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The Business Investments That Freak People Out

Over the last couple of years, major corporations such as the Gap, McDonald’s, and Walmart joined the growing ranks of companies voluntarily raising wages. But recently, a smaller tech company, Gravity Payments in Seattle, took a more unusual step by raising the minimum wage for professionals in the firm to $70,000 per year. Given the collective hand-wringing from some economists and pundits following the announcement, you would think Gravity was waging war on capitalism. But a decision to invest in people, even in an unconventional way, should be judged no differently than other strategic investment choices. So what are many commentators worried about? A typical response came from economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth from the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. She told the New York Times that paying above-market wa....
Don’t Let Emotions Screw Up Your Decisions

Andrew Nguyen Think about a time you were weighing an important decision at work or considering a big expense such as a buying a house, making a hefty financial investment, or a starting a new business. Such decisions are inherently complex, and — no matter how much experience we have making them — working through the pros and cons of each choice can be overwhelming. Our emotional reactions to these choices may be useful in directing our attention and energy toward what we feel are the most important aspects of the decision. Yet intense emotions may lead us to make misguided decisions or outright disastrous ones. An amusing example comes from the 1991 movie Defending Your Life. In one scene, the character Daniel Miller (played by Albert Brooks) is preparing for a salary negotiation the next day with his boss. To t....
Networking When You Hate Talking to Strangers

The power of serendipity is hot in business circles. Silicon Valley campuses have been constructed to foster more “random collisions.” One key to creativity, many thinkers say, is unexpected interactions.  “Create spaces where you’re wandering around and exposing yourself to new people,” John Hagel of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge told me in an interview. And venture capitalist Anthony Tjan and his colleagues conducted an expansive survey of entrepreneurs that revealed a quarter of them self-identified as lucky and traced their success to embracing serendipitous encounters. All that is well and good – for people who don’t mind talking to strangers. But as an introvert, one of the situations I hate most is making small talk with people I don’t know. Here’s how I’ve ma....
The Internet Is Finally Forcing Management to Care About People

The humanist strand of management thinking that celebrates teams and collaboration through respect for customers and workers as human beings has a long and distinguished history. It includes Mary Parker Follett (1920s), Elton Mayo and Chester Barnard (1930s), Abraham Maslow (1940s), Douglas McGregor (1960s), Peter Drucker (1970s), Peters and Waterman (1980s), Katzenbach and Smith (1990s), and Gary Hamel (2000s). Yet despite almost a century of fine management writing and many successful initiatives, the ugly truth is that the lasting impact on general management practice has been limited. Even humanist change initiatives that were objectively dramatically successful have often been discarded by the firms that introduced them. Sooner or later, firms revert to stultifying bureaucratic practices as if on zombie-like auto-pilot. Achieving ....
A Cheat Sheet for Marketers on the Future of Digital Platforms

Steven Moore Customer engagement has never been more urgent or more elusive. Real engagement – the kind that goes beyond a momentary impression to a meaningful interaction – isn’t happening on traditional channels. It’s happening today on digital platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, SnapChat, and Instagram. To understand the future of digital platforms and what it means for marketers, we spoke with senior executives in a community of top marketers from Silicon Valley. The perspectives of these executives suggest that the pace of innovation shows no sign of slowing down. Marketers who want to understand the future of these platforms need to understand seven P’s: people, participate, personalize, product, process, pay, and partner. 1. People. The power of platforms ultimately co....
How to Document a Performance Review

The annual performance review can be stressful. But while many managers focus their attention on what they’ll say in the face-to-face conversation, they forget the importance of documenting their impressions in the right way. The following piece, adapted from the book Performance Reviews, will help you write down your feedback in a way that will both meet your organization’s requirements and pave the way for an effective discussion. Once you have analyzed your employee’s perfor­mance, record your feedback in a way that can be shared and saved. When preparing a formal written assessment, refer back to your company’s guidelines so you’re adhering to the appropriate format. If your company does not have a standard form, create one. Your organization may require you to provide a general rating of the employ....
The First Question to Ask of Any Strategy

The senior team of a large player in the global wealth management business recently asked me for my opinion on their strategy. They had worked long and hard at coming up with it. Their “Where to Play” choice was to target wealthy individuals who wanted and were willing to pay for comprehensive wealth management services. Their “How to Win” choice was to provide great customer service across the breadth of their wealth management needs. I pushed and probed, but that was it. Sadly, like the majority of strategies that I read, this firm’s strategy failed my sniff test and for that reason I would bet overwhelmingly that it will fail in the market as well. The test I apply is quite simple. I look at the core strategy choices and ask myself if I could make the opposite choice without looking stupid. For my wealt....
Get in the Right State of Mind for Any Negotiation

Photo by Andrew Nguyen Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had a prickly relationship. On the one hand, their two companies did significant business with each other. (Microsoft actually wrote software for some Apple devices.) But the two men also were rivals, both in the marketplace and in the public spotlight. Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson described their relationship as “a scorpion dance, with both sides circling warily knowing that a sting by either could cause problems for both.” Sometimes emotional flare-ups threated their collaboration. As Isaacson recounts in his book, Jobs was enraged, for example, when Microsoft was on the verge of launching Windows. He claimed that the new platform blatantly copied Apple’s graphic operating system (even though Apple had itself liberally borrowed programming developed earlier ....
The New Rules for Growing Outside Your Core Business

The hit show “House of Cards” highlights a remarkable journey for its owner Netflix. The company that once desperately offered itself to the now-bankrupt Blockbuster Video for $50 million—and was rejected—is now a profitable $5 billion company growing at about 20 percent per year. Few would have imagined that a company built around the distribution of CDs by mail could, in just a few years, migrate its business model to streaming content on the Internet and eventually to producing its own content, moving Netflix towards being the next-generation equivalent of a television station. By the same token, who would have imagined that Amazon would enter the storage and IT services business with great success? And who would have expected to see Apple in the phone—and now luxury wearables—business? Historical....
Reading List: Midcareer Crisis Series

HBR recently ran a series on midcareer crises and asked experts to tackle tough questions like: Should you consider a more fulfilling job with a pay cut when you’ve got a mortgage, bills, and college savings to worry about? How do you get the training or education you need to switch careers if you’re already struggling to spend quality time with your family? We’ve compiled the best research and advice from the series here. Let us know in the comments if there are additional topics you’d like to see us cover. Facing the crisis First off, don’t despair: we’re all prone to midlife crises. The good news is we also tend to rebound later in life. If you’re in a rut (and don’t want to wait it out), the former head of HR at Netflix recommends being honest about what you want—with yours....
What to Do If Your Team Is Letting You Down

I was working with a CEO who was frustrated that his team often failed to meet deadlines. When I asked why he thought that was, he explained that it was because they were lazy. When I met with the team to ask why they were often late, they explained that the culture of the organization was built around quality. They had been told that mistakes are not an option. They were so afraid to make a mistake, they strove for perfection instead of progress. The CEO thought he was holding his team accountable. However, he had not clearly communicated that meeting deadlines was just as important as producing quality work. Many leaders believe that holding people accountable is the key to getting the results they want. There’s one problem with this, though: Sometimes we get frustrated with people for not meeting our expectations when we have ne....
Simple Online Tools to Make Hiring Easier

Nicholas Blechman Running an open recruitment process – one where the position is openly advertised – can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have at your disposal an HR department that’s organized to handle the process. This is often the case in small businesses, volunteer organizations, and some government branches. I’ve often seen recruitment calls receiving too little interest, or, worse, paper CVs piling up on a desk, with no clear plan on how to deal with them. No wonder so many managers choose to avoid advertizing openings. An extensively cited 2010 study found that 42% of hires happened at companies that didn’t report a vacancy. But hiring like this, by word of mouth, is a mistake. Recruiting with an open call, rather than through your and your associates’ personal networks, dramat....
When Work Satisfaction Comes from Having 4 Jobs

If your job feels as though it’s draining you, try this: Do more. Even if you feel overworked and too busy to fit another thing onto your calendar, the solution may actually be to take on more responsibilities. Not just more responsibilities in general, but more of the right type. Try adding a new pet project or even giving a trial run to a whole new job that you’ve been interested in and feel passionate about. You may have to learn some intensive juggling, but evidence we’ve gathered from a study of fascinating people from many walks of life suggests that sometimes more — a lot more — is better, especially when “more” entails a diversity of tasks. And, paradoxically, doing more may end up making you feel more centered and whole. Through in-depth interviews, we’ve studied dozens of people....
What the Dalai Lama Taught Daniel Goleman About Emotional Intelligence

Two decades before Daniel Goleman first wrote about emotional intelligence in the pages of HBR, he met his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at Amherst College, who mentioned to the young science journalist for the New York Times that he was interested in meeting with scientists. Thus began a long, rich friendship as Goleman became involved over the years in arranging a series of what he calls “extended dialogues” between the Buddhist spiritual leader and researchers in fields ranging from ecology to neuroscience. Over the next 30 years, as Goleman has pursued his own work as a psychologist and business thinker, he has come to see the Dalai Lama as a highly uncommon leader. And so he was understandably delighted when, on the occasion of his friend’s 80th birthday, he was asked to write a book describing the Dalai Lama&#....
Why People Cry at Work

The stress of the workplace can bring out plenty of feelings in all of us. As an executive coach, I see joy, sadness, frustration, and disappointment on a daily basis. But while we may experience an array of emotions at work, there’s a general consensus that we shouldn’t see anyone reduced to tears, hopelessness, or defeat on the job. If you as a manager have caused an employee to cry, your primary objective is not to let it happen again. How? First, you need to understand exactly what happened. What, specifically, caused the crying? Tears can signal sadness, or, quite frequently, they can be a cover for other feelings: frustration, anger, a sense of powerlessness, anxiety, poor self-esteem, or negative self-image. As a trained psychologist, I know that we have to consider the particular cognitive and emotional makeup of th....
Retirement Planning Needs a Better UX

President Obama recently called for a new fiduciary standard for retirement plan advisors, saying, “the rules governing retirement investments were written 40 years ago … I am calling on the DOL to update the rules.” You might have missed this story — or at least assumed that designing a fiduciary standard is the fraught work of policy makers. The reality, however, is that this issue is deeply connected to how we make decisions on digital displays, which is of crucial importance to investors, businesses, and policy makers. The details of the proposed new rules are sure to raise questions about things like fee disclosures and conflicts of interest. Such a debate is unavoidable. But I also believe it will be a distraction, preventing us from considering a far more urgent set of questions for retirement plan advisors....
3 Steps to Break Out in a Tired Industry

Michael Levie, a seasoned hotel executive, and Rattan Chadha, a successful retail entrepreneur, were having dinner. The topic of conversation was the hotel industry. Both men thought that the industry was stale and too homogeneous relative to the diversity of customers it sought to serve. The industry had largely been unaltered since the onset of hotel chains over half a century ago. As Levie put it, “in this industry, people already think they have innovated if they have painted a grey wall green.” They two men were plotting to change that. In 2008, they opened their first hotel, at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, followed by one in Amsterdam City in 2009. Further hotels followed in subsequent years, in Glasgow, London, Rotterdam, New York, and Paris. They called their budding chain “citizenM”; for mobile citizens.....
The Myth of the High Growth Software Company

How many software companies really make it big, at least in terms of revenue? McKinsey analyzed more than 3,000 software and online-services firms from a 22-year period, finding that fewer than a third reached $100 million in revenue growth. Only a handful of companies reached the elusive $4 billion mark.   This data, combined with interviews with executives at 70 companies, led researchers to three main findings: Growth trumps all, including margin and cost structure; sustaining growth is really hard, even among companies with early momentum; and that (don’t fret!) there is a recipe for growth that involves four key principles. They are: Growth happens in three acts. The first must contain five steps: Picking the right market; defining a monitization model that makes room for scaling; focusing on rapid innovation; be....
The Assumptions That Make Giving Tough Feedback Even Tougher

Kenneth Andersson What’s it like to be on the delivering end of a tough feedback conversation? In a recent conversation we had, a leader described his experience: Q: What do you do to prepare when you have tough feedback to deliver to a subordinate? A: I am super focused. I keep telling myself “be honest, and be totally direct.” Q:Is it easy to be totally direct and honest with another person about their performance? A: No, I want to tell them what they want to hear, but they need the truth. They need to clearly understand what’s really going on and how that affects me and everyone else in the team. Q: Are you assuming that they don’t realize there’s  a problem? A: Of course! If they realized there was a problem then I would not have to straighten them out. Q: Are you nervous? Do you find t....
The Case Against Competing

Back in the Middle Ages when I was still with Fortune magazine, we had Warren Buffet in for an editorial lunch. With characteristic charming Midwestern self-effacement, the Great Investor waxed happy about a recent acquisition, the Buffalo Evening News. He loved the fact that it was the only player in what had become essentially a one-newspaper town. “Gee, Warren,” I had the temerity to say to my fellow Nebraskan, “You don’t seem to like competition much.” “I don’t, Walter” he replied heartily, “I don’t like it at all. I don’t know any good businessman who does.” In subsequent pronouncements and actions, the Sage of Omaha has made clear his preference for businesses with “a moat” around them, a monopoly position or a formidable brand that spares them th....
Handling Emotional Outbursts on Your Team

Do you have a crier on your team? You know, the one with tissue-thin skin who expresses frustration, sadness, or worry through tears. Or maybe you have a screamer, a table pounder who is aggressively invested in every decision. These kinds of emotional outbursts are not just uncomfortable; they can hijack your team, stalling productivity and limiting innovation. Don’t allow an emotional person to postpone, dilute, or drag out an issue that the business needs you to resolve. Instead, take the outburst for what it is: a communication. Emotions are clues that the issue you are discussing is touching on something the person values or believes strongly in. So look at outbursts as giving you three sets of information: emotional data; factual or intellectual data; and motives, values and beliefs. We get stuck when we only focus on the f....
The 4 Types of Small Businesses, and Why Each One Matters

America loves small businesses. A 2010 poll by The Pew Research Center found that the public had a more positive view of them than any other institution in the country – they beat out both churches and universities, for instance, as well as tech companies. As Janet Yellen pointed out in a speech last year, “the opportunity to build a business has long been an important part of the American Dream.” Governors, mayors and presidential candidates are therefore eager to declare their support for small businesses, but what do we mean by “small” and why do they matter? This is the part where we’re usually told that it’s startups that matter, not small businesses, since they’re the ones that create all the new jobs. There’s some truth to that, but it’s misleading as well. A blank....
A Refresher on Cost of Capital

Babo Schokker You’ve got an idea for a new product line, a way to revamp your inventory management system, or a piece of equipment that will make your work easier. But before you spend the company’s hard-earned money, you’ve got to prove to your company’s leaders that it’s worth the investment. You’ll likely be asked to show that the return on the investment will be better than your company’s cost of capital. But are you sure you know exactly what that is? And how your company uses it? To learn more about this commonly used business term, I spoke with Joe Knight, author of the HBR TOOLS: Return on Investment and co-founder and owner of www.business-literacy.com. What is the cost of capital? “The cost of capital is simply the return expected by those who provide capital for the busine....
When It’s Safe to Rely on Intuition (and When It’s Not)

We often use mental shortcuts (heuristics) to make decisions. There is simply too much information coming at us from all directions, and too many decisions that we need to make from moment to moment, to think every single one through a long and detailed analysis. While this can sometimes backfire, in many cases intuition is a perfectly fine shortcut.  However, intuition is helpful only under certain conditions. The most important condition is expertise. If I am a novice mountain climber, then my intuition on whether or not a given route is safe is not going to be accurate – I have no previous knowledge on which to base that decision. Similarly, if a financial history professor is making an investment decision, her expertise in financial history does not automatically extend to financial investments, thus she should not rely ....
How to Respond When Someone Takes Credit for Your Work

There’s nothing more infuriating than someone taking credit for your work. We’ve all had this happen at one point or another: you share an idea with a colleague and then hear him repeat it in a meeting; you stay late to finish a presentation yet your team member accepts all the praise; you lead a long overdue project to completion and your boss tells the higher-ups it was his doing. How should you handle these situations? Is it okay to speak up right then and there? Or should you keep quiet? And how can you make sure that you get the credit you deserve in the future? What the Experts Say We want to believe that our work speaks for itself. But “in the real world, it matters who gets credit,” says Karen Dillon, author of the HBR Guide to Office Politics. “That all goes into the bank account of how much value....

TECHNALINK HIGHLIGHTS
  

In celebration of women role models in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), STEMconnectortm unveils in hard copy and online its inaugural 100 Women Leaders in STEM publicatin. The heroines included in 100 Women Leaders in STEM share stories about their commitment to serving as mentors and sponsors of those who are next in the stem jobs pipline.
           
Mclean, VA - Technalink, Inc. is excited to announce that Alka Dhillon, Founder & Chief Executive Officer has been selected as a winner for the 2012 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement Award Presented by SmartCEO.
    
Alka Dhillon, Founder and CEO, Technalink (McLean,VA) Recognized as one of the leading female CEOs in the Washington, DC, area, Ms. Dhillon is known for her irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for giving back to the community.

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