E-Luminations: The Best of Dale Dauten

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February 2009: What's In This Issue

    Could he be the most interesting CEO in the country?

    How to keep your job

If you want a new job, download Dale's latest e-book and audiobook, It's A Wonderful Job at dauten.com. No signup, no registration. It's a no-charge resource for those who are unemployed or who'd like a new career/life.


By Dale Dauten

”For those of you with a strong, charismatic personality, it is worthwhile to consider that charisma can be as much a liability as an asset.”

 -Jim Collins in “Good to Great”

Picture this: You’ve completed your first week of training for your new job when the HR-ers running things announce that you are now eligible for a $2000 cash bonus. You brace yourself for the daunting list of goals you must reach to qualify, but no -- to get the money you need to do just one thing: quit. Give up the rest of the training, walk away, and you get two large.
That’s how they do it at Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer that will do a billion dollars in business this year. The CEO, Tony Hseith says of the invitation to quit, “We started at $100 and keep upping it. Only 2-3% take the offer and that’s not high enough.” But get this – the offer comes with FOUR MORE WEEKS of training to go. I don’t know if this matches your experience, but facing four more weeks of corporate training, most people are willing to grab the “just shoot me now” buy-out.

Still, Zappos makes the offer, not just to get rid of the least committed trainees, but to add to the commitment of those who remain: As Hseith put it, “They will say to friends and family, ‘I walked away from an easy 2K.’”

Hseith certainly knows something about walking away with cash. In 1998, at age 24, he sold his internet start-up company to Microsoft for $265 million. He sold out, he insists, because “the culture went downhill.” When I sat down with Hseith I asked him what went wrong: “I ended up surrounded by people I wouldn’t hang out with.”

Hseith explained that “culture and brand are two sides of the same coin,” and so he wanted to be part of a hang-out-with culture. If you go to YouTube, you can see the employees having fun – there’s the “HR Dancing Queen”, shaking it in ways that would make the typical HR person merely tremble.

Speaking of trembling, do NOT watch the video called “Slap our CEO” with people from HR – they will explosively vomit at the point where Hseith not only gets slapped, but then slaps an employee, apparently for showing up late for work. The people in the video were being playful, but nothing is fun to watch when there’s vomit on your shoes.

All of which might lead you to believe that the CEO would be a Robin Williams sort, bouncing about being wacky. But Hseish resembles a Buddhist monk in blue jeans – he’s not just of Asian descent with stubble-cut hair, but he has a moving stillness that makes you think he’s doing a walking mediation.

You’ve probably read “Good to Great,” and so you know that Jim Collins described the leaders of great companies as “self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy.” Tony Hseith goes much further: When I commented on how different he was from the typical pump-you-up entrepreneurs I meet, he merely said “I’m an introvert,” and that was that.

So an introvert created a company full of extroverts so outgoing that the company’s brand is built on playfulness. What does that say to leaders about “set the example”? It says this: The company isn’t who you are; the company becomes who you hire and fire, and who you promote, and in this case, who you pay to leave training and go away.

(This is the final installment of a series featuring speakers at my favorite annual conference, the Compete Through Service Symposium held each fall in Phoenix. The previous discussions can be found at dauten.com)

Better/Faster PDF

BETTER/FASTER, where we combine my leadership training with racetrack exercises. It’s an unforgettable day of getting your mind open and letting the knowledge cruise in.

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Or call the delightful Paula Wigboldy at 480-785-2886.

©2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

J.T. and Dale Talk Jobs


By Jeannine Tanner O'Donnell and Dale Dauten

Dear JT & Dale: The firm I work for is closing a couple of its other branches, so now they are making everyone retake interviews so the company can keep the best of the bunch. This means my job is now up for grabs. What are my rights?


JT: What you are experiencing is a classic restructuring during a recession. Assuming you are not part of a union and are an at-will employee, it is within an employer’s rights to do this, as long as the company doesn’t use restructuring as a cover for discriminating against a protected class of employees.

DALE: Here’s the most protected class of employees of all: the ones who are making money for their employers. That’s where you want to be, Mick, and I hope your situation will serve as a cautionary tale for everyone reading this. Employees might think that just because they’re in a thriving branch/division that they are protected. However, wise employers use the downsizing of one area of the company to upgrade the staff in other areas. Therefore, you must, more than ever, keep demonstrating your worth: Keep a file with a list of your accomplishments. Volunteer to be on company-wide committees. Work to come up with ways to cut costs. Be part of the team working to improve work-flow processes. In other words, Mick, instead of trying to build a case for your rights, work at building your case as you being the last employee that company would want to lose.

JT: Doing so, you also build your prospects for getting hired elsewhere, should it come to that. Indeed, I’d start talking to staffing agencies because the same job hunting skills that you will be developing for your contingency plan will help you get rehired for your current job.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of the consulting firm, jtodonnell.com.

©2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


Dale Dauten, Author and Publisher

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