for entering into this dialogue. You can read his entire blog post here.

What’s your take on performance reviews?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Results of IBM’s CIO Study – Data is King

IBM CIO Report: Key FindingsImage by Ivan Walsh via FlickrIBM published the results of their latest C-Suite study, titled The Essential CIO – Insights From the Global CIO Study, in May 2011 after talking to more than 3000 CIOs.

The study notes that CIO and CEO priorities are in sync, more so than in the past. That may be because the story is all about data – traditionally the CIOs turf.

According to IBM, CEOs and CIOs agree on “how critical it is for today’s public and private sector organizations to derive insight from the huge volumes of data being amassed across the enterprise, and turn those insights into competitive advantage with tangible business benefits.”

IBM calls out that, “83 percent of CIOs have visionary plans that include business intelligence and analytics, followed by mobility solutions (74 percent) and virtualization (68 percent).” Cloud computing shot up in priority, selected by 45 percent more CIOs than the 2009 study.

But not everyone speaks the CIOs language. Translation – it’s no longer about the applications, it’s all about the data:

  • How to manage the data (there’s more data than ever to manage)
  • How to leverage the data (information about consumers, markets, opportunities)
  • How to integrate the data (across applications and devices)
  • How to store the data (cloud, cloud, cloud)
  • How to access the data (especially from mobile devices)

In a consumer world where books, movies, and newspapers are no longer on our bookshelves but in our pockets and handbags, data is king. In a business world where acquisitions, partnerships, and alliances rule, information management is critical.

One key result of the study was that risk management and compliance was considered a top priority by 71% of CIOs in 2009. Today only 58% consider it important, while cloud computing and business process management gained in importance. It seems that CIOs are less concerned less about securing data and more concerned about leveraging it.

Is it possible that we have a crossed a line where we believe the positives of sharing information out-weigh the negatives?

Friday, July 1, 2011

An Open Letter to Gwyneth Paltrow

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 21: Actress Gwyneth ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeDear Gwyneth,

Imagine my surprise when I received the June issue of Bon Appetit, and instead of a strawberry rhubarb pie or a luscious summer salad, your face was staring back at me, offering me a bite of spaghetti. The magazine called you “food’s newest face” and described you as a cookbook author.


Gwyneth, I love you, I really do. I see every one of your movies, and thought your performance in Shakespeare in Love, was truly worthy of the Academy Award and Golden Globe that you won.

I didn’t complain when you decided you wanted to be a singer. Many an actress has been known to sing. Did I find it surprising when you sang at the Country Music Awards? Yes, I did. It seemed a bit of a force fit, but I was hanging in there with you, rooting for you. Even when you stole the dream of every girl from fourteen to forty-four by singing with Matthew Morrisson on Glee, I didn’t complain.

I expect to see you looking gorgeous on the cover of In Style or Vogue. I don’t expect to see you sporting a slinky blue knit dress on the cover of Bon Appetit. When I look at the picture of you serving up grilled barbeque chicken, all I see is your perfectly manicured hands and antique engagement ring.

I get it; everyone wants to write a book. But couldn’t you have just written a memoir?

If you want to cook a meal for your family, I’m all for that. But here’s my beef – you are making the rest of us look bad. While most of us women are doing a pretty bang up job of trying to balance career and family, you just keep raising the bar higher.

Go ahead, be gorgeous all the time, have perfect kids, sing like an angel, win awards, but I beg you to stay out of my kitchen.