Friday, September 30, 2011

The Art of Not Screwing Up

NEW YORK - JUNE 30:  Relief pitcher Mariano Ri...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeLast week, New York Yankee Mariano Rivera set a record with his 602nd career save. Of course, in baseball, it seems like there is a record for just about everything under the sun, and Rivera finally did get his day in the sun. You see, he has a thankless job. When Rivera comes in as the relief pitcher to close the game, he doesn’t get credit for the win – the starting pitcher does. The batters who scored the runs and made the hits get credit for the offense, and the outfielders that make spectacular catches and infielders that make the double plays get credit for the defense.

The relief pitcher has a very unique job. He has to maintain the lead, and the win.

In short, his job is to not screw up.

The relief pitcher is the closer. The strategy has been set and executed. The game has been played. It’s time to hold the course.

But not screwing up is never as easy as it seems. It can be very hard to stay the course. It’s hard to stay levelheaded under pressure. It’s hard to execute someone else’s strategy. It’s hard to resist the urge to change things.

Whether it’s sports, politics, or business, the new leader coming in when the team is already ahead has perhaps one of the toughest roads ahead of them – to not screw up.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to Ruin a Business and Alienate Customers in Five Easy Steps

Netflix Video Streaming for iPhoneImage by Photo Giddy via Flickr1. Fail to build a strategy that includes the addition of new revenue streams.

2. Give away new stuff to address an emerging market to your core clients for pennies.

3. Decide that you want to make money on the new stuff and start charging your core clients double.

4. When you realize that your clients are angry, send them a letter explaining that you failed to recognize the market was changing. Tell them you made a mistake, but don’t actually do anything to fix the problem.

6. Fail to recognize that there’s value in being the only vendor who can provide both products. Announce that you are splitting the new business from the core business. Choose a funky name for the old business and use the established name for the new business. Make it really easy for clients to switch vendors.

Need I say more?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is it Time to Wave Farewell to the Mailman?

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...Image via WikipediaThe US Postal Service announced last week, that without enactment of legislation, the Postal Service will be unable to fund their benefits plans, stirring up yet another debate in Washington.

Of course we all take the postal service for granted. It’s been there to deliver mail – rain or shine – since 1775. It’s an icon. But is it time to consider casting the USPS aside?

I, for one, must admit that I look forward to my daily trip to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. As a writer working at home, the sound of the mailman driving by around 2:30 pm signals time to take a break, and I look forward to it. Every day I walk to the mailbox with anticipation.

But the anticipation dwindles as I find flip through junk mail, catalogs, and – if I’m really lucky – a piece of personal mail. The truth is – despite having been conditioned for years to expect something exciting in the mail, it rarely comes.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I received a handwritten letter in the mail. Most of us prefer e-mail. It’s faster, and we have the benefit of spell check. Even college acceptance letters are most frequently delivered online today. Of course there is the occasional invitation – weddings, anniversaries, and other big events; many of us still choose the mail to deliver the official invitation, but more often that not we’ve spread the news about the event on facebook, or via e-mail.

Bank statements and bills? I use automated bill pay at my financial institution. And I’ve gone paperless for nearly all financial statements.

And about those catalogs? Save the trees, please.

I do get a sense of gratification when the mailman delivers a package – usually something I am expecting – and that makes my trip to the end of the driveway seem worthwhile.

But Fedex comes by around 10:30 am and the UPS truck is usually here by 4:30 pm. There is no doubt in my mind that packages would still be able to be delivered if the US Postal Service was dissolved. There’s also no doubt in my mind that private delivery companies could pick up the slack to deliver all else.

So then, is it time to wave goodbye to the mailman for good? What do you think?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Skip the Mentor, Find a Sponsor

Office Politics: A Rise to the TopImage by Alex E. Proimos via FlickrAs a young female rising star in the corporate world I had more mentors than I could count. There were the official mentors – the ones whose name showed up on a piece of paper as being “assigned” to help me succeed. There were the unofficial mentors – the people I felt a special connection with and sought out for advice. And there were managers – who were trained to coach as part of their job.

During my corporate career I mentored many employees – in all of the capacities above. But it was only in my role as manager that I felt my role as mentor extended to sponsorship. Looking back on it now, that was a mistake.

While mentorship – providing a role model, imparting advice and wisdom, and being a sounding board – is a valuable asset to an employee, the key to making it up the corporate ladder is getting the right opportunities and promotions.

What every employee needs is a sponsor.

A sponsor is someone who will put your name on the slate of candidates for the promotion, possibly even before you know the job is available. A sponsor is an advocate for you in the room where the decisions are being made. A sponsor can help you land the job, or (in some cases) keep a job.

But sponsorship is not just up to the mentors – the employee (or mentee) plays a key role here as well. Too often we are willing to believe that our skills and capabilities will get us ahead. We believe that if we deserve the promotion, it will come. We believe that if we are the most qualified we will get the job. Too often, that is not the case. Every employee needs to ask for the role he or she wants.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and find the sponsor who can help you succeed.