Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Career

I’m Joining UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare Logo

Our mission is to help people live healthier lives and to help make the health system work better for everyone.

That’s a mission statement designed to inspire and motivate. That’s what it did to me. I’m overjoyed to announce that I’ve joined UnitedHealthcare as Vice President, External Communications. In this new role, I’ll be leading Content and Social Media, our Regional Communications across the country and our External Corporate Communications. Additionally, I’ll be playing a role in our Corporate Social Responsability initiatives and of course, doing my part, every day, to help make the health sysetm work better for everyone.

I wrote to my world class Walgreens team, upon announcing my departure, “Be open to change. Consistency, while comfortable, will stop your growth. In fact, seek change. If you don’t drive the change you want, you are destined to be run over by change that’s less than desirable.” It’s a sentiment I’ve always believed. That mindset was instilled early on in my career by Pat Fallon. Pat was the pure definition of someone in perpetual motion. He boldly took Fallon into the future, before the future even knew what the future was. I learned a lot working for the agency the bore his name on the door. A willingness to seek, embrace and create change, was at the top of the list.

Minnesota Paddle State Fair Tee

Joining UnitedHealthcare brings about an enormous amount of change for me and the family. For starters, we’re leaving Illinois and moving to Minnesota. For our friends, yes, I know we just sold our condo in the West Loop, only to a buy a house in Evanston (that we loved) and yes, that means we’re selling the house in Evanston to buy a house in Minnesota. We Kmiec’s don’t make it easy. Try as I might to leave Minnesota, it continues to beckon me back. I’ll always be, just a kid from Brooklyn, but Minnesota has felt more and more like home, over the years.

Second, I’m leaving retail and CPG. For 15 of the 20 years I’ve been working, I’ve always been in the thick of retail and CPG. While joining UnitedHealthcare takes me out of that business, it keeps me very much in the middle of health care. There are few industries at the forefront of innovation that connect, touch and impact so many lives. UniteHealthcare, isn’t just in the middle of health care, they’re at the front, leading and embracing change.

The last big change, is my role. For the first time in the last 12 years I won’t be building or leading a digital marketing organization. This was actually one of the biggest draws of UnitedHealthcare. It’s rare that you get to reinvent your career, on your own terms, in a leadership capacity. To join a leading company like UnitedHealthcare, in a leadership role, working for an incredible leader, was an opporunity impossible to pass. If there’s one thing the Walgreen’s Leadership Model prepared me to do, it’s lead teams, where you aren’t the subject matter expert.

The team I’m joining is about as top notch as it gets. My peers are people I admire and respect for their accomplishments, thought-leadership and candor. The leaders across UnitedHealth Group, UnitedHealthcare and Optum come from ad-tech, retail, telecom and other fast-paced, dynamic and exciting verticals. Additionally, I’ve inherited a fantastic team. They’re bright, patient, collaborative and eager to deliver on our mission.

I’m humbled by the trust the organization has put in me and I look to pay it back for years to come.

The Comparison Conundrum

We’re all guilty of falling into the trap that is, comparison. When we’re at the gym, we look left, we look right and we then evaluate how we’re stacking up. If you’ve ever been running, especially in a race, we size of the competition, so to speak and make a snap judgement about whether we should be faster or slower than someone. There’s of course the old, “grass isn’t always greener” concept, where we look at our neighbor’s lawn, house, car, etc.

Apple vs. Organge

This passage from a study, published in Neuron, really nails it:

We found that although people estimated their abilities on the basis of their own performance in a rational manner, their estimates of themselves were partly merged with the performance of others,” says first author Marco Wittmann, a doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Oxford. “The findings potentially have implications for social interactions in the workplace as well as clinical disorders such as depression.

In essence, we’re wired to constantly evaluate ourselves, not against our own goals, but against what we perceive someone else to be achieving. Perception is a funny thing. It can drive you mad. I know, because, I’ve definitely been there.

On the one hand, comparisons are helpful, because they provide context and a way to understand how something is performing relative to a norm or average. When used correctly, comparisons are incredible helpful. When I say “correctly”, what I mean is that when the variables are known, the evaluative criteria established and a norm to work off of, you have a perfect combination of elements needed to make a comparison useful. For example, is my 7 year old son, underweight or not growing fast enough? Can my 9 year old daughter read at a 4th grade level? A 5th grade level? Or is she reading below her grade level? In both of those scenarios, you have known variables (weight, height), you have a norm (avg weight/height for a given gender, at a given age) and you have defined evaluative criteria (that height or weight relative to the norm).

In those types of scenarios, comparisons are helpful, useful and logical. But, where comparisons start to fall apart is when you begin evaluating situations that are not as mathematical and structured as the height and weight situations. In particular, as someone who’s worked for other people for ~20 years and managed people for more than 10, there are 2 workplace scenarios that come up, routinely, that create great stress, because the comparisons aren’t structured.

  1. Promotions: Why wasn’t I promoted, but so and so was? Good question. I’ve asked it before. I don’t ask it anymore. I stopped 10 years ago. Why? Because, trying to compare yourself to someone else, even if you’re in the same role, is a fool’s errand. There are so many variables to consider. Everything from soft skills, like “executive presence” to experience and tenure to active career planning conversations. Additionally, if what you’re looking for is a promotion, comparing yourself to the job description for the role you want is far more structured, logical and productive. Lastly, I once found myself in a situation, early on in my career, when a peer of mine had been promoted. An email was sent out. I was irked. I scheduled time with my manager and basically explained how unfair it was and how was more qualified than the other person. She let me go on for about 15 minutes. And, finally, she said, “You are being promoted. Well, you were. It was taking longer than anticipated, because we also wanted to give you a bonus, on top of your increase. But, candidly, this outburst, gives me hesitation.” I did get the promotion and I learned a valuable lesson. #1, don’t compare yourself to other. #2, there may be other things at work, that you’re not aware of. Be careful not to put your foot in your mouth.
  2. Compensation: I should be making more money. The market rate for my role is $X and so and so makes $Y. Fair compensation is important in an organization. In an ideal world, a great organization, continually evaluates existing compensation, market rates, employee potential and then continually looks to invest fairly into their employees. “Fairly”, you’re asking; yes, “fairly.” Let me explain. Let’s say you have 3 employees, with the same title, experience and role. Person A, has been with the company for 5 years and joined in the same role they’re in, today. Person B, was hired 3 years ago, but from another internal team. Person C, was hired this year. It is conceivable and likely, given how they came into the roles, that their pay would be different. As I wrote in 2014, if you changed jobs every year, you’d be guaranteed to be evaluated against the current market rate. Said another way, your max base compensation potential, is always gained when/if you switch jobs every single year. That’s just one problem with evaluating comp. You have other variables like performance level. Is person A, statistically a better performing person than person B? If so, wouldn’t their increases each year be higher? Or, would you pay equalize the increases so that a high performer is compensated the same as good or poor performer? It’s not black and white.

I have found, over the years, the single distinguishing characteristic, between good and great employees, is an appreciation for context. For example, asking for a promotion, 3 months after you’ve been promoted, is unrealistic. Demanding a raise of Y%, when the company just had layoffs and reported poor financial results, is tone deaf. Context is critical. Context is understanding the nuances. Having an appreciation for context, makes you a better, more well-informed employee. With context, you can make smart comparisons.

Just because you can make a clear, structured, factual and logical comparison, doesn’t mean you’ll get what you want. The world is filled with scenarios where value is in the eye of the beholder. The Miami Heat didn’t value Dwyane Wade the same as the Chicago Bulls. As such, Wade left the Heat and joined Chicago. Why? Context. The Heat wanted to get younger. The Bulls wanted to win now. It’s that simple.

Lastly, I’ll answer the age old maxim of “that’s like comparing apples and oranges.” Yes, you can, in fact, compare apples and oranges, if the variables are known, the evaluative criteria established and there’s a norm to work off. If the question is which fruit is a better source of Vitamin C, this is an easy comparison. If the question is, which fruit is better, you have a difficult comparison, full of subjectivity.


The Digital Fitness Journey – 1 Year Later

A year ago today, I joined the Campbell Soup Co. Wow, that went fast. Yesterday, the company released its 3rd quarter earning’s information. Look at the growth in the last year. Up $14+. That’s a product of the clear strategic focus the organization has and the exceptional talent delivering against that focus, every single day.

Frankly, I’m just lucky and often humbled to be a small part of it.

Campbell Soup Co. Stock Performance

When I was interviewing for the role I remember thinking, this company is going someplace…fast. You could feel it in the building. You heard it in the voices of the leadership. You read it in the headlines. Campbell was on a mission to be a meaningful part of the lives of today’s consumers and the next generation of consumers. The stock performance over the last year is just 1 validation of what my gut was saying a year ago.

Simply put, there was no way I was going to pass up on being part of the team looking to drive the change needed to reach our potential.

What I try to do every single day is live up to what we said in the press release, announcing my joining:

Our opportunity to engage consumers in new and innovative ways is limitless. I’m eager to work with the team and to leverage my experience to help grow the business and make Campbell one of the most digitally fit organizations in the world.

I feel good about where we’re at as the the first year closes.

We’ve upped our spend in digital. We also upped our expectations. You can’t have one, without the other.

We put together a world class team, spanning mobile, shopper marketing, social, insights and more.

We picked up the pace. I often say, speed wins, and we’re living up to that mantra.

We took calibrated risks that reflect courage and it lead to groundbreaking partnerships with Twitter, Catalina and the developer community.

We connected our consumers with our customers and did so in a meaningful way.

We formed a fantastic working relationship with our legal team; we even have a few of them on twitter, Vine and Instagram! I’m serious.

We pushed our partners to push us and it’s yielding great results.

We’ve also benefited mightily from serious cross-organizational support. I often remark, I’ve never been part of an organization that believes in the value of digital, as much as Campbell. I say it, because it’s true. It’s a luxury. Not every organization has it.

It’s that support, combined with a very clear direction, strategy and philosophy that’s enabled us to get so far, so fast. I marvel everyday at our progress.

To be fair, we don’t have it all solved. Often we find ourselves in very unchartered waters, not just for us, but for the category. When that happens, I’m appreciative of the trust the teams have in one another and the resolve we have to make our good, better and our better, best.

The future looks bright. We have the right leadership, organizational support and team to continue driving us toward being the most digitally fit CPG in the world.

As we look toward year 2, there’s 4 key things I’m asking of myself and our team:

  1. Keep improving the quality of our digital marketing: Our experiences must be meaningful and full of purpose. We’re going to deliver on the seemingly impossible ask of moving quickly and delivering high quality experiences. I think we deliver great experiences today. But, to be a leader, each and every touch point must be flawless.
  2. Put more wood, behind less arrows: We learned a lot in year 1. We’re going to apply those learnings to make sure we invest against the right ideas, platforms, concepts and formats to deliver scale and impact.
  3. Broaden efforts in mobility: We don’t believe the battle ground, long term, is the cell phone or tablet. It’s all screens…all the time. Mobile is confined to a screen or a device. Mobility focuses on access. It’s about making sure you can get the content you want, when you want, independent of the device. We’re already seeing the benefits of this approach with our participation in Target’s new Cartwheel platform. Mobility connects us with our consumers and our customers. That’s the right space to focus on.
  4. Make measurement more meaningful: As an industry we’re data rich and insight poor. It’s easy to say “big data” is the future. It’s harder to make big data work hard for an organization. We’re going to change that.

I can’t wait to see what year 2 brings. It’s going to be tough to top year 1, but that’s part of the fun. The bar keeps getting higher, as do the expectations. Looking very forward to the next 365 days.

The Next Chapter

I’m excited to announce that I will be joining The Campbell Soup Co. as the Global Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media. In this newly created role, I’ll be working alongside some of the smartest minds in the CPG space to transform Campbell into one of the most digitally fit organizations in the world.

Campbell is based in Camden, NJ, just outside of Philadelphia, which means, yes, the kid who was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey is coming back home to the East Coast. Bring on the pizza, bagels and soft pretzels!

Change is constant. Some people loathe change. I love it. Change brings about new opportunity. Change also offers reason to reflect. As I look forward to all that we can accomplish at Campbell’s, I’d be remiss if didn’t say…

Leaving Walgreens was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I can’t say enough about the leadership and the culture. Both, were key reasons why I joined the company and both are reasons we were able to create an award winning, best in class Social Media organization. If there’s one company that understands the value of social it’s Walgreens. I often say, social is a horizontal proposition, not a vertical fiefdom. Easy to say, much harder to do. Walgreens embraced that concept and afforded me the opportunity to lead our path toward realizing this end state. My only regret is that I won’t be there to see some amazing initiatives launch in the next few months. If you’re serious about social. If you want to “change the world” as one of team members often shares as his goal, Walgreens is where you should be looking. I wish my team, my colleagues and the organization all the best. Thank you for believing in me.

I plan to bring the same fire, passion, and commitment to innovation to Campbell that’s always fueled the successes of the past. As many of you know, being first has always been one of my key strategic pillars. Expect that to continue. Don’t look away, we’ll be planting several flags across the globe, at Campbell’s!

The Moments Between The Moments

It’s easy to get focused on the big milestones. They’re big. Your first job. First love. Your wedding. The day your kid is born. First house. That “big” project. We get focused on the big ones. I think in my past, I’ve focused too much on those big moments. By past, I mean the whole past…professional and personal. I wonder if sometimes, had I been focused on the moments between the moments, would I be in a different place.

Coin Flipping Advice

Over the past few years, I’ve tried, with varying degrees of success to pay better attention to everything around me so that I don’t miss out on recognizing a significant moment. It’s not about the proverbial smelling of the roses. No, this is about more than that. This is about realizing there are moments in between the moments and to ignore those moments so that we can chase the major milestones, is to miss out on life. It also happens to be a maddening way to live…milestone to milestone.

What happens if you don’t reach the one milestone that you’ve been striving for?  We’ve all been there at some point; it’s quite a deflating experience.  You somehow feel less successful, less happy, less fulfilled, less accomplished…it’s a tough pill to swallow.  That laser focus on that next big milestone can be a heavy burden.  But, we take on that burden because of the rush that comes from reaching and achieving that milestone. That rush is addictive.

I’ve learned a lot these past few years. And one of those lessons is to focus on the moments between the moments. It’s not the kiss, it’s the way she tilts her head as she looks at you on a cold winter night, under a street lamp while the snow just begins to fall. It’s not the award show, it’s the whiteboard session where you and your team have that seminal a-ha moment where the idea is first conceived. It’s not those precious first steps, it’s the stumbles and bumbles of watching someone grow from crawl to walk.

Those are the moments between the moments and frankly, without them, you wouldn’t have those big moments to focus on.


Planting Flags

I like planting flags. I like scaling mountains that have never been climbed. I like doing things faster than anyone else. There’s a joy in getting to the finish line, breaking records and doing this that have never been done before. It can be tough sometimes to find new challenges. When that happens, I create my own obstacles to overcome…just for the hell of it. Lately though I feel like I’ve hit a wall. It’s not that I can’t find new challenges, new walls to overcome or places to plant flags. No, it’s something much more simple. I’m damn tired.

They say if you want to travel fast, go alone, but if you want to travel far, go with others. Well lately I feel like I’ve been traveling really fast, really far and with a large group. Trust me, it’s taxing. Maybe instead of tracking down every possible place I could plant a flag, I need to be more selective.

Where do you find your motivation and how do you choose where to plant your flags?

Advice I’ve Collected Throughout My Career

In the 13 years I’ve been working in the marketing, advertising, and interactive I’ve had 16 direct managers.  By name they were Chris, Laura, Jonathan, Paul, Chris, Doug, Tom, Jeff, Willie, Michael, Jonathan, Kevin, Patty, David, Christine, and Michele.  Some were good.  Some were horrible.  All of them taught me something.  Over the years, I’ve kept a running list of the most valuable words of wisdom.  They’ve guided me on some level to become the person I am today.  Here’s the best of the best:

  • We’re selling hope here, not details.
  • Be mindful of what you have.
  • The last thing on my list is paying the bills.
  • The line at the door for my business is long.
  • Manage effectively and add value.
  • Please and thank you go a long way.
  • Manage the time you get with your boss aggressively; make it your time.
  • Never talk in hypotheticals.
  • Make legal and IT your friends.
  • Legal doesn’t make decisions; they provide counsel.
  • There is no substitute for face time.
  • Always have an agenda for your meeting. If you don’t, don’t schedule it.
  • Say it, sell it, and pray it can happen.
  • Your credit card is not a substitute for a real relationship with your client.
  • Never work on a brand that you can’t support and won’t buy.
  • Always fly in the day before a presentation.
  • Don’t present it as an option if you can’t live with it, if it were picked.
  • Knowledge doesn’t come from books, it comes from experience.
  • Take ownership of your career, don’t expect someone else to do it for you.
  • Hire slowly, fire quickly.
  • Put people in a position to succeed, but playing to their strengths.
  • Never let the job description define you.
  • Understand the situation, before you accept it.
  • Never use light gray font on a white background in PowerPoint.
  • If you want to be a leader…LEAD.
  • Take calculated chances.

I’d like to take this opportunity to share 3 of my own:

  1. Never be afraid to test and try.
  2. Admit when you’re wrong and learn from your mistake
  3. Never send an email out of frustration.  You can write it, just don’t send it.

I hope that you’ve gotten something out of this post.  I’d love for you to share any wisdom and advice you’ve received.

The Job Happiness Curve

I’ve been working in the Marketing and Advertising community for roughly 12 years.  That pretty much makes me ancient.  During my career I’ve seen a reoccurring pattern take place when it comes to employee satisfaction and average tenure.  Many people will have you believe that the main reason advertising aagency tenure is so short is because CMO (the people controlling marketing budgets) tenures are so short.  To some degree I believe that’s true.  However, I think that’s only part of the equation.

There’s a whole other part, that while I can’t 100% figure out, I do believe I can represent on some level visually.  The following is a simple and somewhat tongue in cheek representation of what I’ve seen employees go through between day 1 and their 3rd anniversary.

Specifically here’s what I’ve observed and in some cases directly experienced:

  • Day 1: You’re happy. You’ve started a new job.  You’re full of optimism and ready to completely move past your previous job.  Day 1, is kinda like the last piece of closure you need to finally move on from the last job.
  • 30 Day Honeymoon: This is the high point.  It never gets better than the 1 month anniversary.  You’ve moved in, the workload is manageable, you’re meeting new people, and you’re making progress.  People are giving you slaps on the back and recognizing your contributions.
  • Day 100 – Wow I Got A Lot Done: You’re 3 months into the job and you get a chance to look back.  On some level you are amazed at your accomplishments.  You’ve started a new job, fit right in, and been empowered to keep doing what you’re doing…because obviously it’s working.  The workload is starting to pile up though.
  • Day 180 – 1st Wrist Slap: Remember when I said you were being empowered to keep doing what you’re doing?  Well, here’s the thing, you went too far.  In your eyes you didn’t go too far; heck you didn’t even realize you were crossing a boundary.  But, apparently you did.  Often it’s something small.  I’ve seen things like someone sending the right email to the wrong person or speaking out loud negatively (even though you were dead on) at the wrong time.  Either way, you’re going to get a wrist slap.  It won’t be the last one.
  • Day 270 – Hit The Wall: You’re coming up on a year.  There’s been good times and bad times.  You’re still reeling from the wrist slap.  It’s made you a little gun shy.  You start hesitating on doing things, because you wonder about the repercussions.  Don’t worry, you’ll rebound…after all you’re review is right around the corner.
  • Day 365 – Annual Review: Congratulations, you’ve been there a year.  If there was a scale of 1 – 5, you’ll probably get a 3.5.  You’re a valued member of the team, but you have room to grow.  The mistakes you’ve made have cost you, but people believe you have a strong future with the company.  So with that in mind, here’s your 3.5% raise.
  • 14 Months – Underpaid? Undervalued?: You’ve had some time to reflect on year 1 and your review.  That 3.5% raise and just above average performance rating is starting to eat at you…especially when you’ve heard about the 10% raise “John” got.  But, you’re competitive and you really like the place.  You’ve found comfort and place is starting to feel like a home.  So despite these questions, you’re optimistic about year 2.
  • 18 Months – Credibility: This might happen earlier, but in my experience CREDIBILITY takes a long time to create.  After being at the company 18 months you finally have it.  People trust what you say and your intentions.  You’re getting invited to more meetings and even being requested for specific projects.
  • 2 Years – Headhunter Calls: You’ll get a serious call from a headhunter who wants to talk to you about this amazing position.  You’ll probably interview for this position, but you won’t get it.  This is a double whammy because not only do you realize the open market is willing to pay you X percent more than you currently make, you also didn’t get the job.  If you will, you now know your worth, but it probably doesn’t line up with what you’re making or the title you have.
  • 2 Years – 2nd Review: This is the big one.  If this review goes great, the curve can change dramatically.  If it goes so-so or fails to meet your expectations (it will because your expectations are what the open market said you are worth) you’re going to start looking for a job.
  • Stay Or Go: Following your 2nd review and before the 2.5 year mark you’ll need to make a decision.  Stay or go.  Unfortunately, the data would indicate you’ll go.  Bummer.  Don’t worry though, you get to ride the curve all over again!

Before we go on, I want to be clear about a few things:

  1. The situation outlined above is based on my observations and isn’t scientific.
  2. You won’t always follow this path.
  3. I really do believe that all-start caliber people, tribe leaders, will always be recognized, but not necessarily rewarded.
  4. It’s not all about money.
  5. Some situations can never be fixed.
  6. Many situations can be fixed.
  7. I believe you as the employee are in control of your personal brand.  The way people see you is in your hands.

The best thing a company can do to retain solid employees is to set expectations. If the employee knows what they’re getting into and knows what to expect you’ll find that the curve is more like a straight line. For example, instead of waiting till the end of the year to provide feedback, their should be constant communication throughout the year. There should never be a massive gap in expectations during a review. A good manager makes sure of this.

The curve isn’t perfect. Like I said, I can’t 100% figure out why tenure at agencies is so short. There are so many factors and I’ve love to hear your thoughts.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

The question, “what do you want to be when you grow up” has been asked of children for decades. Often that question is met with responses including baseball players, astronauts, fire fighters, teachers, and writers. It seems we ask children this question and not adults, because when you’re a child anything is possible. There’s no sense of practicality involved when giving the answer. You want to be a horse when you grow up? Ok, go for it kiddo!

For as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a lawyer. That dream died the day Georgetown told me, we’d love to have you attend, but we’re unable to offer you a scholarship…so if you’re willing to spend roughly $35,000 a year welcome aboard.

The day I received that information, was the only day I ever thought about playing the “race” card and seeking admittance because of the color of my skin and not the content of my character. The admissions counselor even recommended I take that approach. I remember with great distinction being told, if you just indicate your hispanic heritage, you’re almost guaranteed to receive a lot of cash. No thanks. I’ll pass on the hand out.

My friends said, just pick a different school, you can still be a lawyer. But, to me if I couldn’t attend Georgetown, I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I look back on that experience with a slight disbelief. It was so very easy for me to give up my dream of being lawyer. Why? Maybe I never really wanted to be a lawyer. Perhaps being a lawyer was just one of those things that sounds good when you’re 12. More likely, this was just another case of me being obstinate. If I couldn’t have my dream my way and on my terms, I didn’t want it at all. Simply put, it was easier to change what I wanted than it was to change me.

So I decided that the next closest thing to being a lawyer was to be in marketing and advertising. As a lawyer we’re trying to convince someone to buy into our POV. That someone could the judge, the jury, the client, or even another lawyer. We do the same thing in the marketing and advertising world. The industries are quite similar. Both bill by the hour. Both offer a retainer based model. Both site history and examples as a persuasion mechanism. Both are judged on wins. Both are highly competitive industries. Both require you to change firms often in order to be promoted and recognized. Granted, the marketing and advertising world does let us maintain a much cooler wardrobe.

This industry has been good to me. I’ve learned from some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I’ve been challenged consistently. I’ve seen things and worked on accounts that people would drool over; no seriously, they’ve told me. Yet, despite all of that, I’m not satisfied. If anything I’m fidgety. I’m the guy in fantasy baseball that’s always looking to make a trade…the guy that’s never quite comfortable with his team.

As I consider the hopes and dreams I have for my children, it’s made me pause and reflect on my own body of work and where I want to go. I’ve been pondering the question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” The funny thing I’m realizing is that despite being in this industry for 12 years, I still haven’t figured out the answer.

I’ve always had a plan. So far I’ve stuck to the script and things have worked out as intended. But, hell, that script was written nearly 20 years ago on a typewriter. There has to be a reason we “work.” That reason can’t just be, “to pay the rent.” What I want is meaning. I want to know that what I do matters. I want to know that every day I wake up I’m on a mission to make something count. I’m too young to be realizing my own mortality. So why the hell I’ve been asking myself “what I want to be when I grow up” makes no sense.

Perhaps more importantly, why I still haven’t come up with an answer makes even less sense. Maybe I’ll just become a lawyer; I wonder if Georgetown would take me?

Are You On My Kickball Team?

Everybody has a role to play at the company.  Some are leaders.  Some are followers.  Some are figureheads.  Some are worker bees.  Yes, we all have a role to play.  We value some positions and roles more than others.  Comparing someone from the Accounting department with someone from the Creative department isn’t really fair, nor does it make sense.

I generally believe that people are either really good for performance or they’re really good for culture.  Having the right mix of high culture and high performance people on the team really drives success.  While we’d love to for every person to be a high culture and high performance team member, that’s just not realistic.

If you were to rank the people at your company in order from best to worse for performance and then separately for culture, I don’t think you’d be surprised at the results.  We know who the high performance AND high culture people are.  They’re a rare breed.  Those people are the ones a company really needs to embrace, protect, and enable to succeed.  That doesn’t always happen.

Did you ever play kickball in grade school?  I did.  We would pick two captains, one for each team, and those captains would then draft a team.  The captains rarely drafted a team of type-A, alpha dog, super athletes.  Often they’d opt for an interesting mix of friends, super athletes, funny people, serious players, and the list goes on and on.

I often find myself looking at people I work with and asking myself, would I want them on my kickball team?  Are they kick ass?  Are they fun to be around?  Will they help me win?  A kickball team has 10 players, including the captain.  If you force yourself to always keep a list of 9 people in mind that you’d want on your team, it’ll help you figure out where to invest your time.  The people on the kickball team will help you succeed.  They’ll team you things.  They’ll keep you loose.  But, they’ll also look to you for leadership and mentorship.  You can’t mentor everyone.  It’s too hard.  The kickball team approach let’s you focus your efforts where they’ll do the most good.

Good luck and choose well.