Sunday, June 19, 2011

Be Profoundly Positive

Originally from

Be Profoundly Positive

Profound: adverb - a very great or intense emotion.

Be profoundly positive. A simple concept with tremendous ramifications. After deciding to leave Apple and start GoVoluntr, this concept has become so prevalent in many ways. During my time at Apple there was something Ron Johnson (former VP of Apple Retail) would always say to his leaders and reports. “Be Profoundly Positive.” It sounds cliche and typical of an executive to say and most may not pay heed to a mantra so generic, but as I’ve been working on getting GoVoluntr up off the ground with some successes coupled with it’s challenges, I’ve experienced so many instances where this is needed in all of us, in every level, everyday.

I was volunteering the other week at one of my favorite fundraising events helping setup. The day was going well and I was contributing to the best of my ability, adding in personal skills and experience where I could to make processes more efficient, while engaging with my fellow volunteers and NPO representatives. It started off very enjoyable and I was feeling great about my contributions and the level of engagement I was personally getting out of it.

About an hour in, there seemed to be a volunteer quantity deficit. The reasons are many and the solutions are never clear, as sometimes volunteers commit and just don’t show up. It’s just like friends that we have that commit to a social event and end up flaking. Except the impact is much more drastic in the NPO world.

So I ended up being bounced around quite a bit from project to project, and would get temporarily reassigned if a project was time critical. No big deal. Love working hard and I’m here to help. But as the stress of the lack of volunteers started mounting, one of the coordinators (possibly a volunteer himself) started to express his frustrations out on the few people volunteering. The social aspect of volunteerism dissipated very quickly, and what was engaging and interactive turned sour and menial very quickly. I’m an avid fan of the NPO’s that I was serving by volunteering but I left that day with a sour taste in my mouth.

I was thinking about how unfortunate this would be if someone was volunteering for the first time and had this experience and generalized the experience as “volunteerism.” I found the idea of being profoundly positive even more profound for all levels of organization, but especially when it comes to volunteer management. Even when times are hard, it’s so crucial to be profoundly positive, as it will not only help you solve more problems but it can mitigate a lot of misdirected feelings. My dad has said to me “it’s easy to be great when times are good, it’s truly being great when you can be great when times are bad.” Be profoundly positive.

Later that week I was sitting in a meeting in an advisory role for a NPO. The council was a gathering of professionals representing a lot of the established tech companies that surround us here in SV. During the meeting the Executive Director announced that the federal government had cut it’s funding. After discussing alternate methods of fundraising we talked about how some of that money was being redistributed to help with enforcement of diversity laws and audits. This conflicted with the goal of the NPO to proactively work with employers for job placement and community outreach for their clients. We discussed some more about the values of the NPO and wanted the relationship to be built on willingness and participation instead of a sense of forced agreement. We were going back and forth for quite a while when someone from YouTube said something that was absolutely brilliant. “At this point we can’t change what has happened with the budget cut. But we can change how we perceive it.” She then went on to explain that it was matter of perception. We could leverage the funding going into corporate enforcement by packaging ourselves as a great way to pass audits and regulations. Once we had the attention of the Corporation we could build the rapport and cultivate the relationship in line with the NPO’s values. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

It is business critical for all NPO’s to think about creative ways to succeed. It’s imperative to remember that serving the cause is the ultimate goal and there is nothing that is getting in the way of it. One person being profoundly positive during this meeting turned a serious matter into an uplifting and engaging experience. It’s infectious and powerful. Be profoundly positive.

Lastly, I’ve been working on GoVoluntr for about a month now and it’s been much more difficult than I imagined it would be. Which makes me wonder if I underestimated how hard it is to start a company or I overestimated my ability to start a company. It’s probably a little of both. As I plug away on all the various aspects of the business, I’m finding that each piece comes with it’s own challenges and the only way to over come them is to be profoundly positive. By finding a way to be profoundly positive, especially when it gets tough, you can start to create a path to achieve your goal. This last month has been a great learning experience to be profoundly positive.

So as you go through your day in work, family, and community – think about how you can be profoundly positive. I look forward to hearing your comments and stories about being profoundly positive.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

More Bang for your Buck

You can get the most out of your Gen Y employees by trying to understand them and then utilizing the strengths they carry to truly dive deep into company opportunities or strengths. Too often I feel that the Generation gap creates an uncomfortable medium between previous ways of business and personnel management that Generation Y mind set belongs to.

More often than not (and many studies have shown) Gen Y’s top priority in working for an organization is not $$. This says a lot in context to the fact that there are many rising “stars” and high performers in most organization’s Gen Y population. These high performing skills are overlooked or not fully tapped because they’re inability to match and appropriately react to the organization’s set culture and politics or lack the humility and or patience.

It’s so important though, to keep these people resources within your organization and to further enhance the person’s ability to deliver results, instead of brushing off the entire package because of age or culture match. Patience has never been a stereotype of Gen Y and neither has loyalty but most high performing Generation Y’ers will often struggle with leaving a company they believe in and especially if they are confident in what they could do if given the opportunity to create the change needed.

From the business perspective:

It’s expensive to replace employees, especially ones that have been performing for you for many years, because in addition to the cost of hiring and training a replacement your also paying for the loss of results for the time it takes the replacement to get up and running. The largest cost comes from having this high performing Generation Y employee going to another organization and delivering results to another company or worse driving the same results to a competitor, ‘cause let’s face it - A high performing Gen Y’er will quickly and easily procure another comparable position with relative ease.

One of the key differences in the professional history of the generations is the amount of job hopping that Gen Y will do vs Gen X and significantly more vs Baby Boomers who tend to be the current senior leaders in most organizations. So knowing this is the root problem for productivity and cost effectiveness from the overall organization’s point of view. Losing high performers is never easy but losing your Gen Y high performer can be more detrimental because they can and usually come far and in between. High performing Gen Y’ers have the ability to bridge the gap from senior leaders to other Gen Y’ers and if they’re not satiated they can and will leave for other opportunities - and most high performing or savvy young professionals will, can and have started their own companies if they feel that viable options are not available. Creating an even bigger loss in productivity and potential rise in threat level from competing businesses or revenue drivers to your company.

In the end addressing this issue should be handled like any other problem that an organization faces not just as an HR issue. Personnel problems and costs will become increasingly problematic if the proper systems are not in place to retain the Generation Y demographic within your organization.

From the Gen Y Perpective:

Finding value and satisfaction in what you do vs finding value and satisfaction in other organizations while balancing the cost/benefit of salary and amenities. If you understand what I’m talking about then you are the Gen Y that I’m talking about.

How do you know when is enough actually enough? is the grass greener on the other side? How much are you willing to risk? and how bad do you really want what you want?

I find that most of the young professionals I encounter day in and day out have a very high sense of self worth and a very keen understanding of their place in an organization’s hierarchy. Most of the times though its with a “group think” mentality meaning that generally speaking not all high performing Gen Y’ers even want the highest salary or the highest title. They prioritize being valued, being integral, having the ability to impact and influence, and job satisfaction at a higher level.

So if your struggling with your career or retention I offer you a quick exercise that I use when I’m at a crossroad. What is it that you want? I ask myself “if I had _______ I’d be so happy”. What you put in that blank is usually not even what it is your looking for, it’s simply a means to obtain what you actually need to be content. For example I’ve been courted by several companies recently to join their organizations. Usually this is a no brainer because I love what I do and truly believe in Starbucks and desire to move up, but the companies that have asked have been more than interesting to me. It made me double check my status and situation and really assess my “happiness” at my current organization.

In the end I filled the blank in with “a promotion” but the promotion is not necessarily what is going to make me happy - it’s the indirect benefits that come from it.

-Challenge/Job Satisfaction

-Larger area of impact/influence/responsibility

-Higher Salary

-Change of Pace/Something New

-Status of Title

I know this is a very specific example and it won’t be the same for everyone but I wanted to share because it’s much easier for me to navigate my choices and life this way and I hope it helps other young professionals. As Gen Y’ers we tend to be more complex in our needs and obtain the confidence to demand it. That self worth can be used to do amazing things but it can also lead us to quicker than needed decisions.


Gen Y’ers are the future workforce and we need to cultivate a compromising system to allow for avenues of growth. Look at HP creating YEN (young employee network) and also allowing for the option of switching job type (lateral movements) every two years to all their employees. Ideas like that are the start of long term retention and cost saving, and cost savings is something that this recession has taught all businesses to be much more savvy about. It’s usually not a line item on business P&L statements but losing performers and the indirect influence they have on the overall organization can truly be a huge savings in cost as well as the building blocks to sustainable growth.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mob Effect

I've been incredibly busy with work and volunteering the last few months and haven't written anything tactical about management and leading generation Y in quite a while. I thought I would write something that could aid other managers in their respective fields and industries to lead their team in the right direction.

I'll explain my tactics and philosophies in building the team, training, retaining, and changing the culture of your team through generation Y employees.

Talking with my peers, colleagues and fellow young professionals in small and large organizations I find that we all perceive our company's current cost saving measures differently and with different foci on what is important. Our values our created as individuals but also as a collective group within the community of individuals we work with. This is what I call the mob effect. It's one portion of how we has human beings react to change -but for some reason I find that gen Y is overtly reactive, emotional, and vocal about their perspective. Instantly seeking validation through "likes" on facebook or retweets on twitter, or even a ":)" or "tots" via text message. On the other end of the these updates and messages the "friends" or public agrees or disagrees and it creates a larger group feeling a certain way with so much shared abundance of information.

How many times have you written up an employee, or had a serious performance conversation with a member of your team? and what you said and how you said it is fodder for the rest of the team by day end? Or how many times have you not said anything and your "in-action" is messaging the wrong message and that gets out not only to your team (through gen y's need to share) , but neighboring groups and teams? With the amount of information that is shared and collected so freely and easily its more and more imperative for managers to become leaders than simply be managers or Gen Y will collect and share data and essentially mob into one hive mind/group and make a collective decision that might not be the direction your organization has asked you to take the group. The scenario I'm painting is a bit extreme, but I wanted to get the idea of the mob effect explained so that I can explain how to navigate it and leverage it. Take the negative aspects of Gen Y and make them work for you and your organization.

1. Eliminate negativity. Any change cannot take place without the will and energy to change. Like a bad virus a negative team member will infect the rest of the group. Treat it quickly and early and if it still persists - take the member out of the equation.

2. Recruit and Borrow Aggressively. There are people that are successful all around you in the same organization, or competing, or neighboring, or indirect or anything. Get out there and aggressively search and find the right people, knowledge and resources to obtain your goals. This is to operate your business while you slowly build, hire and train "your" team of people that you interview and choose.

3. Keep them happy and create clear goals and objectives. Create validations on behaviors that you want. Create quick and severe punishments for behaviors that are un acceptable and continually push and grow team members. Make it competitive and develop skills and cross train. Read Jack Welch's Auto Biography it explain this a bit better than me but "continually hire great people and continually performance out employees that are not elevating or escalating the organization or group.

4. Most important! make it "cool" to be the best at what you do. Change the culture of the group and control the mob effect. This part takes time and as your building your team and taking out the negativity in your team the collective mob thought will all be geared towards your direction because only people that understand your vision will be left. Reward monetarily and with praise and recognize those that strive for greatness set in the parameters of your organization.

The main points to keep at the top of your mind is to understand that you are constantly communicating wether your verbally talking or not. Also understand that any message you send to any gen Y is a message to all gen Y. Gen Y is a culture of sharing and individuality and as that culture progresses it actually becomes the exact opposite of individuality but collective mob effect. Don't fear it, embrace it and own it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Finding Balance

Have you ever felt over committed and stretched so thin that your not even sure why you do what you do? and more importantly is what your doing the most important and vital thing to get yourself "caught up"?

Its been a very interesting month for me with the culmination of many various volunteer groups, committee work, board, council group and Starbucks obligations, leading to a point where I quite literally cannot keep up or seem to get caught up. This has happened to me before in many more instances than I would like, but in all the prior situations I've come to the conclusion that "where there is a will there is way". That will has forced and guided me to become more and more developed in my planning and organizing skills by utilizing technology and systems to accomplish my ambitions and goals of wearing more hats and being more things to more people.

As I get caught up in another moment like that now in my life I've come to the realization that it's all about balance. There are two very specific situations in the last few weeks that have helped guide me to my conclusion of finding balance and happiness.

The first hit me when I was on my 4th hour of emails, fairly stressed but determined, when my friend texts me. Trying to be reactive and kind I respond via text, and as I go back to emailing I end up responding to one of his emails, while we are still texting. Long story short we end up texting, emailing, and instant messaging - 3 separate conversations. It became a joke and he added facebook to the mix. I'm sure it's a gen Y thing to always be so connected and reactive, but the tricky part of it is that I was satiated in my need to keep with my systems, emails get responded to by amount of work time, quick ones first and then filed in the proper mail folder. Texts are their own category with its own system and same with facebook etc. I learned two things.
1. sometimes being too organized and disciplined can actually lead to more inefficiency
2. If your inundated with "To do's" how do you dictate what gets done right now and what gets pushed out? which leads me to my second epiphany.

All week long I'm going through the motions of where my iphone tells me I need to be, color coded by what "hat" I need to be wearing. *After planning something in the macro level I let my iphone tell me where to be and what to do. Every thing I did and every event I attended I questioned myself, is this a better use of my time than that? I've never questioned the planning that I've put in place on my calendar before, but with my "time" resource dwindling and commitments increasing it becomes much more apparent that something has to change. And so I come back to the same conclusion as before "where there is a will there is a way". So I'm going to try a couple of tactics and systems to enlarge my capacity and develop the skills to do more in my day with less time or cut things out.

The interesting thing about this time around is that I'm not stressed out about it anymore. I know where I'm headed and through trial and error, success and ambition I will eventually get to the level that I want to be at. I just need to take a moment to smell the roses and enjoy what I have.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Win-Win-Win Philosophy

What is the future of business and success? How can you ensure your one step ahead of the curve? Here is my personal prediction and perception of how to navigate through the cultural changes caused by the generational differences and find "success".

You have to start thinking broader, mixing macro and micro and focusing on the obvious while keeping in mind the bigger picture- Just like Gen Y.

Baby Boomers are getting older and nearing the age where they will stimulate certain industries such as the medical and financial planning industries etc. On the flip side Generation Y by default will help mold and create the new parameters of business culture simply through becoming the dominant work force and business leaders over the course of the next 2 decades.

You need to take into consideration what Generation Y will bring as it becomes not only the dominant work force but also the dominant buying power in our nation. So what does Gen Y want? and what would drive this generation to not only work but to buy and promote?

The win-win-win strategy and philosophy is something that I strongly believe in and I predict will be instrumental for all businesses in the next few decades. I have found that Generation Y and to a certain degree Generation Next will change the culture of commerce, community and government as it comes into full swing as the dominant player in the workforce, community and politics. It's a cyclical balance (and projection) but I guesstimate that the successful businesses and entrepreneurs of tomorrow will be savvy in being balanced and multi faceted to be truly remarkable.

The win-win-win Philosophy is seamlessly incorporating earning revenue by community involvement and other various social services which in turn alleviates tax payer $, to in turn allow the government to take the savings to stimulate the economy, and the cycle continues again.

I have a great example of this and although it may be the exception to the rule, the philosophy and mindset is what I'm trying to communicate.

At Starbucks in Downtown Mountain View CA on Castro Street I was able to hire a cafe attendant with down syndrome named Jeremy. Jeremy is an excellent employee with perfect attendance and performance, always looking for ways to develop new skills and continue his employment with Starbucks. Jeremy "wins" because he has a job where he gets to be an active member of the community, earns a paycheck and benefits, belongs to a team and helps build awareness for people with developmental disabilities to all the people that frequent this Sbux.

Starbucks wins because we just earned an employee that will never be late, always excited to work, never needs to be re-trained, will learn new skills, grow with the company and never want to leave. And as an added bonus - something that helped me truly understand the possibilities of the win win win . . . .business grew! Customers old and new would hear about Jeremy and to support his employment would drive for miles and miles, sometime skipping many SBUX locations to come and purchase their coffee at the Castro St. location to support Jeremy's employment. I made more money from trying to do something good for someone in need! It was an unexpected benefit which was a very easy and unique sell to my company.

The government wins because now that Jeremy works at SBUX he also earns benefits that comes with anyone working PT to FT. He gets to earn stock options, 401k, medical, dental, and all the other plethora of discounts that SBUX partners get, and he earns his wage and pay. When we have people with special needs they qualify for supportive services funding paid by the gov't and tax payers. Although having a PT job at SBUX does not eliminate his needs for supportive services, over time and with enough participants it will lead to a decrease in gov't spending and involvement. The eventual savings can go back into stimulating businesses that focus on: being green, working with delinquent teens, supporting the elderly, etc etc as these businesses make their revenue in their respective industries.

Generation Y'ers tend to choose to purchase products from companies that have a sense of community involvement and it's an incredible anomaly since the inception of Corporate America, but- it's "cool" to do good. The more Gen Y pushes and gears companies to share their profits with social aspects in their local and larger community through their purchasing power, companies will focus their energies in being more active members in their communities because it's not only the smart way to make money but potentially the only way. As an added benefit or "win" the government will be able to perpetuate the cycle by funneling it's savings or funding towards business and economy. It's the cause and effect caused by Generation Y's growing age, position in economy and embedded culture. This is the Win-win-win philosophy.

Let me know what you think? and feel free to check out Google's app all for good, done in collaboration with the First Lady, as well as we include initiative in collaboration with Maria Shriver our CA's first lady.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Obama leading Gen Y

I think it's absolutely fascinating that President Obama has placed our first Chief Information Officer in his administration with the sole purpose of uploading as much analytical data the government collects and uses in one central location with with ease of use and accessibility of standard formatted files. I just finished downloading an excel file quantifying CA residents by year, age, sex, and race. I don't know what I personally will do with the information so abundantly given and freely shared but it's exciting to think about the potential that it brings. And even more so the simple idea of the government creating such transparency with it's data, it's wonderfully catering to the newer generations in a way that asks for collaboration and sharing. Again it can be harmful as well because with all sharing and openness it's the will of the user and with the data being so manipulatable you really have to ask yourself why take the risk? what is the point?

Why create a centralized place to gather information? why make it accessible to the general public and share such information via the internet?

I've been speculating and trying to wrap my brain around it with no real tangible reasons that I can ascertain but I do know how it makes me feel. It makes me feel interested, excited, and it gives me a sense of belonging and ownership. I also would like to add that the website and "idea" gives so much transparency that it eludes to accountability and trust. I feel more secure knowing that we will know what the leader we elected is doing and the metrics to either hold him accountable or create opinions or understanding of his actions. It makes me feel like I'm part of the "team" or networked in. Lastly it's so in tune with Generation Y. We don't have to ask what? why? how? can I help? who do I talk to? we simply are given the information and encouraged to collaborate and expand and create new ways to optimize and revolutionize. . .and share!

Our current administration is trying something very new and very generational as a small part of it's strategy to lead this country and create buy in into it's policies and procedures. Using technology and data sharing to create transparency and collaboration with the public, twittering updates and finding new forms of mediums to create not only government accountability and public and private collaboration but ultimately buy in and trust. I can't speak for the country and all the generations but I truly feel that this change in operations and medium will truly impact and sing a strong note with Generation Y.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Clear and Concise Message

Navigating through the myriad of stimuli that Gen Y faces is a daunting challenge. In our current day of age we are a generation that has access to an inexhaustible resource of information and mediums of communication. The level at which we can now communicate and "share" is in a sense global and covers almost everything you can think of.

So how does one create movement and grab the attention of the generation leading the masses in global communal sharing of information? It's through a clear and concise message.

Undaunted, simple, clear, and unchanging. I've been struggling a lot with various groups that I work with both professionally as well as personally. It seems that the economic downturn may have created a cause and effect, a reactive flux in what needs to happen because the cause was so immediate and clear. So many months after reacting and reacting I come to realize that I may have lost my focus and priorities.

Its important when managing or working through Generation Y to keep the message clear because we are constantly bombarded with data and new information. And when we are forced to work through these chaotic times Gen Y'ers tend to lose their focus or determination. For example I manage two stores currently, and I recently took a vacation. When I got back the clear and simple message was almost all forgotten and the store culture and work was fairly skewed by the leader I put in place. Granted I've only been at these stores for a short amount of time and it was expected to a certain degree, but it's interesting to me how aligned everyone got once I expressed the clear and concise message again.

There will always be a million things going on and as we get older . . . it becomes 2 million things but if you can message the main priority clearly, concisely and create consistency you can create traction with a diverse group of highly action oriented, capable but terribly entitled and frenetic group.