Improving the Annual Performance Review with Linkedin

As part of many companies’ annual performance review process, employees are asked to submit the names of people they have worked with so their bosses can ask for feedback. Cross-pollinating that with the Linkedin recommendation section may be an interesting way to add value or participation to the overall experience.

How would using a recommendation-like process and making the business partner feedback public on Linkedin as part of an annual review process

  • change how the employee works with that partner all year?
  • change how well or thought through the person giving the feedback comments?
  • change how much the employee takes and acts upon the feedback provided?
  • change the conversion rate of people asked for feedback vs. actually provided?
  • change the overall value of the recommendation section on Linkedin for people searching for potential hires?
  • change the type of people that wanted to work in your organization?
  • change if it’s viewable to all others that person has worked with that year vs. public?

It seems like an interesting experiment to increase the overall value of the feedback process for everyone involved. Of course, it might have some real pain points in the short term but if it doesn’t get “gamed” it could work out very well in the long run.

Does Interest In Your Career Influence Your Outcomes

How much does interest in your career influence your performance or rewards? Can you really be effective if you’re not interested? Over the lifecycle of your career, how has your level of interest coincided with what you were doing or what moves you’ve made or your general performance level?

To demonstrate this, take out a piece of paper and make a graph:

  1. The x-axis is the timeline of your work history.
  2. The y-axis is your interest level from low to high.
  3. Determine some key milestones in your career (big new projects, new bosses, promos, job changes, etc) and list them on the x-axis of your work history.
  4. Graph your career based on how interested you were (in your career) as you’ve progressed through the years. And make sure you don’t fall into the trap of correlating interest to hours. Being interested in your career is about being engaged and excited, it has nothing to do with hours. 

I’ve played this with many people and it’s been interesting to uncover the insights gleaned from seeing their career according to this graph. Are they more interested in the months or year leading up to a promotion, or right after? Were they more interested working in group X vs. group Y, and why?

Also put in some life events to see what that might have done to your interest level. Did moving to a new house, with that great new home office, make you even more interested? When you were doing that hobby a couple years ago, did it make you more interested in work too? What could you do in your personal life to continue to be more interested at what you’re doing professionally?

Is the secret to high performance just being interested in what you’re doing?
With what you learned from the patterns in the graph, how could you become more engaged and excited by what you’re doing?

Making Decisions With Your Internal Board of Directors

Companies use them as sounding boards for big decisions so isn’t it time that you developed your own Board of Directors? Running your decisions by a group of people you admire and respect and who could look at things from various angles could yield amazing insight.

In order to get the best Board of Directors to help you, take a different route than companies do when they hire their Board. Instead, look to anyone that you’ve met, read about, or heard about and create an internal Board.  It doesn’t matter if they’re dead or alive, or even if you’ve ever talked to them directly before – you can learn from and weigh decisions with an endless supply of great leaders just by asking yourself how they would approach the question.

Make a list of people that could provide some type of insight next time you have to make a decision. Make sure the list is diverse and not just a few people from the same place, time, or focus area. Include people from your personal and professional life, as well as anyone from the history books or current new stories.  You can make your Board of Directors filled with anyone you want.

Want some examples?  

Let’s say you’re starting a new job or new business.  So what would the following people ask you, say to you, or how did what they do resemble what you am looking at doing here: Abraham Lincoln, Oprah, P.Diddy, Tony Robbins, Jack Welch, Serena Williams, Tim Ferris, Bruce Lee, Ghandi, Ariana Huffington, Ben Franklin, your super ‘successful’ Uncle who owns a smoothie stand on the beach, your social worker sister, that blog you read everyday because you think it’s great, your high school teacher that helped change your life forever, or any of your friends that might have something you know they would say that would give you something to think about.

The act of thinking how your Board would view the decision you’re facing and envisioning what each of your Board Members might say could yield you absolutely what you need in order to make the decision and set up yourself up for success.

Lessons From A Think Week: Taking A Personal Retreat

I tried something that I’ve heard has worked wonders for many people in the past, including BIll Gates. Think Week. 

The legend as I remember it, was that for two weeks every year Bill would shut out all communication with the outside world, have his assistant slide grilled cheese sandwiches into his office a couple times a day, and he’d spend all day and night taking in information and thinking. Apparently, it was during those two weeks when many of the key strategies to how Microsoft built its initial successes were created.

Well, I only had a 5 day week and my initial Think Week didn’t yield quite the results of Bill, but it did teach me a few things about setting up a successful Think Week.

Why a Think Week?

Let’s start with a different question: when was the last time you spent a significant period of time to reflect, think, and envision or work out plans for the future?  Short spurts of time everyday don’t count–I’m talking about multiple days of deep self-interaction.

If you think that kind of time would be valuable, you need a Think Week.

Here’s some tips on setting up your own:

  • Start a folder in your email or tag in evernote to start storing all of the “stuff” you want to spend some time on during your Think Week, like amazing articles, one line “to-do” reminders, or anything that crosses your path that you really want to think on. Of course, action is better in many of the items, so if it’s something that can be finished in less than 10 minutes – do it now.
  • Spend the first day or two just getting some things off your to-do list that have been there so you get that feeling of immediate accomplishment. This will also make sure you don’t have that thing in the back of your mind the next few days.
  • Ensure you have ample amount of time set aside. It takes a day or two to get out of your typical mindset and start getting your mind ready for the really deep thinking. By the time you get going you don’t want it to be coming to an end, 3 days is probably too short, so aim for at least 5-6. Of course, if you can do 2 weeks, that’s great too.
  • Turn off or schedule communication.  This is your Think Week, not your catch-up-on-email or call-that-friend-you-haven’t-called-back week.  We’re strangled by our communication devices enough on our regular time, get off the grid.
  • Gather your supplies.  Coffee, whiteboards, paper, books, music playlists, whatever you think you might want during that week–have it ready beforehand.
  • Don’t tell anyone.  Don’t start telling people too far ahead of time, they’ll just give you advice you don’t need and/or try and figure out ways to schedule something during that time because they know you’ll be “free.”
  • Move around.  The intellectual and creative benefits of exercise are obvious. Get your blood flowing during some points of your day even with simple 20 minute walks outside or a hardcore workout that gets you energized and excited.
  • Go somewhere different.  This one depends on whether or not you can focus better when you’re somewhere you don’t normally go or if it’s better where you normally work.  Experiencing new places surely helps with your creativity because of the new experiences and connections it builds in your brain, but this is about which place will help you focus best. For me personally, that means not sitting at my normal desk because there I get sidetracked thinking about the more immediate things and itch to do them.
  • Act. Build momentum if you can, or at least get started on something you come up with. This way it won’t end up going on your “after Think Week to-do list” and then never get done.
  • Reflect.  At the end of the week make sure to evaluate your week, what you would do a different and how to make the next one even better.  Then, schedule your next one before the week’s through. If you’re going deep enough this isn’t something you’ll have to repeat every month or even every six months, but once a year at least seems like a good time period.

Open your calendar and schedule your first think week right now.  The most important thing is to schedule it or else you’ll end up going day-by-day like you are now.

How powerful can you make your Think Week?  Go.

 

Also to note: a Think Week could work for specific projects too, but that’s almost more like a Hackathon-type week. This is about thinking on broader range topics, areas and should not (at least) initially be focused on one particular tactical project.

What I Learned About Business From Steve Aoki

 

Steve Aoki is a DJ/Producer that puts on one of the greatest shows in music today.  Seeing him live is an interactive experience and his energy is infectious. By the end of the show you’re jumping up and down along with him–more than you ever have in your life–covered in champagne and cake, and you never want it to stop.

Then, when you leave the show and think you’ve seen the best of what he has, you learn more about him and realize that he’s a great role model for your business too.

Here are a few takeaways from watching a true maestro of his craft like Steve Aoki:

1. Amaze
When Steve Aoki puts on a show, he delivers.  He brings more energy to the party than anyone there and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure people are having a memorable experience.  While his main product might be the music, his live shows can make an audience member a lifelong fan.  It’s not uncommon to see floats, cake diving, champagne showers, special previews of unreleased music, and just about anything else to make sure that his shows stand above the rest.  When was the last time you thought through your product demo or meeting with the goal to amaze?


2. Hustle

If you look at his schedule you’ll see that he is putting on a show practically every night, sometimes two per day.  You’ll then notice that he’s doing this around the world.  Africa one night, UK the next, over to Spain, then off to California in four days.  Did you ever have to leave for that conference a day early for a “travel” day. Yeah, he’s been traveling and putting on a show everyday for years and I thought my fifty minute commute was bad. That being said – he still delivers at every show and will stop and connect with fans anytime they ask. What time can you carve out in schedule for that extra work? 


3. Collaboration & Partnership

Succeeding in certain businesses is about being able to find the right people to partner with and collaborating with everyone that needs to be involved.  Over the years Aoki has demonstrated this by making music with some of the best in the business, as well as up-and-comers.  Are you trying to work with the best in your field? Are you taking the time to develop newbies?


4. Engagement

I already mentioned how he’ll stop whatever he’s doing and talk to a fan along his travels or on his way to a show. Take a look at his twitter feed for some other amazing examples of fan engagement. He’ll fly into a new town, ask where the best local places are, invite people to come eat where he is, randomly pop into college classes and invite people to hang on the lawn, and is constantly reaching out and connecting. He’s on just about every major digital outlet and always providing updates to keep his fans engaged. How often and how creative are you methods of engagement? 


5. Risk Taking

It was definitely a big risk the first time he sprayed a club with champagne or got on a float to crowd surf over thirty thousand people or partnered with an unknown lyricist to make a new song.  Yet, those risk are what has allowed him to keep upping his game and bringing his art to the next level.  What risk have you taken recently?


6. Trust

Consistency builds trust and I’ve already mentioned how consistent he is with his output. His authenticity adds to that level of trust. He’s just as into the music, the show, and all the fun stuff going on around it as his fans are.  He’ll even jump into a large cake and be covered in it before he’ll go and do the same to his fans.  Are you willing to do everything you ask people on your team to do?

I was going to call this post “Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Steve Aoki” but I don’t think anyone can learn “everything” about anything from just one person.

But that’s another story.

 

Liven Up Your Next Meeting With Office Olympics

Want to keep the Olympic spirit alive across your office?  Want to make your next meeting 15X more exciting than all the others?  Office Olympics are just the thing you need to get your team energized.

Here are some example events.  I’m curious to hear which ones you could come up with:

  • Trashball: crumple up some easel paper and get a trash can.  I hope you can figure the rest out.  Make it much harder by requiring that the shooter shoot from a sitting down in chair position and move the trash can at least 5 inches away from the wall.
  • Skittles Relay: a spoon, seven skittles, a rolling chair and a stop watch.  Have competitors sit in the chair balancing the skittles on the spoon while they wheel around the room then hand off to their partner.  Time each team, shortest time wins.  If you drop a skittle that team member starts the course over.
  • Sharpie Archery: upcap a sharpie, tape a piece of easel paper to a window, draw a typical target and throw.  Making a mark in the circles closest to the center should score higher.
  • Rubber Band Shooting: lots of rubber bands, 30 seconds on the clock, and a couple empty plastic cups you have to knock off a table.
  • Jousting: well, you can see what you need to do by the picture.  This one’s the funnest but probably the toughest to explain.  Have an independent party drive the chairs so it’s fair, and the blindfolded person’s teammate can be shouting directions for the one holding the joust so s/he can come closer to the center.  Or, you could always just wear white t-shirts and go head to head, closest to the heart wins.

There’s always a way to make what could be a boring meeting fun.  Plus, who doesn’t love bragging rights for the day when their team wins.

Matt Kane

Use Your Out of Office Message to Change Your Life

When you open your email inbox after a vacation do you ever take the time to analyze what happened? Usually, over a short period of time people generally get the point and stop emailing you frivolously.

Could receiving less unnecessary email benefit you? If you want more time in your day and a more valuable inbox, all you need to do is re-create the vacation email phenomenon all the time instead of just when you’re actually on vacation.

So why not utilize the Out of Office message even when you’re in the office?

Whether you want to use it to the extreme that Tim Ferris talks about in “The Four Hour Workweek” in order to build independence or you’re just looking to change some of your co-workers behaviors so you receive 15% less email at work, the automated reply or Out of Office is key.

So what does an Out of Office message look like when you’re actually in the office and just trying to make a point? Keep it simple and try something like

Thank you for your email; I’m currently trying an experiment to reduce email clutter. If I am CC’d this will get filed without review. If there are more than 2 people on the To: line this will get de-prioritized as well. If this is something important or urgent please follow up with a conversation. Thank you.

People can’t get mad at you when you say it’s an experiment.

After a couple days or weeks people will get the message and stop emailing you unless it’s incredibly important. With all that free time (because we all know email takes up way too much time) you’ll be able to focus on the things that will bring you value and could, in the end, change your life.

After all, wouldn’t your life be different if you spent that 15% more time with your kids, or finding ways to be exponentially better at your job, or creating your micro-business?

What would you do with that 15% of your time back?

IRS Hackathons: Can We Please Get These Started

Dear IRS:

Let me preface this by saying, I love you – please don’t take this the wrong way or get mad at me.

That being said, can we please get something going in terms of dramatically ramping up the hacking of the IRS.  No, I don’t mean hacking in terms of computer security, I mean the type of hacking that occurs at Startup Weekends everywhere around the world every weekend. Or the government hacking movement being led by groups like Code for America.  I’ll even bet that now that they have a lot more paperwork to fill out, thanks to their IPO, that the folks at Facebook would be happy to devote one of their legendary hack days to your processes, paperwork and online solutions (or lack thereof).

Partner up with an existing group (Intuit, data.gov, Startup America, Startup Weekend, Incubators, VC Firms, Accelerators, etc) so you don’t even have to do most of the work in finding talented people or organizing it.  Hire an intern to create the online resource library, api’s, datasets, and other things that are openly available for anyone that wants to improve it.  Hold a contest with some of that tax money you collect.

Sure, I’m asking this on behalf of the fact that I am amazed every year at the process of getting my taxes done and the various forms of paperwork I have had to file over the years for various reasons, but I’m also asking this on behalf of the country.  Wouldn’t a much more improved process help streamline things enough that we’d save a large amount of money as a country, and entice more and more people to work with the IRS, instead of against it.  Couldn’t we build and integrate things that more accurately and automatically track, monitor and enforce the right policies.

Please, we need this.

Now, in the spirit of not just throwing this out there and not being willing to do something about it, I’m more than happy to sponsor and help execute a hack day event for the paperwork and processes related to running a non-profit organization.  Let me know if you’re interested.  This isn’t really meant as a message to the IRS, but to all of us everywhere that have ever had to figure out which was the right form or how to carry the number from line 92A, Section III over to page 15 line 72C, Section XI.

Matt Kane

And if you missed it check out that article mentioned above about adding a hack day to your business – Hack Days: Not Just for Facebookers

Commuting School: Learn Anything in No Extra Time

 

Have you ever wanted to navigate patent law, learn a new programming language, solve for X in a Diophantine equation? How would you like to learn it almost automatically, without having to spend any extra time on it throughout your day?

I was first introduced to the term No Extra Time (NET) by Tony Robbins.  While I had occasionally used my commute time productively, I wasn’t necessarily paying attention to the potential power that this force could have. That was years ago and learning something on my commute meant fumbling CD’s in and out of my car’s CD changer and trying to keep the order of them correct.

Now I have a library of  iTunes and podcasts at my fingertips. And if I’m taking a train, there’s even more opportunity to learn from the rich video learning experiences available.

The true beauty of NET time is that its otherwise essentially wasted time. How can you use it? 

The average commute for a person in the U.S. is somewhere around 26 minutes per day each way.  52 minutes a day times the average number of working days per year… I wonder if that’ll be enough to learn that thing you’ve always wanted to learn?

I bet it is. Have a productive commute.

How To Pick Your Work Partner: Stories From Serial Entrepreneurs

In this video from Stanford’s ecorner series called “The Value of True Partnerships,” Wences Casares and Meyer Malka talk about what it takes to make a strong partnership work and how they’ve been able to successfully work together through multiple companies. Their talk applies whether it’s finding a partner for a start up or just deciding who to have on your project team.

I recommend listening to the whole talk, but here’s a few key notes that jumped out for me.

  • Partnerships that first start based on a respect for the other person’s skills and their merit then grow into friendships are usually better than partnerships where the two people started as friends and then tried to work together.
  • Ego is important as an entrepreneur, and it’s OK if both partners have it – but it must be “left at the door” when dealing between each other.  Ego is best from the door out.
  • Trust is an important ingredient in any successful partnership.  My note: you may not want to build it like they mentioned on the call by getting in a bar fight together at your first meeting.
  • Arguing or preparing to argue with your partner can help bring better results because you’ll have to think through your point of view in more depth to see all sides and do it at a faster rate than if you were just by yourself.
  • Communication is key. You must over communicate with your partner. This allows you to know what your partner is thinking at all times, and present one aligned voice to the company.
  • Building a company outside of Silicon Valley has advantages and disadvantages.  One of the key advantages is that within Silicon Valley your ability to get a top level brilliant engineer is diminished because of all the competition with the huge companies.  In the valley the average small company team may be 4-9 average engineers for every 1 brilliant one but in certain developing countries you could more easily form a team of 9 brilliant engineers.

All in all a great talk and a very interesting story of how 2 guys came together and started then sold multiple companies and what they learned about their partnership along the way.  I recommend tuning out for the portion of the story about the bathroom explosion though.

Matt Kane