Ownership, partnership, sensibilities, and leadership.
There are many times in your life where it is crucial to take a step back and evaluate your life. This includes the need to also evaluate your employer.
The cold, hard, truth about reality is that most of us that sell our labor for a living (i.e. meaning we perform some type of 'work' and we get paid for it), we have a job. We do not have a career.
I not only consider myself in having an honest and fulfulling career working with the best damn team on the planet (and at the best employer in the world, my personal opinion of course), I do consider all of my managers, directors, and VPs as some of the best leaders that I've ever had the pleasure of working with. So I suppose I am in the minority.
You do not have to be stuck in the throes of life working a job that you hate. So it is a good idea to stop, take a seat, and truly think about your current situation. Have a look around, consider yourself and your situation, and ask some honest questions about everything. Ask yourself, "Am I satisfied where I am at?", "Can I do better?", or even, "Do I need to do better?".
There is a reason why many employers have self-evaluation as a part of the annual performance review process. It is always a good idea to take a look at one's self because it helps with goal-setting. And having goals is how a person pursues what is meaningful in their lives.
There are very few employers have an employer-evaluation where you, the employee, rate and submit feedback against the employer itself. And then, after they have collected the evaluation survey they actually try to make things better for the employees! Excellent companies know that it is in their best interest to take care of the employees first. Because it is actually management's responsibility to take care of the employees, who will then take care of the customers, which is where profits actually originate. It is very rare to have this understanding in most businesses nowadays.
Nonetheless, you should be evaluating your employer from time to time regardless if the employer offers it or not. So where is a good place to start? Where should you begin evaluating an employer at any level?
For me, it starts at the top. Start with this question...
Who is running the company, who is making the decisions, and what are their values?
This is where you should start with your evaluation. Why? Because it tells you about what the company leadership values above all else.
I think for technology people, this Steve Jobs interview is a great start.
In it, Steve talks about how product people, the ones that really carry the product sensibilities truly carry the heart of the company and should not be removed from decision-making venues.
Go ahead, it is only 2 minutes long. I'll wait...
... I suspect that you just learned a lifetime of business lessons in 2 short minutes. Very powerful stuff indeed.
Now, please undertand that I don't like to reference Steve often because it makes it seem like he was some sort of genius when it was clear he was not, and too many people idolize him. With that being said, and while I am not a fan of Steve Jobs per se, I think this interview is very important because it does highlight several fantastic points about the differences in priorities between product people and sales and marketing people. This interview is one of those times where I thought that Steve was absolutely correct about business and is said in very clear and easy to understand language.
There really is a big problem in big business that needs to go away, and it needs to go away right now. This is the big business theory that is a vestige of the past (really the 1970s, 80s and 90s). It is the theory of corporate governance called "shareholder supremacy" where the shareholder's interests are of primary importance above all else. It is this theory where the idea of firing people to "balance the books" came from. From my own personal work experience, shareholder supremacy is how pure marketing and pure sales executives are trained to operate, and actually do so without understanding the real cost of doing business.
It is my opinion, of course, that once pure marketing and sales people take over the top ranks and push out the customer people, technical people, or product people it is time to freshen up the resume and make plans to move on to other employment opportunities. This is because us honest and highly technical people just don't share the same values and goals as pure sales and marketing people do. There are core competing priorities between the sales people and the product people which in turn is due to the different training and experiences we have (see Steve Jobs interview video attached for better context), hence different goals that don't necessarily line up in most cases.
...once my employer prioritizes earnings above all else this is when I have always made an effort to move on because it is the employees that suffer first.
For example, good technical people care about making the "right" technical decisions and take most (if not all) of the money AND risks involved in the entire decision-making process. Contrasting that, almost all pure marketing and pure sales people are stuck in a "finance-minded" world which, quite incorrectly, heavily leans on both the shareholder supremacy theory and leftover business finance models from the 1980s and 1990s which, again, is where the idea to lay off people to 'balance the books' came from. My apologies for the re-utterance as I feel it is an important concept to understand. My point is this; once my employer prioritizes earnings above all else this is when I have always made an effort to move on because it is the employees that suffer first.
Over time I've come up with my own evaulation formula to determine whether or not I want to work with an employer, or continue working with them, or not.
First off, do I even like my employer's product whatever it may be? Would I spend my own money on it at all or in any capacity? This is the top one for me. Because if I think that my employer's product is trash then why the hell would I bother supporting it. Better yet, why should ANYONE support the product if I think it is useless or isn't worth the time and money? And yes, bad employees can turn a good product into something horrible or not worth the hassle. This question isn't about the cost of the company product(s). It is trying to answer if I even believe in the product(s) at all. Just think about that for a moment...
Do I feel like I am working "for" my employer or am I working "with" my employer? There are many ways that I answer this question for myself. For example:
- Do I feel valued?
- Is the work I am doing actually being received well?
- Am I recognized for the work that me and my team are doing?
- Am I contributing to something bigger than myself?
- Do the people I work with on a daily basis share these values too?
- For the people that I report to, are they my "leaders" or are they my "managers"
- Does my leadership team even understand the basic concepts of the difference between a "leader" and a "manager"? More on this below...
Priorities and Sensibilities
What does the CEO or company president say is their priorities -- and do they actually act it out? What are the goals and are we actually all in agreement and understanding of those goals? Are the goals well understood and communicated? And do I even agree with the goals set by my leaders?... While leaders do have certain responsibilities to shareholders or board members or customers or whatever, a CEO's or company president's actual TOP priority at all times is making sure their people are taken care of and their people are all on the same page with them - where all are marching towards a common goal that is well understood and good for all involved - AND I want to actively participate. This is where trust matters. I might even look at how long top leaders have been in their positions. If there is a constant turnover in top leadership every 6 months to a year then I know there is a serious problem at the business-level and it is a good idea to keep the resume on hand.
Good leaders are those that go to their people and say "Is there anything that you need to do your job? And if so, what can I do to help you get it?" -- and then they actually act on that. This is how you build loyalty and morale in one of the best ways possible. Think about this question.... What do GOOD LEADERS have? -- Followers :) Good leaders have followers. Bad leaders are ones that go to their people and basically say "the beatings will continue until morale improves", and they act out on this. Bad leaders are not leaders at all, they are managers. No one wants to be managed, they want to be lead by a good leader.
Remember in the beginning of this article I started with a question. Let me modify it a little for a very important emphasis I've been trying to make...
Who is running the company, who is making the decisions, what are their values, and do their values and my own values match?
It is my hope that this article helps you in your own life situation.
- Joey D