Never Hire a Vampire

Vampires do not make good employees.

But that doesn’t stop them from landing good jobs. This is probably because we are not very good at identifying them when they first roll into town. They look like everyone else, maybe a little better, and their fangs are not visible most of the time. Vampires make a very good first impression. They are charming, polite, well dressed, and may come with a remarkably long resume. You probably won’t tag them as a vampire at your first meeting.

So you invite them in…

An early sign that you may have hired a Vampire will be your new employee’s inability to see themselves in a mirror. During a moment of reflection they will see everyone in the room except themselves. This makes it difficult for a Vampire to accept responsibility for their role in failed projects or tense relationships. Unable to see themselves, they will assign blame to those they can see, which is everyone else. This blind spot does not result from poor vision, in fact vampires have heightened senses allowing them to see and hear the actions of others with remarkable clarity. Unfortunately any attempt to get them to see themselves is an exercise in futility. Vampires suffer from a complete lack of self-reflection. Nothing is ever their fault.

Of course everyone knows that Vampires have fangs which is why you were confident hiring someone with smooth pearly whites. But it’s not like they use them for draining juice bottles or opening beers. Their fangs only come out when they are attacked or attacking. If you start to suspect that you may have hired a Vampire try applying a little pressure. If you get a good natured humble response then your fears are unfounded. If you did hire a Vampire, you will get to see those fangs.

Worst of all, vampires will suck the life out of you. Behind the charm and the smile is the mind of a hunter seeing only prey. They will take what they need from those around them with no regard for the lives or careers they are slowly draining away. Their only agenda is their own advancement, and they will take what they need to get it. Don’t be fooled by their promise to include you in their success. In the end there are Vampires and there are minions. Unless you are willing to give up your soul, minion will be your only option. And that never ends well for the minion.

Vampires do not make good employees, bosses, partners, or friends. It is tempting to try to help them but a soul is not something that can be forced into a person. We don’t need go on the offensive with vampires. We just need to learn to recognize them earlier than we normally do.

And then it is best to stop inviting them in.

The Most Important Skill in Business

After twenty five years in the business community I have yet to deal with a corporation without dealing with people. It is people who start companies, invest in them, work for them, benefit from them, and get hurt by them if things go wrong. A corporation separate from people is like a body without a soul, just a discarded corpse. Corporations are nothing if not people. So learning to deal with people may be the most important skill any business professional must develop. In business people will be your employees, your customers, your competition, your bankers. Even the IRS is really just a bunch of people. Scary people, but people.

Once, while trying to help a young lady caught in a very bureaucratic organization, I found myself being blocked by the same policy at every turn. I understood the policy and I understood that it applied, but I refused to belief that its current application was in line with its original intent. So I asked one of the managers if they were happy about the direction the situation was going. She quickly expressed her regret about the current state of the case before lamenting that her hands were tied. After all, she had to follow policy. I agreed that it was a good policy, put in place for a good reason, then I asked her if she believed that the person who wrote the policy intended for it to be the cause of a situation like this. I said, “We’re not machines. We are two people who both see something bad happening. We can work together to change that.” Fifteen minutes later I received a phone call from her boss saying they had reversed their decision and would decide in favor of my young friend. Sometimes corporations just need to be reminded that they are people.

At Credo we engage in training called, “Understanding People.” We explore the strengths, weaknesses, fears, and communication styles, of each personality type. It helps leaders better understand and develop their team members. It helps sales and customer service people identify what sort of customer they are dealing with so they can more effectively serve them.  And it helps managers identify their personal blind spots so they can augment their weaknesses by hiring or outsourcing. Every company needs to spend time remembering that business is just a bunch of people.

Whatever business you are in, people will be an unavoidable constant. The better you understand them, the better you can lead, cooperate with, or sell to them.

 

 

4 Things Zombies Can Teach Us About Business

Zombies have always baffled me. How can anything that limited be so successful? And let’s face it, they are successful. They go viral in days and eat up market share at a rate that shames Apple. So I took a closer look at what they do and realized that, despite their awkward gait, success is not something they have stumbled upon. Like all successful organizations, there are some key things they are doing right.

First, they feed off the brains of others. Specifically, they find people who are more alive than they are and they go straight for their core processor. They do not mimic based on what they see from the outside, or think they can accomplish their goals with the brain matter they had when they started. They are constantly looking for new brains on which they can feed. Never content with their current supply, they  seek out those with better brains and do all they can to consume what they know, or to get them to join their team.

Zombies are also heavily invested in reproducing after their own kind. I’ve never seen a lone-wolf zombie who believed he could conquer humanity on his own. Almost as soon as they emerge, they create more of themselves. New zombies are just as capable as old zombies. You’d think it would be difficult for those first zombies to be confident that the new zombies will make the right decisions or handle things the way the old guard did. Not so. Once assimilated, new zombies are given the freedom to approach matters using their own strengths and unique perspectives.  While they follow the same basic strategy, they are allowed to learn and grow in their own way.

With so many people to hunt down and eat it can’t be easy for zombies to find the time to stop and make more zombies. After all, each new zombie was a potential meal. But for zombies to be effective they must occasionally sacrifice time and resources to ensure they will have the strength to meet their goals. They must continue to multiply their effectiveness by creating more zombies capable of handling things with little or no supervision. Recruiting and training always requires a sacrifice of time and resources, but strength comes from multiplying, not just consuming.

Another thing a successful zombie understands is the importance of keeping his brain intact. In this way we are not that different from zombies. If we are determined, we can function with all kinds of injuries, limitations, and set backs. But if our organization loses the ability to think and create, we drop like…well like a zombie who has been shot in the head. We must make every effort to hold onto the people who have proven their ability to innovate, streamline, improve operations, and reach new markets. These people are not expendable. They are the brains we must protect if we are to continue. Too much stress for not enough pay is not a zombie strategy. Effective zombies keep their brains healthy and safe.

Finally, zombies refuse to die. By all objective standards, zombies shouldn’t move at all. But they don’t see it that way. As long as there are brains to eat, there will be zombies pursuing them. Despite failure, pain, or loss of key limbs, as long as that brain bucket is intact, they just keep coming. This takes true grit. A determination that hard, even really hard, is acceptable. It is expected that our journey into the marketplace will not go unopposed.  We will be resisted by customers who do not yet trust us, competitors who would like to take the best part of our brains for themselves, and conditions that do not always favor our careful plans, but we must keep moving forward. Progress may be slower than we would like, but stopping? The only difference between a zombie and a corpse is that zombies move. Don’t ever think that the line between companies that thrive, and those that fail is any different. Did you take a shot to the heart? Shake it off and keep moving forward. That would never stop a zombie.

Zombies encourage me because, like me, they are not geniuses, and they are not effective on their own. But their hunger for learning, coupled with a commitment to recruit, train, protect their strengths, and an unparalleled level of true grit, makes them a force to be reckoned with. That’s a strategy any one of us can adopt if we can just remember, tough as things may seem, we are not dead as long as we are still moving.