Learning to play with 3 fouls

In November of 2017, I was asked by my daughter’s new varsity girl’s high school coach, Carlos Humphrey, if I would assist him for the season. It was both of our first years, and I said, “sure.”

It was never my goal to be a high school basketball coach, but I thought I could do some good, so…

I’ve worked with Carlos for about four years, and I think kids (and parents) can learn a lot from him. We both share very strong Midwestern sensibilities, so I think that’s why we see things similarly.

For example, when one of our players would get three fouls early in the game, scorekeepers, players, and parents would start trying to get our attention to tell us we had a player in foul trouble. That’s fairly typical. (You only get five, and then you’re out of the game.)

What amused me about it was that they didn’t appreciate Carlos’ philosophy on this: Sometimes in life, you’re going to have three or four fouls, and you’re going to need to learn to play with three fouls or you’ll get knocked out of the game. And there’s no better way to learn than being in that situation. Your coach can’t help you. Your teammates can’t help you. And your parents can’t help you.

While everyone else is caught up in the moment and trying to win, Carlos never loses sight of the bigger picture. He’s always thinking about what lessons his players can learn from his coaching and the game of basketball.



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What to do about homophonophobia

There’s a rising trend in America that we must work to reverse: homophonophobia.

This is the fear of words that sound the same, but mean different things.

There’s a terrific example in the “Spectrum” Monty Python sketch:

“Bow” and “bough.”

In my research of this trend, I came across a startling discussion of the homophonophobia problem in this article by Gretchen McCulloch.

This, of course, is not to be confused with homographobia, which is not a fear of graphs, but instead, a fear of ambiguity.

I think I know a few people with that affliction. Personally, I thrive in it.

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Helping you get a job

When a friend of mine is seeking a position at my company, I act aggressively.

First step is to get their resume and some sort of cover letter-ish email to me that I can send on. Then I figure out who the hiring manager is and head over to their desk to tell them I have a great candidate for them.

After I tell them about my candidate, I forward on the email with the resume to make sure they have it and all but guarantee an interview.

Not much more you can do at this point, but my role isn’t to get them the job. It’s to knock down every potential obstacle to give them the best chance of earning it.

Forwarding the resume to the recruiter, when they’re already getting hundreds of resumes, is less likely to work unless you go talk to that recruiter, in person, and give them some detail about this person they simply “have to talk to.”

This is what I do when someone needs my help. But if there’s an even better way, I’m all ears. I love helping people find employment.

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Career path

I’ve hired more than 60 people and managed many more.

What I’ve noticed in the past two or three years is the demand of my newer and younger employees to want a detailed career road map laid out for them.

Regardless of their position, they want me to serve them up a detailed career path that gives them a line from their current position to the next one and the next one with the inevitable end.

I find this phenomenon quite fascinating, as it runs quite counter to how I’ve approached my career.

My approach to every job I’ve ever had was to learn it, do the best job I can with it, take it in directions no one who thought up the job description ever intended, overachieve as much as possible, do what’s best for the company’s products or services, explore all opportunities, help those around me, take notes on what things in my professional life I like doing and what things I don’t, and prove to everyone around me that I’m not only capable of that, but much more.

I figured if I did those things, the rest would take care of itself. It helps that I’ve been very open-minded about my career path, which allows me to see where proving myself and working hard will take me.

There are so many external factors beyond a career path at a particular company, that I never sought to control anything beyond my own work. Those factors include:

  • Does your current company actively promote people and gives commensurate salary increases?
  • Can you impress your current boss (who is much more likely to behave as an unpredictable human with their own personality traits and quirks than they are to follow a job description matrix that tells him or her when it’s time to promote you)?
  • Do you want to stay in that company?
  • Are you willing to explore every (or any) opportunities that present themselves?
  • Would you recognize an outside opportunity if it presented itself?
  • Are you locked into your discipline, or are you paying attention to the various places your skills can take you?

Like many, I would guess, I could never have predicted my career would go the way it has and that I would have ended up where I have. (I shouldn’t say “ended up,” because there’s still so much ahead.) I realize that there are people who always wanted to be a surgeon, and now they’re a surgeon. Mission accomplished.

But it research shows most people are not quite that focused on a specific career endpoint.

When my employees ask me to help them with their career path, I advise them to follow a form of approach I outlined above. I also try to provide as many interesting and diverse opportunities to my employees as possible. But I can’t make them take them. Exploring new opportunities is up to the interest and ambition of each individual.

I’ve tried to make the most of the opportunities presented, and even when it didn’t end well, it did because I learned about myself, and I identified and learned from my mistakes.

I’m very happy with where I am in my career, and I wouldn’t trade even the worst parts of it. I realize not everyone is me, and for those who need a path, I work to give them one – but not before offering the advice above:

Focus on doing your current job and going above and beyond that whenever possible, and the rest will take care of itself.

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Seeking interview feedback

A few years ago, I began wondering why, with so much data available to us for nearly every interaction we have, are we still unable to get any feedback from recruiters on how we interviewed.

It’s often difficult enough to get a recruiter to respond to you – even if you’ve gone through an entire 8-12 person interview loop with the company. But what if you could get real feedback on what you did well and what you could have done better (and what, if you didn’t get the job, the winning candidate did better than you).

As a marketer, we’re always using data to improve the experience and optimize, if not retool, a product or communication. Getting interview feedback so we could constantly be improving ourselves would be enormously helpful.

Lo and behold, I recently interviewed with a prospective employer who sent me an interview feedback survey after I concluded the round of interviews.

My first reaction was to be shocked they wanted my feedback when it’s often nearly impossible for me to get any. Then I was inspired.

I hoped on SurveyMonkey, wrote my own feedback survey which would gather feedback on how I interviewed, and sent it to everyone in my interview loop.

I sent a personal note to the hiring manager letting him know I was inspired to also gather feedback and told him I would complete their survey if they completed mine.

To his credit, he did. And he gave me extremely valuable feedback on how I could have improved my presentation. I should have started doing a follow-up survey years ago. With his feedback, I could quickly see areas I could have cleaned it up. (Huge thank you to him for doing that.)

If companies are going to start asking us for feedback on their recruiting process, they must be prepared to answer our surveys on how we did on our interviews.

Fair’s fair, right?


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