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Late October 2006: What's In This Issue

  1. The Corporate Curmudgeon: The Experimentalists
  2. Kate and Dale Talk Jobs: Negotiating vs. Re-Negotiating

The Experimentalists

By Dale Dauten

"He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style. He just keeps on trying other things."
– Picasso, on God as an artist

Question of the day: Which type of boss would you rather work for?

A. Realist
B. Optimist
C. Pessimist
D. Skeptic
E. One that is all of the above
F. One that is none of the above.

OK, so you know it's not going to be an easy answer, like "A." You know that because you're reading this, not receiving it as televised brain anesthetic. And because we readers don't believe in easy answers, I'm going to make the case for both E and F. Yes, all and none.

First, anyone who's been around great bosses knows that they are:

Realist enough to understand the cruel realities of the marketplace, that a company must continually change and evolve or die, while being pessimistic in the knowledge that most suggestions won't get implemented and if they do, won't work, and

Skeptical of people who sell easy answers or to claim to know the outcomes, but still sufficiently

Optimistic to believe that the next great idea is right there, just out of sight, waiting to be spotted and snatched up, and that their team is the one that'll do it.

On the other hand, try to smush together all those ideas into a single rubric and you get something like, Optiskeptirealipess. So let's consider the case for "none of the above," opting for a new designation that captures the mindset and personality of the person inspiring organizational change: experimentist.

The best bosses in America are eager to try something new. Not just meet, not just plan, not just envision, but to give it a shot, to play around, to make something happen. There a world of difference between "let's envision" and "let's see."

Of the marketing ideas tested by the research firm QualPro, about one-quarter generated improvements, half made no difference and one-quarter made things worst. These were all ideas that were considered good enough to research by teams at major, thriving corporations. (The stats are from Breakthrough Business Results with MVT, a book that deserves a discussion of its own, and that will happen soon.)

So if, say, one in a hundred ideas gets tested, and of those, three-quarters don't help, you have to get awfully good at generating and experimenting with ideas. You can't be too optimistic, or you'll get yourself overcommitted to a single idea; you can't get too pessimistic or you'll bog down in the "odds are it won't work" logic; but you better be realistically skeptical of the organization, or it will find a way to keep doing exactly what it's been doing.

What got me thinking about experimentists was a zippy and insightful article, "Symptoms of the Dysfunctional Team," in which Ken Cooper gives us plenty of reason to be skeptical about a team's true mission. (You can read the entire piece at his website, ej4.com.) Cooper sums up the "stay the course" inertia that is a natural part of an organization, by comparing it to "the New England farmer who won the lottery and when asked what he would do with the money, responded, 'I'm goin' to keep on fahmin' until it's ahl gone.'"

Cooper also points out the fallacy of "relative success" in this memorable way: "It's easy for managers to fool themselves by comparing their operations to other, more dysfunctional organizations. ('You think we're bad, you ought to work for...') Teenagers have a wonderful term for this self-deception: 'We suck less.' Being less bad is not good."

The best bosses don't care if the glass is half full or half empty, they are asking, Why are we using a glass – what other materials could we use? And meanwhile, can we sell ad space on the side? And what can we do with the empty half – can we lease it out? Who has ideas? How can we try them out? The experimentist thrives among the question marks.

2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Don't fire an employee until you watch Dale's new video! For a video interview in which Dale Dauten explains the art of "de-hiring" and why it is that gifted bosses have employee turnover, but hardly ever resort to firings, go to www.Dauten.com.

Kate and Dale Talk Jobs

Negotiating vs. Re-Negotiating

By Kate Wendleton and Dale Dauten

To Kate & Dale: My daughter has signed a letter of employment with a new firm. However, her present company is offering a higher salary. She does not want to stay with her present company; however, she wants to negotiate with the new firm. Can this be done? Is it considered a bad thing to do?

– Andy

Kate: If she tries to renegotiate, the hiring manager at the new firm will have to go back to Human Resources as well as his or her boss and explain that the applicant wants more. Rather than putting her new boss in this position, perhaps she could simply mention that her old employer made her a counter offer, and she turned it down. Perhaps they will up the ante just to be fair.

Dale: Fair? Call me old fashioned, but here's whate's fair: she made an agreement and she lives up to it. Try this, Andy: Ask friends who are managers what they would think of an employee with a signed agreement who wants to reopen negotiations. I'm betting they'll tell you theye'd wonder whether the person is trustworthy. How's that as a way to start a relationship?

Kate: So, Dale, your position is that even mentioning the old firm's offer is forbidden?

Dale: No, I like your suggestion – If she is a great actress and doesn't betray her real intentions. Even so, if she's angling to set off a bidding war, she's in a lousy position, because she isn't willing to go to the highest bidder.

Kate: As a general rule, the applicant who tries to start a bidding war needs to be sure that the new company is desperate to have her. Otherwise, she might be like a recent example from my company. We had to fill a job, and stressed how we needed someone right away. We made and offer to someone who then said she wanted at least a month before starting. We then retracted the offer because we wanted someone who understood our sense of urgency, and because we had plenty of other applicants.

Dale: Ouch, there's that ugly word "retract." She might be thinking, "All they can do is say no." No. Theree's a lot more downside than upside. Remind her that if she wants to renegotiate, she needs to be prepared to lose the negotiation and the job, and to carry on with her job search.

To Kate & Dale: I'm making a move from being a partner in a business to seeking a position in the corporate world. When the online application asked for "current employer" I want the person reading it to know that I'll be a loyal employer and I'm not just wanting a job to get over a rough spot with our company. Should I refer to selling my partnership share in my cover letter? Resume? Both?

– Mary

Kate: Under "reason for leaving" you can say, "Want to get back into the corporate world" or something similar. Once you're in the interview, you need to provide an explanation: "Since I have tried my own business, I realize that I prefer working for an organization where..." and then you insert whatever it is that you are working toward. Lots of people try something entrepreneurial and then go back to being an employee, and it won't be a problem if you address the issue rather than try to avoid it.

Dale: If all goes well, you won't have to mention the partnership till the interview. When applying, there's no reason to bring up ownership issues. Just list the old company and call yourself Marketing Director or whatever best fits your specialty in your company and the job you're going for. Then, in the interview, you can mention selling your share as evidence that you're committed to leaving your old position. That's also your chance to make it clear that your company didn't fail, but rather, that your definition of success has changed and you're evolving with it.

Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O'Clock Club, a national career counseling network. Her newest book is Mastering the Job Interview and Winning the Money Game (Thomson Delmar Learning).

© 2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Have a story you'd like to share? Please . If your story is too lengthy to put in an email, just let me know the best times to call you.

Dale Dauten, Author and Publisher

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