Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Tips To Have a Successful Job Interview

The interview process nearly always includes a sit down with human resources as well as your potential future boss and colleagues. The folks in HR don’t know the most about the day-to-day requirements of the position being filled and they’re unlikely to have to deal with whoever gets the gig on a daily basis, so what exactly are they looking for and how do they determine whether you’ve made the cut? Here are some few tips that work anywhere in the world:
Never badmouth anything or anyone. This applies to your former employer, coworkers, or Osama bin Laden. We’re trying to screen out whiners and troublemakers. I don’t care if your last supervisor was a tyrant. Be kind and magnanimous about everything and everyone.
Make sure your appearance is in order. Fair or not, you are judged based you based on how you look. Check your fly and make sure your eyebrows are smooth.
Don’t smoke on the day of the interview. We can smell it. We don’t like it. There is an unconscious bias against smokers, and let’s face it, you have a reputation for being lazy. Smokers are more expensive to insure, too. Why would we want you on the payroll? Help me help you. Don’t smoke.
Don’t be too aggressive and tell us how awesome you are. You’re here, aren’t you? A little humility, and some self-deprecating comments, will go along way with HR professionals. Trust me.
Don’t tell us your life story. We hate it when you confuse HR with your mother, your therapist, or your best friend.
Don’t expect us to have a timeline for the interview process. We have no idea how long it will take to fill the position. Ideally, we want to fill the opening tomorrow so we can get back to online shopping. Realistically, it will probably take a few months.
Be prepared to talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t ever tell us that you struggle to delegate. You care too much. You take on too much responsibility. An interview is a conversation, not a bad eHarmony profile. Show some self-awareness.
When you take us through your resume, don’t gloss over the mistakes. We like it when you stop and tell us about an experience that taught you something. It shows character. Address your flaws outright and tell us how you learned something.
Compliment us. Seriously. We are human beings, too. Scan our offices and look for awards, photos, or something noteworthy. Make a connection. This is what salespeople do, and it works. We will remember your praise.
Make it easy for us to hire you. When you give us examples during the interview process, frame those examples in a way that relates to the job description, the issues in the industry, or the company’s mission. Be relevant and you will be remembered.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Don't Make the Tail Wage The Dog

When animals misbehave, most owners blame the animal. Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Animal training is really about training the owners, not the animals. Seriously. Ever see a really good trainer meet with an unruly dog for the first time? She can take command and get the dog to do whatever she wants almost instantly.

Sure, breeding is a factor, but aside from that, a well-trained owner can get a dog to do its bidding, just as a dog can manipulate and have its way with an untrained owner who doesn’t “get it.”

Well, get this: management is no different. Employee problems are almost always management problems. In fact, most organizational, business, product, even technology problems are actually management problems. That means that, not only is it up to management to solve them, but in most cases, management caused them to begin with.
Here’s a great example about a company that had what it thought was a unique problem.

It had developed a proprietary technology that had great performance, but was expensive and difficult to implement. As a result, customers largely opted for an alternative technology that was cheaper, easier to use, and offered by a number of competitors.

Well, the division that offered this proprietary technology developed a “bunker” mentality, meaning the pervasive view of its management and employees was that the alternative technology, as well as the customers that chose it, were “the enemy.” Morale in this division was terrible.

Surprisingly, the company had the ability to offer the alternative technology, but because it was viewed as “the enemy,” that was out of the question.

Instead, the company chose to develop new proprietary technology that was cheaper and easier to use. But, in order to keep the bad morale of the “bunker” division and the negative customer perception of its technology out of the picture, the company used a separate division to develop and market the new technology.

To the company’s leadership, this made sense at the time. But in reality, the configuration was dysfunctional and perpetuated bad morale and negative customer perception. In a sense, the company’s leadership allowed the bunker mentality to dictate how it organized and went to market.

The solution was to merge everything into one business division that offered three alternative solutions to customers: the “bunker” technology, the “alternative” technology, and the “new” technology. The company marketed this as a one-stop-shop where customers could choose what they wanted. In time, the bunker mentality, bad morale, and negative customer perception vanished.

Anyone who owns or trains dogs will immediately see the parallel. The bunker division was like a dog acting out because it felt threatened when its owners introduced a new dog and perhaps gave it more attention and food. But the same dogs can live happily in exactly the same environment if they’re not pitted against each other and don’t view their owner’s affections and food, for that matter, as a zero-sum game.

The same parallels exist in parenting, as well.

The point is that most problems within companies are actually management problems. But, like poorly trained dog owners, managers blame the dog. Unfortunately, the dog can’t solve the problem and, ironically, didn’t even cause the problem to begin with.

The message for managers at every level is simple: take responsibility for problems and get trained to solve them. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up with the tail wagging the dog.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A "Knock-Off" Approach to Successful Management

If there’s one big workplace lie that any new manager should wise up to fast, it’s “There are no office politics here.” Higher-ups may do their best to discourage gossip and to foster a schmooze-free meritocracy, but let’s be honest: There’s no workplace on the planet where fostering good relationships isn’t key to getting things done.

And now that you’ve become a boss, it’s even more important that you “get” the political environment of your office and learn how to work effectively with higher-ups, peers, and direct reports. Here are five lessons to master in your first 90 days.
Things you will need:Take these steps within your first 90 days. The sooner you establish your authority with your team and prove your competence to your boss, the easier your job will be.
Boundaries: If you’re managing former peers, now’s the time to put up some walls and keep the socializing to a minimum.
Support from your new team: Set aside time during your first week to meet with all of your direct reports individually and ask for their advice on their current projects. You won’t build trust overnight, but this will help.
Self-awareness: It’s your first management job. You’re not going to know everything. Your best move is to know what you don’t know and learn fast.
My BNETTwitterdel.icio.usGoogleStumbleUponNewsvineFacebookLinkedInDiggMy YahooTechnoratiRedditPrintRecommend56 .Understand How Your Role Has Changed
No matter how close your friendships with your officemates have been, it’s time to put up some walls. “If I were managing a colleague I once hung out with, I’d stop doing it,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of Six Figure Start, a career coaching and consulting firm in New York City. Harsh as this may seem, if you don’t establish professional boundaries, you won’t have the objectivity to supervise effectively.

Patrice Williams, 39, a management consultant from Vallejo, Calif. learned this the hard way. In her twenties, she moved up to team supervisor at IBM, where she found herself managing a salesperson with whom she socialized on weekends. Soon after, her pal began coming to work late, skipping meetings, and neglecting clients, dragging down her sales in the process. Williams soon realized she needed to fire her friend, but she just couldn’t. Ultimately, her boss had to step in. “I lost points,” explains Williams, who says it was hard for her to recover professionally. From that point on, she changed her relationship with direct reports — “I’m personable, but not personal” — and learned to talk to them immediately about performance problems.

A few tips on how to head off awkwardness with former peers:

From the outset, tell everyone on your team how you will evaluate performance. If anyone in the group slacks off or breaks the rules, it will be easier to raise the issue in an objective way. “If it is very clear what you are measuring, you can say, ‘This job requires x, y, and z. I’m not seeing z,’” says Ceniza-Levine.
Confront poor performance head on. If someone — friend or not — is failing, act decisively, says employment attorney Chad Shultz, a partner in the Atlanta office of Ford & Harrison and author of “Manage Your Employees or Get Out of the Way: Ten Rules for Preventing Lawsuits.” Give formal warnings, recommend how to remedy the problem, and keep a written record of your conversations. If the situation reaches a point where you have to let him go, you don’t want him to be surprised.

Voice of Experience
My mistake: ‘I failed to set expectations.’
“All I ever wanted to be was a staff nurse,” says Mary Parker, now a nurse manager. Her early days in management were rocky. Because she values independence and self-direction, she figured her direct reports (nurses and nurse assistants) felt the same way. Parker assumed they would understand their responsibilities, work cooperatively, and mentor each other. But that’s not what happened. “Instead, staff members complained to me about the quality of their co-workers’ documentation and care,” Parker says. “Policies weren’t being followed and we had close calls with medication errors.”

Know What You Don’t Know
Many companies fall short when it comes to training new managers, says Shultz. Your bosses won’t expect you to know how to tackle every aspect of your new job from the outset, but they will assume that you will ask for the help you need. So, if your company wants you to take on a legally sensitive task such as giving performance reviews, and you’ve never done it before, don’t try to wing it. Ask for coaching from HR or higher-ups. “Without training, it’s easy for a new manager to overlook the implications of what one wrong thing said can do,” says Shultz. If you can’t get the level of help you need internally, sign up for one of the educational programs at the Society for Human Resource Management, which runs educational programs in many cities, he advises.

Voice of Experience
My mistake: ‘I didn’t know my staff’
Engineer Charlene Burke was a star in the field. “I was exceptionally good at short-term relationships — my customers loved me.” But soon after receiving a promotion to a customer service call center manager, Burke no longer felt the love. She barely knew her staff when she implemented a thank-you program that rewarded top-performing employees with a small gift card. Burke presented the first gift card to a woman who had been with the company for 19 years. The effort backfired. The woman was embarrassed to be singled out and praised for merely doing her job. The staff was tight, almost like family, which Burke hadn’t taken the time to understand.

Master the Unwritten Rules
If you’re new to a company, understand that no matter how similar the culture seems to others you’ve experienced, it is going to have its own unique and sometimes bizarre quirks. “Learn how things get done — both the rational and irrational aspects of it,” advises Nat Stoddard, chairman of Crenshaw Associates, an executive coaching firm in New York City, and author of “The Right Leader: Selecting Executives Who Fit.” Listen carefully when colleagues volunteer tips on, say, the best time of day to approach a senior manager, and pay attention when they tell stories about the office. At the same time, says Stoddard, don’t get too inquisitive. “If you are overly interested in learning something, they will wonder, ‘Why? What’s your motive?’” As you build your new colleagues’ trust, they’ll volunteer more details.

It’s easy to cut yourself off from a vital pipeline if you always eat lunch alone, a common rookie mistake. Curt Braverman, a veteran manager who worked for 25 years at Pitney Bowes, realized this early in his career, when a colleague finally pushed him to grab a bite and proved to be a font of useful information. “If they’ve been around a while, they’ll give you a hint of what’s coming up and can give you some tips that will make your job easier,” says Braverman.

Voice of Experience
My mistake: ‘I didn’t consult my staff on a key decision’
As the new director of operations at a now-defunct software development company, Stephen Balzac was tasked with managing engineers. He noticed right away that each week the team wasted a full day in a marathon meeting where they tracked software bugs using a primitive system. Everyone hated the meetings. So Balzac did some research and bought a proper bug-tracking system. He thought everyone would be thrilled. No more meetings! Instead, he met with passive resistance. Balzac was baffled until he realized that his unilateral decision had offended the engineers. They wanted to be consulted and made a part of the problem-solving process.

Be Loyal, to a Point
Be careful about seeming too closely aligned with any one person — even your direct boss, says Stephen Viscusi, CEO of the New York-based executive search firm Viscusi Group and author of “Bulletproof Your Job.” The best job-protection insurance, especially as a newbie, is to remain as neutral as possible on controversial issues, he says. If your boss asks for a point of view, run through the pros and cons of a decision rather than answer directly.

Should your manager ask for your support at a meeting, offer it, but remain as neutral as possible when you’re at the conference room table. If the boss buttonholes you later to ask why you didn’t speak up more, you can say something diplomatic, like “Maybe I wasn’t emphatic enough,” Viscusi suggests. Remember that your boss could be gone tomorrow — and you could be working for the person whose point of view he opposed. “You have to be a little Machiavellian,” he says.
Build the Support You Need to Get Things Done
Showing your bosses that you’re ready to take on new projects isn’t just a matter of stellar performance or demonstrating initiative — though these things certainly help. You also need to prove to the top brass that they can trust you in subtler ways. Many new managers over-explain to direct reports why they must take on a particular task and in doing so, pass along information from their bosses that was better kept confidential. To establish trust with your supervisor, err on the side of keeping your conversations quiet and, when in doubt, ask if the content is for general consumption. “You’ll be on the hook for sharing that information,” says Ceniza-Levine.

You’ll also gain points by acknowledging that your bosses are privy to certain information that you don’t have. Say, for instance, that you ask your boss if you can hire two more people but she says “no.” Rather than step up your lobbying, ask if there is a reason for her opposition that she can share, or, perhaps, one that she can’t disclose to you right now, suggests Stefanie Smith, principal of Stratex Consulting, an executive coaching firm in New York City. You never know — the company could be considering an acquisition that will fulfill that requirement, says Smith.

Even with solid backing from the top, you won’t be able to get anything done if your team isn’t behind you. This often means building support among longtime or more senior workers — including some who wanted your job and didn’t get it. You won’t win any allegiance by reminding them that you have an MBA or that your last gig was at an even bigger company. Meet with each member of your team individually to learn about his background and ask for advice on upcoming projects. “Let them know you’ll be relying on their expertise,” says Andrea Nierenberg, principal of The Nierenberg Group, an executive training and consulting firm in New York City. You don’t have to act on the advice they give you, but listening carefully will go a long way toward building the good relationships you will need to succeed.

Voice of Experience
My mistake: ‘I hid in my office’
Looking back on his days as a rookie manager for a contract staffing firm, Ken Wisnefski recalls spending most of his time in his office with the door closed. “I only came out to criticize or discipline the staff,” he says. “I wanted to avoid getting caught up in issues that were really my job to correct and prevent,” he explains. Not surprisingly, his staff soon resented him, whispering that he probably wasn’t even working while holed up. Now a business owner, Wisnefski says he goes out of his way to lead by example. “While I want them to respect me, I also want them to view me as a co-worker.”

Friday, June 04, 2010

Saving Time On Job Hunting

It now takes almost as long to get a job in the U.S. — seven and a half months — as it does to produce your next of kin. That’s the longest slog since the Labor Department began tracking job search duration in 1948. Looked at another way, there are currently an average of six people vying for every job that you are, each of them doing exactly the same things — combing job boards, networking, prepping for interviews — as you. Is there a way to speed up the job search and stand out from your competition?

Recruiters and other experts say that the only way is to put in the extra work to present yourself so that employers realize they absolutely need you, and that they need you right now.

Mary Berman managed to do it. After interviewing last fall for a job she really wanted in event management and marketing, the 56-year-old Berman decided to ditch the typical thank-you note and instead spent the whole night after the interview creating a detailed action plan for her first 30, 60, and 90 days in the job. She described to her future boss how she would learn the job, build rapport with employees and customers, contribute to the company’s bottom line, and fulfill every function outlined in the job description. And it didn’t hurt that she had already sent the person she first interviewed with, as well as the office receptionist, a chocolate-dipped apple to go with her thank-you note. Three days later, Berman heard back with an offer — just two months after she started her job search.

Here’s how to copy Berman’s success and stop wasting valuable time:

1. Forget
In fact, forget CareerBuilder, HotJobs, and all the other mass job sites. While these boards seem like a good place to start, how many people do you know who actually found a job that way? Even hiring managers don’t want to sort through the hundreds and hundreds of resumes they get for each position they list on these sites, so they’re increasingly turning to industry-specific job portals, says Debra Yergen, author of Creating Job Security. So if you’re looking for a job in the food and beverage industry, you’d likely be better off searching or You can find these more focused job portals by simply Googling the name of your industry and the phrase “job boards;” industry associations also often have job boards on their Web sites.

Another tip for making your job searching more efficient is to sign up for alerts for specific positions at sites like SimplyHired and that aggregate job listings from a variety of good sources. “You set it and forget it; you never have to go to another major job board again,” says David Perry, managing partner of recruitment firm Perry Martel International and co-author of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0.

2. Borrow from Headhunters’ Tricks
Headhunters use a variety of ploys to get information and find candidates, and you can learn from them. One trick that Perry uses to get intel about a company’s vulnerabilities and hiring needs is to target people who have recently left a given company by using a smart Google search. These folks are usually more willing to talk about the company than people who are still working there and don’t want to jeopardize their jobs. The search that Perry does is “[name of company] + resume + experience -apply”. The “-apply” at the end weeds out most of the employment ads, Perry says. You can also find former employees of a given company by searching for that company on LinkedIn; you’ll get a list of current and former employees there that are within two degrees of you.

Once you find people, call them. This might sound like the type of thing that will get you mostly angry hang-ups, but it works, says Perry. “You say, ‘I’m doing research on XYZ company and I’d like to ask you a few questions.’” Or be less cagey and simply tell them you’re applying for a job at XYZ and want to ask them a couple of quick questions. In this economy, many people are willing to help others if they can.

That was Jeff Kruzich’s experience. Now a district sales manager for an industrial supply distributor in Chicago, Kruzich, 44, used Google searches and LinkedIn to search for former employees of companies he was targeting, then called and told them he was trying to get a job there. “I asked about their experience at the company where I wanted to work, and if they could connect me with anyone else that might be able to tell me more. Most people were really good about it,” he says.

Sure, this advice might force you outside of your comfort zone. But if you want a leg up on the other five [or 55] people just like you who are applying for that job, you’re going to have to stretch.

3. Dump the Timeline on Your Resume
One crucial thing Steven Hirchak did to get a job quickly was change his resume. Hirchak, 42, lost his job at an online retailer in November and was having limited success in his job search. He knew from experience that hiring managers are most concerned with return on investment these days, so he made sure his resume was focused on what he would bring to the bottom line, as opposed to the standard chronological job history, which had a lot of redundant information. He sifted through his performance reviews from the four years he had spent at his previous job, pulling out every project he led that generated revenue for the company.

“I highlighted some big ones I thought would impress prospective employers and also wove those into my talking points during interviews,” Hirchak says. As soon as he changed the format, he started getting more calls back from companies. And in January, he landed a job at an online education provider in Utah.

4. Get Ready for Your Close-Up
More than anything else, an interview is an audition, so you had better rehearse. In fact Shira Furman, 23, now a paralegal working for the federal government, had been looking for a job for months and getting plenty of interviews — but no offers — when she did a mock interview with the help of career coach Christine Bolzan of Graduate Career Coaching. Bolzan says one reason it often takes so long to get a job even if you’re getting interviews is that many people don’t know how to hone and articulate their message in an interview setting. “They aren’t aware of problems like using filler words, distracting hand gestures, and poor posture,” she says.

Furman did a mock interview with Bolzan, who videotaped it, and was shocked that she came across like she was chatting with a friend, her posture too relaxed and her answers too vague. Furman began preparing for her next interview by writing out specific and detailed answers to every conceivable question she might be asked, and also changed things like her posture, intonation, and amount of eye contact. “I don’t think it was a coincidence that the first interview I had after the mock session, I was offered the job,” says Furman.

You don’t need to hire a coach to do this, just a helpful friend or two and a Flip cam or digital camera. Have one of them ask you questions you’re likely to be asked during your interview and the other tape the whole exchange. Afterwards, all of you can watch the interview and critique it. Yes, it can be a somewhat humiliating experience, but consider the options: You can embarrass yourself in front of your closest confidantes, or in front of a hiring manager who has the power to hand you thousands of dollars every two weeks. It’s a fairly easy choice.

5. Push the Envelope
What these success stories have in common is that the job applicant went above and beyond the usual pavement pounding to land a new gig. For Bill McCausland, a former national sales manager at an auto finance company in Dearborn, Michigan, it was detective work that did the trick. McCausland, 39, had been nonstop networking since he lost his job last June, and although he was getting interviews, there were no offers. So in September, after landing an interview with a marketing communications company he liked, McCausland decided that he would show up prepared to discuss concrete ways to improve the firm’s customer experience.

To do this, McCausland went to competitors’ Web sites to find their customer lists. He called, gave his name, and said he was doing some independent research about their service provider (which, in fact, he was). He let them know his questions would take less than five minutes to answer, then asked why they had chosen that particular provider. He also canvassed current customers of his target firm to find out what was being done right. During his interview, McCausland discussed what he had learned and made recommendations for improvement. “I knew the company’s strengths and that of their competitors, and they were very interested in what was being said about them,” McCausland. “This was actionable information they could use. I think they thought if I approached the interview this way, imagine how I would approach the job.” Two days later, McCausland had an offer.

Turning Ideas Into Action

In the world of entrepreneurship, great ideas are plentiful. Great execution, not so much. Edison said it best: “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” In his new book, Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, (Portfolio, April 2010) entrepreneur Scott Belsky guides us through the rocky terrain of turning inspiration into actual products and services without an excessive amount of pain and perspiration. Belsky is also the CEO of Manhattan-based Behance, an online platform for creative professionals. I recently caught up with him at SXSW in Austin, where he shared a few practical tips:
1. Reduce all projects to just three primary components. The first step toward executing ideas, says Belsky, is to create a set of action steps, which are the specific tasks that move you forward. “Every action step should start with a verb,” he says. Next, make a list of backburner items — concepts that may be actionable someday but not yet. “Create a ritual to come back to the backburner regularly,” he adds. The third component is what Belsky calls reference items, defined as attachments, articles, or notes from a meeting. “When you leave a meeting you should have reference, back burner and action steps,” he says. “And you can start measuring the value of a meeting in action steps. If you leave a meeting with just reference items, then it shouldn’t have been a meeting.”

2. Generate ideas in moderation. “A new idea will get you off track, especially when you’re in execution mode,” Belsky says. “The challenge is to balance idea generation and relentless focus.” To find the right balance, he suggests establishing a bias toward new ideas during brainstorming sessions, while ruthlessly killing them if they come up randomly while you’re in the middle of executing another idea.

3. Act without conviction. “We’re taught to think before we act,” Belsky says. “But the benefit of taking action and breaking the seal of hesitation is that you vet your ideas to customers and you get data early.” So a fast beta launch of a new product or service will get you valuable customer feedback that you can use to further perfect your idea. “Waiting builds apathy and increases the likelihood that another idea will capture our fancy and energy.”

4. Encourage fighting within your team. “Leaders of creative teams need to ruthlessly fight apathy when discussing ideas,” Belsky says. “We found that fighting is a cultural attribute of success.” In a heated discussion among passionate people, if someone backs down summarily, the idea will suffer and so will the customer, he says. Keeping the heat on until a compromise is reached is far more likely to move an idea forward. “But there has to be a culture where fighting is viewed as an asset in certain situations,” Belsky adds. “And you also need to show respect for your colleagues at all times.”

5. Seek competition. How many entrepreneurs utter the claim “we don’t really have any competition”? That’s nonsense. “We tend to shy away from competition,” Belsky says. “But you need to seek out competition in your community. It helps you to continue to refine your endeavors, and to finish your project, and it ultimately serves the end users. Competition is a powerful force for execution.”

Tips On Writing Emails That Would Be Read

The best way to think about your email (and by the way this works for voicemail and just about any communication tool you can think of) is to think of it like a news article that you’d find on the front page of the paper or the home page of a news site.

These contain three elements:

1.The subject line is the headline. When you read news — either in print or online — how do you decide what’s worth reading, what you’ll save til later and what you don’t care about? You look at the headline. In an email that’s the subject line. There’s nothing more frustrating than looking for an email about the Johnson Project under the heading “re: great seeing you Thursday.” The subject line should tell the reader what the email is about and whether it’s worth reading. If the content changes, don’t just hit REPLY– take the time to change the subject line.
2.The first paragraph is the “lead.” In a news article, the first paragraph contains the “who, what, when, where, why” — all the important information. You can quickly scan it and figure out if it’s worth further investigation. This doesn’t mean you leave out the details, it just means you don’t put them before the action item — or before telling the reader why this message is important to them. The critical information should be at the beginning of your email — preferably in the first paragraph, so people can read it in their preview pane.
3.The article is edited before it’s published. Every news article goes past at least two or more sets of eyes before it’s committed to paper or the web. Why, then, do we trust that we can rattle off critical business information without even rereading it ourselves, let alone have someone else take a look at it before we hit “send”? You don’t save any time by creating an email in seconds — and then spending days apologizing for misinformation or the tone of your email. Just because you can send things at the speed of light, doesn’t mean you should. Pause and reread your email before sending it. If it’s really critical have someone else take a look at it first.
Email might be your trusty rifle, but it’s supposed to inform your audience, not take down a moose. Treat it more like an information platform than a weapon.

Looking The Other Way When Someone Steals Your Ideas

You will never create a solid career for yourself by worrying about who is stealing your ideas. People hate whiners, they hate bickering, and, most importantly, people who are confident that they have tons of ideas don’t keep track of each one. And, to be honest, people do not get far by just having ideas. You need to have ideas and be likable. That’s almost impossible to do if you worry about whose ideas were whose.

So cut it out. Worrying about who gets credit for which ideas will prevent you from having a fulfilling work life. Here are five reasons why:

1) You do not have a finite number of good ideas

The best idea people - the ones who have tons of good ideas - share them. If you’re an entrepreneur, for instance, you have an idea and call six friends to share it. They each tell you why your idea won’t work, and you do the same thing the next week, until you land on an idea that does work. The mix of friends might ebb and flow, but for an entrepreneur, the ideas never stop coming and you never stop sharing them.

Or take the person at an ad agency who is great with coming up with ideas. Sure, it’s that person’s job to sit in a room with clients and brainstorm, tossing out idea after idea for hours at a time. But you want to follow that model. Because really it’s everyone’s job at every company to come up with ideas. What are you doing in life if you are not being creative? Every job is creative. Every person is creative - you just need to unleash that part of yourself.

The people who have lots of ideas don’t treat their ides as if they are precious. If your ideas are so valuable that they need protecting - or you think they do - you’ll come across as someone who is anything but creative. Then no one will hire you for your ideas. So if you want to be known for your ideas, act like someone who has a lot of them. Keep them coming and give them away all the time. In the end, it will benefit you. If people steal them, take it as a compliment. The people with the fewest ideas are the ones who hoard them.

2) There are no unique ideas.

Get over yourself. I know you’re brilliant, but trust me when I tell you that someone has had the same idea - whatever it is. Do yourself a favor and instead of worrying about being the idea person, become the person that can make the idea reality. Everyone has ideas. Few people can execute. Deliver the ideas, and do it in a fun way. That will bring meaning to your work life.

3) People like nice people, not smart people

My favorite workplace research shows that people would rather work with people who are likeable than people who are competent. The research is from Tiziana Casciaro, and was published in the Harvard Business Review twice - maybe like a nuclear bomb, because people didn’t believe it the first time.

In fact, people view the nice people as more competent, even if they are not. And the skilled people who are jerks start appearing incompetent to their co-workers. That’s how powerful being nice at the office is. In other words, others will view you as you better at your job if you stop bitching about who gets credit for ideas.

In my experience, the person everyone likes is the person who helps others get their job done. That person genuinely cares if you are happy doing your work; she genuinely cares if you feel connected and engaged. One way to become that well-liked person - share your ideas.

4) Your job is to make your boss happy

Complaining doesn’t make your boss’s life easier. And demanding that your boss give you all the credit does not help, either. If you make your boss’s life a dream, your boss will help you. She will mentor you, train you, guide you through the organization and pay you well. If she does that, so what if she takes your ideas? And if she doesn’t do that, then leave.

Bosses do not complain that they don’t have enough idea people working for them. Bosses complain that there is too much work to do. This is because bosses always think they are the idea people, whether or not they are. So if your boss thinks your co-worker has all the ideas, it doesn’t matter. Your boss will promote the person who gets things done. In fact, maybe this means you should give your co-worker all your ideas and frame yourself as the one who is actually helping your boss day to day.

5) If you want to get credit for your ideas, get a blog

Resumes don’t showcase ideas. Resumes are a history of what others have allowed you to do in their organization. If you want to be known for the ideas you are coming up with right now, then write a blog. It’s incredibly easy to write a blog if you have a lot of ideas. The ideas don’t have to reveal company secrets; they just need to reveal how you think - about a wide range of things in your field.

My company, Brazen Careerist, is a good starting point for creating an idea-based resume. And once you get started, you will see yourself differently; you’ll feel more valuable.

So start putting your ideas out for public consumption. That’s how you really get credit for good ideas. By saying them often and in front of lots of people. Think about that: It’s hard to steal someone’s ideas when those ideas are out in public. A warning, though: Don’t write about people stealing your ideas - that’s a bore. Just write the ideas. Talk about ideas on your blog, and others will associate those ideas with you.

Not all your ideas will be good, or on target. But it’s more important simply to spout ideas regularly. So-called experts are not right more than the rest of us with opinions we don’t share; they are just willing to put their ideas out there. Experts are people who start interesting conversations.

Where will all this get you? Someone will want to hire you or work with you not because of the list of tasks on your resume, but because you are that person with all those ideas. And once you’re hired as the idea person, it doesn’t matter if someone steals your ideas. Spreading ideas will be your job - and your work life will be richer for it.

Creativity Starts With Irrationality

Management Academicians and professionals believe that organizations trying to be rational all the time are in fact aboting their workforce creative thinking initiatives. Here is a summary of an interview with one of those:
Logical thinking has its limits when it comes to motivating your team. In his new book, The Upside of Irrationality, Duke professor Dan Ariely explains how we benefit from the human predilection for irrational behavior. I recently spoke with him about what makes bankers happy, how to thwart creativity, and the reason why big bonuses can have unintended consequences on their recipients.
BNET: What’s so great about irrationality?

Ariely: We usually view it as a bad thing, but it’s what makes us human. We’re more trustworthy than a rational standard economic view would predict. For example, if people decided whether to steal based solely on the rational motivator of not getting caught, there would be much more theft.

BNET: What does motivate people — particularly at work?

Ariely: We work for meaning, not just pay. Often, businesses don’t recognize that. A former student of mine, David, described an experience he had while working as an investment banker that demonstrates this point. He’d spent 10 weeks creating an impressive presentation for an upcoming merger. He emailed it to his boss, who complimented him on his work but told him that the merger was canceled. His efforts had served no ultimate purpose. Suddenly, David didn’t care as much about the project that he’d spent so many hours on. He also found he cared less about other projects he was assigned. He went from feeling useful and happy at work to feeling dissatisfied.

BNET: How could his boss have mitigated those feelings?

Ariely: He might have had David present his work internally. While such a presentation might seem like a wasted hour, it’s not when you consider human motivation and the impact of its absence on productivity.

BNET: Can’t a big paycheck alone provide sufficient motivation?

Ariely: Paying someone more money will elicit better performance as long as you’re dealing with simple, mechanistic behavior — for example, asking someone to jump higher for an increased financial reward. But things become more complex when we want to encourage more than pure effort. For example, we can’t just will ourselves to be more creative. Consider what would happen if someone said, “I’ll pay you $100,000 if you’re funny in the next five minutes.”

BNET: Are big bonuses similarly ineffective at influencing behavior?

Ariely: To test that, I created an experiment that offered participants the chance to earn small, medium, or large bonuses. We did it in India, where the average person’s monthly wage was about $11, allowing us to provide meaningful bonuses.

Participants rolled a die to establish the amount of their possible bonus. They then played a series of memory and skill games that would determine whether they took home the money — sums that ranged from about one day’s pay to five month’s pay. We found that those who stood to earn a small or mid-level bonus didn’t differ much from each other. But the ones who had a shot at the biggest bonuses performed the worst. The higher stakes made them choke under pressure.

BNET: What’s the best way to pay people without stressing them out?

Ariely: One way to keep the motivating element of performance-based payment — but eliminate some of the non-productive stress it creates — might be to offer smaller, more frequent bonuses. Or offer employees a performance-based payment that’s averaged over time — say the previous five years. Regardless of the approach we take, we need a better understanding of the links between compensation, motivation, and performance — one that considers our irrationalities.

Free Self-Motivating Aspects

How do you work up the conviction and discipline you need to do tiresome, unglamorous tasks? Well, how did you get yourself through high school, college, your first boring entry-level job? It’s probably like riding a bicycle: you already know how, but a little refresher course wouldn’t hurt.
Most of us under 80 reject the idea of leading lives of quiet desperation. You’re not going to hear me say that hardship and uncertainty and deprivation and unemployment will make you a better person. No way am I going to mindlessly echo the platitude that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s not how I roll.

But it could be time to re-examine what’s important to you professionally — aside from the obvious need to earn a living — and to quit trying to live up to someone else’s standards for achievement. Whether you’re out interviewing and are asked to articulate your ideals, or are getting close to a decision about an opportunity that’s currently on the table, identifying core motivators in basic, simplistic terms can be useful. The same set of criteria can also help you better understand co-workers and job candidates.

In no particular order, here are the primary motivating elements I’ve observed over years of interviewing:

Money: Total compensation, including cash and non-cash items. It’s not so much what the money buys, usually, as what the money means — psychologically and socially. If you put this at the top of your list, ask yourself if it’s as big a factor as you think. Will you really bolt for an extra few dollars?

Status: In short, this where you stand on the org chart or totem pole. How many people do you have to bow down to versus how many kneel at your feet? Executives often have great difficulty admitting, even to themselves, just how important this is to them.

Prestige: What level of eminence, reputation and public esteem does your company enjoy? For example, would you rather be a SVP at Wal-Mart or a VP at Nordstrom? Everything else being equal, that is.

Culture: This is about people, camaraderie, shared values and belonging. Are you proud and happy to be a member of this group? Would you want to spend, say, Thanksgiving with them?

Autonomy: To what extent do you define the goals and objectives for your function? Is Big Brother watching or have you been given the self-determination to succeed on your own lights?

Wow Factor: This could be anything from the coolest technology in the world to being located in the same town as your new romantic interest. In other words, any consideration that overrides the factors mentioned above. Do you want to bring your boss coffee and doughnuts? No? What if your boss is Steven Spielberg? You get it now.

Rank the categories in order of your personal priority, and then try to guess what the sequence might be for those who irritate or confound you. Try to observe without judging and see how many of these levers you can recognize in action. Seeing yourself and others through these lenses could bring a new degree of clarity to the mystery of why people behave as they do at the office — including that rascal in the mirror. Instead of beating yourself up for a supposed lack of chutzpah, try accepting your motivational factors as they are.

One more word on the subject of motivation. Being a professional doesn’t mean you have to be inspired in everything you do. It means playing at the top of your game and performing as if you were inspired. That’s not about trying to conceal the fact that your heart maybe isn’t completely in it at all times but about doing great work despite it.

Cutting Cost: Looking the wrong way !

Companies seem to be obsessed with cutting costs these days, shedding employees-and generally making their customers’ lives as difficult as possible. But that may not be the best route to success, as my wife and I found out on a recent airplane trip from Madrid to Barcelona.

For those who have never experienced it, the Puente Aereo (or air bridge) service operated by Iberia Airlines is a completely unique travel experience in today’s world. Both the Madrid and Barcelona airports devote a separate section to this shuttle service. There you will find a desk to buy tickets-with no line. Check-in counters to leave your bags-no lines. No lines at security. Flights that leave about every hour, and that fly on time (even on the day we flew, when flights from Madrid were being disrupted by volcanic ash). New planes. Great on-board service. Rapid baggage delivery at the other end. Very full flights. And, by the way, comparatively high fares-about $300 for this one-hour trip.

This is not a one-time experience. Every time I’ve flown between Barcelona and Madrid, I marveled at how painless and pleasant the experience was. Several knowledgeable people told me that Iberia makes more than 100% of its profits on this heavily traveled route, even as it faces new competition from high-speed rail service between Madrid and Barcelona and from another airline, Vueling, that flies the same route. Yet Iberia is the same airline that is in the process of merging with British Airways because of its financial difficulties. Its other routes mostly provide the same poor on-time performance and lousy customer service we have all come to expect from virtually all airlines.

Businesses seeking to earn money in these difficult economic times can find several lessons in this tale. First, it is apparently possible, even for companies that normally don’t have high-quality operations, to do extraordinary things if they put their minds to it. The assumption that passengers must face lines, hassles, and operating issues is belied by what happens on the Puente Aereo.

Second, to make an obvious but frequently overlooked point, businesses should go where the money is. Clearly, some travelers are willing to pay (or have their companies pay) for convenience, comfort, and a reliable, hassle-free travel experience. Some people must be willing to pay for similar high-quality experiences in hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and many other places. Instead of chasing volume and ignoring margins, as most companies seem to do, many businesses would be well-served to find the high-margin customer segments and pursue them with every means possible.

This is not as easy as it sounds. It can be tempting to cut back-maybe just a little. Take out one check-in counter, say, or fly a little less frequently. Then cut back the baggage handlers so bags don’t arrive in 15 minutes. This is how many so-called high-end experiences have morphed over time to become something much-often very much-less.

Discipline and focus are the keys to avoiding the seemingly small but important compromises in staffing and other components of the customer experience that start companies on the road from being truly exceptional to being just one of the pack. Charging a high price and relying on a good brand image won’t work if you bely those efforts with what you do on a daily basis.

Of course, the high-end market is limited. But actually, all markets are finite. In the last couple of years, most newspapers have shed reporters, cut their content-and lost readers. Many higher-end retail stores have cut staff so that it is now difficult to get sales assistance. Banks, the same. Even Lexus, the upscale automobile brand, now has quality issues. Brand image is like trust: it takes time to build, but can be destroyed very quickly.

So beware of the temptation to make the seemingly small compromises that end up compromising your value proposition. And eschew the idea that outstanding quality is impossible to achieve. Even in the world of airline service, the Puente Aereo illustrates that truly, anything is possible.

What Experts Say About Interviewing New Grads

Many students these days have completed internships by the time they graduate, so they have some interviewing experience. Do students come out of university well prepared for their first proper job interviews?

Unfortunately, the college career-counseling offices are woefully underfunded. Even at very good schools the ratio of students to counselors is 1000-to-1 or 1500-to-1. When you have those outrageous ratios, the only thing that person can do is help the student get a resume together. Then it’s pretty much fly on your own. There is a real missed opportunity to understand the relationship between how much you prepare and what your interview behavior is really going to be like.

So how do grads prepare? Do you have any tips on how to package or present internship, classwork or volunteering experience as relevant to a paid position, for example?

When I sit down with somebody, I say to them, sit here and really define for me the major accomplishments that you had in that internship. It may only be a couple of things, but quantify it. Go further. Dig deeper. Tell me how this was really good for the organization you were working for. Even experienced people don’t do a great job with that.

The key is to really drill down and get to the concrete accomplishments?

You bet. The bottom-line results quantified.

So you’d definitely recommend interviewees come prepared with numbers?

It doesn’t always have to be numbers. To give you an example, I worked with a woman who was an editor at Time, Inc. She was the person who coined the phrase “trophy wife,” and she became highly successful because of that one thing. Now is that quantified when you say, “I coined the phrase trophy wife”? Sure it is. Also, if you won an award, or an honor, or someone recognized you somehow. It doesn’t always have to be numbers, although numbers make it easier.

Imagine you’re a grad who has quantifiable accomplishments prepared. You’ve scored an interview, and you’re sitting there in the lobby. What should be going through your head? How should young people mentally prepare for an interview?

When you’re sitting outside that interview, you want to be sitting there in an outfit that make you feel great. Make sure you have the necessary materials, and leave plenty of time so you’re not putting all kinds of pressure on yourself by being late.

What else can you do? Your resume should be a document that you can look at in final preparation two minutes before the interview. Remind yourself to be ever mindful of manners when this person comes out to interview you. Tell yourself, “I’m going to respect them. This is the interviewer’s interview, not my interview.”

That raises the question of soft skills like body language and demeanor. Is there anything in this area that you think job candidates often overlook?

In the beginning of an interview you want to be focused on the interviewer’s questions and what information they need. You don’t want to be thinking about what you want to talk about. And that’s not easy to do.

You’ve got to do that in the beginning, but the world doesn’t want “yes people” who are not going to challenge things. So do you need to follow the interviewer’s lead? Yes, you follow the interviewer’s lead until you start to get a feeling that the interviewer is comfortable with the dialogue and believes that you’re following what he or she wants to do. As you reach that point, the interviewer is more willing to give you an opportunity for dialogue. You build a partnership not by just answering questions, but by eventually leading that conversation toward dialogue.

At the end of the interview, ideally do you want to be able to show more of your personality?

Yes, but you can’t do that right off the bat unless you get the sense that the interviewer is totally comfortable with herself and totally comfortable in an interview situation. Suppose you’re not with that kind of interviewer. Suppose you’re with the kind of interviewer who’s used to more of a militaristic style — they’re in control and you’re not. I hesitate to use the word psychology but that’s really what you’re doing — reading when the situation is open for dialogue.

When you do get to the phase of the interview where you feel comfortable with your interviewer and things are more open, is that a good time to start asking questions to determine if the company is a good fit for you?

The issue with that is that most companies, even for young people, have multiple interviews or a series of interviews. And it’s important, as a young person, to remember to be really careful with your own due diligence. In the first interview, the interviewer is in “buy” mode and you’re in “sell” mode. You have to be very careful that you don’t start going into “buy” mode if , in fact, that first interview is a screening interview.

How would you advise that someone determine when is a good time to start asking those sorts of questions?

You feel your way toward it, but the longer you give the company to fall in love with you in the beginning, the more leverage you’re going to have on the back end to ask your questions. If someone really likes you, you can tell that, and you will get your opportunity then. Even in the first interview, usually when you get to the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. There’s an opportunity to at least start, but be careful in that first interview. You may have 15 questions, but you may have an opportunity to ask only one or two. The more you do your job in the sell phase so they fall in love with you — in a business sense — the more they’re going to give you an opportunity to do your agenda later on.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

الوجه المشرق لتوحش رأس المال

تعجبنى حكمة صينية قديمة تقول " إذا إردت رخاء لمدة عام واحد فازرع قمحا .. وإذا أردت رخاء لمدة عشر سنوات فازرع شجرة .. أما إذا أردت رخاء لمدة مائة فازرع بشرا" .. تتسق تلك الحكمة مع ماينبغى لنا فى مصر أن نؤمن به وهو قيمة الناس وتأثيرهم – إذا أحسن تربيتهم وتعليمهم – على رخاء مصر وتنميتها وبناء قدرتها الذاتية .. ولايمكن أن نفكر فى مصر الدولة دون أن نفكر فى مصر بمؤسساتها المختلفة وقطاعات الأعمال بها والتى يمكن لو وعت دورها الإجتماعى ومسئوليتها تجاه موظفيها وأسرهم والمجتمع ككل أن تسهم بقدر كبير فى سد الفجوة بين مجتمعات الكفاف ومجتمعات الوفرة .. بين سكان العشش وسكان القصور .. بين المتاح من الإمكانات ومتطلبات تحقيق أهداف التنمية.. ولعل نظرة سريعة على واقع المجتمع الدولى اليوم تدق أجراس الخطر عن التدهور السريع فى أوضاع الدول النامية بالقياس إلى الدول المتقدمة وتؤكد على الدور الخطير الذى يمكن أن تلعبه مؤسسات الأعمال فى الإسهام فى تقريب تلك الفجوة ولو بقدر ضئيل .
ثلث سكان العالم يعيشون على أقل من نصف دولار يوميا ومحرومون من مياه الشرب النظيفة ومن الكهرباء .. ونصفه على أقل من دولارين فى اليوم ومحرومون من الصرف الصحى .. والعالم يحتاج إلى 950 مليار دولار إذا أردنا أن نتيح فرصة التعليم لكى طفل يولد ، وهذا الرقم على ضخامته لايعنى أكثر من 1% مما يصرفه العالم على شراء السلاح سنويا.. أما الأخطر من ذلك فهو أن 20% من سكان دول العالم المتقدم يستهلكون 86% مما ينتجه العالم من السلع ، بينما يستهلك 20% من الدول الأكثر فقرا فى العالم 3ر1% من تلك السلع .. فى وسط هذا التناقض الفظيع نجد أن إجمالى مبيعات أكبر مائتى مؤسسة عملاقة فى العالم تساوى 18 مرة إجمالى دخل 24% من كل سكان العالم ، وأنه على الرغم من أن الشركات المتعددة الجنسيات تمارس وحدها ربع النشاط الإقتصادى فى العالم إلا أن إجمالى العاملين بها لايزيد عن 1% من سكان العالم الذى يعانى أكثر من ثلث سكانه من القادرين على العمل والباحثين عنه من البطالة.. الذى يزيد الطين بلة أن دول العالم المتقدم تحافظ على عدد سكانها دون زيادة منذ عام 2000 وحتى عام 2050 ليقف عند 1 بليون بينما المتوقع أن يبلغ إجمالى عدد سكان الدول النامية إلى 8 مليار.
المسئولية الإجتماعية التى ننادى بها تعنى ببساطة أن تصبح المؤسسات جزءا من المجتمع ككل وأن مؤسسات المجتمع المدنى تملك حق مساءلتها عن نشاطاتها إذا لم تحافظ على البيئة وإذا أساءت إلى عملائها أو أهملت فى رعاية موظفيها وأنها تستثمر قدر استطاعتها فى تحسين أحوال المجتمع والمساهمة فى رفاهيته .. والمسئولية الإجتماعية لاتعنى أعمال الخير وإن كانت أعمال الخير جزءا من المسئولية الإجتماعية لمؤسسات اليوم التى تعد وسيلة فاعلة فى تنمية المجتمعات والقضاء على الفقر ورفع مستوى المعيشة بتلك المجتمعات ، ولذلك فإن المؤسسات العملاقة فى العالم المتقدم مثل مؤسسة فورد وبل جيتس تلتزم فى أدبياتها ومنظومة القيم التى تحكم عملها بمسئوليتها الإجتماعية وترصد لذلك مليارات الدولارات لأن العائد على صورة تلك المؤسسات وإقبال الناس على منتجاتها وبالتالى ماتحققه من أرباح يفوق بكثير ماتنفقه على تنمية المجتمعات التى تعمل بها .. هناك إلتزام أخلاقى وعقد اجتماعى يحكم العلاقة بين الطرفين ويحقق التكامل والقبول والإحترام المتبادل بينهما.. وهذا الجانب الأخلاقى بالذات يجعل من تأثير المساهمة المجتمعية قيمة كبرى وعاملا بالغ التأثير فى بناء " القدرة الذاتية " للمجتمعات وفى محاربة الفساد وتشجيع الصناعات الصغيرة ومساعدة الشباب على إيجاد فرص عمل والحفاظ على البيئة وتشجيع العمل التطوعى لخدمة المجتمع والحفاظ على الصحة العامة والمساهمة فى الأعمال الخيرية التى تقوم بها المنظمات غير الحكومية فى مجتمع ما .
ويتسع نطاق المسئولية الإجتماعية ليشمل عدم غش المستهلك ، والإصرار على تقديم سلع وخدمات عالية الجودة ، وعدم احتكار السلع ، وتقديم التسهيلات المناسبة التى تتيح للناس إقتناء المنتجات التى يحتاجونها بشروط تتناسب مع قدرتهم الشرائية وبالذات فى أوقات الكساد ..
وفى مصر نحن أحوج مانكون الآن أكثر من أى وقت مضى لآن تعى مؤسساتنا مسئوليتها الإجتماعية لكى تنهض بمستوى المجتمع .. ولدينا عدد من رجال الأعمال بادروا بإنشاء مؤسسات إجتماعية قصدوا بها ذلك وإن كانت لاتزال تركز على الأعمال الخيرية دون "بناء القدرة الذاتية للمجتمع لكى ينهض ويستمر فى التنمية" .. بل إن هناك أناس بسطاء يعتبرون روادا فى هذا المجال كثير منهم لم يتلقى سوى قسط ضئيل من التعليم وبعضهم لم يتح له أى قدر ولو ضئيل منه .. أتحدث هنا عن عن نماذج مصرية بسيطة أخرى لم تنل أى نصيب من العلم ولكنها كانت تتمتع بالموهبة الطبيعية "للإدارة المجتمعية" .. سيد جلال – يرحمه الله - الرجل البسيط الذى بدأ حياته حمالا ، عرف كيف يستثمر ثروته التى من الله عليه بها بعد سنوات من الشقاء والمعاناة فأنشأ مستشفى باب الشعرية الذى يعد مدرسة طبية تخرج فيها آلاف الأطباء الشبان على أيدى أساتذة عظام يجمعهم حب الخير ، ويستفيد من خدماتها مجانا فقراء المجتمع ومعدميه .. محمد مدبولى شاهدته وأنا فى الجامعة هو وأخيه يساعدان عمهما فى بيع الجرائد والمجلات أمام الكشك الذى كان يمتلكه فى قصر النيل بالقرب من ميدان طلعت حرب ثم ينامون جميعا على الرصيف آخر الليل .. أدار مدبولى – يرحمه الله – حياته بأمانة وبفطرة سليمه ورغبة جامحة فى التعلم فأصبح أكبر وأجرأ ناشر فى المنطقة بل إنه كان يساعد الطلبة من غير القادرين على اقتناء الكتب التى يحتاجونها إما بالتقسيط المريح أو مجانا .. مثلان فطريان رائعان من أمثلة إدارة الذات والوعى بالمسئولية الإجتماعية يحقق بها الإنسان لنفسه ولمجتمعه على السواء طموحات قد تبدو غاية فى الخيال وإفراطا فى التمنى ولكن الإيمان بالفكرة والمثابرة والإصرار على تحقيقها كفيلان بتحويل الحلم إلى حقيقة .

حين تحسن الحكومات إدارة الموارد

المقارنة بين حكوماتنا وبين حكومات الدول المتقدمة مقارنة ظالمة بكل المقاييس ، فلا يمكن مقارنة من يتعلم السباحة بمن يعبر المانش ، ولا من يجرب ركوب الدراجة بمن يقود النفاثة .. هناك حكومات لاتملك إلا أن تخدم شعوبها وإلا رحلت ، وهناك حكومات تعتقد أن الشعب موجود لكى يحافظ على بقائها يلهج بالشكر والثناء على تفضلها بقبول حكمه وتحمل سخافاته ورزالته والمعانة الرهيبة التى تتحملها فى الحفاظ على نحطاطه وتخلفه.
كلما عدت من رحلة عمل بالخارج أظل لعدة أيام أحاول أن أطرد أفكارا وهواجس تؤرقنى وتزلزل كيانى ، وبين كل هاجس وهاجس تبرز لافتة مشهورة تحتفظ حكوماتنا المتعاقبة بآلاف النسخ منها فى مخازنها لكى تستعملها كلما عن لها أن تخرج علينا ببدعة أو قانون جديد ترقع به الثوب المهلهل للحكم الرشيد .. لافتة "لسنا وحدنا الذين نفعل ذلك ..." التى زاد استخدامها خلال الثلاثين عاما الماضية أصبحت مثل المحلل الذى يعلم أن الزواج باطل ولكنه يقنع نفسه أنه يتطوع لكى يجمع راسين فى الحلال .. تعالوا نأخذ بعض الأمثلة :
• صحيح أن الضريبة العقارية تدفع عن كل وحدة سكنية والهروب من دفعها مستحيل وإن حدث فهو جريمة تستوجب العقاب .. ولكن المواطن يراقب أوجه صرف تلك الضريبة التى يدفعها للحى الذى يتبعه بالمليم .. تتواصل الأحياء مع الملاك والسكان الجدد وتقوم بإرسال خطاب رقيق يرحب بهم ومرفق به كتيب مفصل يحتوى على كل السياسات والنظم التى تحكم عمل الحى فيما يختص بالصيانة الدورية للطرق والمرافق والحدائق بما فى ذلك خدمات المرور والبوليس والمطافى والمستشفيات التابعة لكل حى .. وليس ذلك فقط وإنما يقوم كل حى بإرسال فاتورة شهرية مفصلة بأوجه صرف الضريبة المحصلة موزعة على كل قطاعات الخدمات لكى يراجعها المواطن ويعترض عليها إذا اراد .. هل هناك احترام لرأى المواطن ورقابة أدق من ذلك ؟ هنا يتصرف وزير المالية فى أى أموال على أنها جزء من بيت المال حتى لو كانت صناديق خاصة أو أموال المعاشات التى تديرها الدولة ولكنها بالقطع ليست بندا من بنود ميزانيتها ولاتملك حرية التصرف فيها فى غير الغرض المخصصة لأجله.. المواطن هناك يدفع ويحصل فى المقابل على خدمات منتظمة بمستوى وهنا يدفع دون أن يكون له حتى حق السؤال عن العائد على مايدفعه.
• شوارع عواصم الدول ليست أوسع من شوارع القاهرة ولكن الإلتزام يجعلها تكفى وتزيد لكى تستوعب كل أنواع المركبات التى تسير فى مسارات محددة لكل نوع منها .. الإنتظار مسموح به فى كل الشوارع ولكن بنظام دقيق وصارم يحدد الوقت المسموح به والغرض من الإنتظارعلى امتداد أيام الأسبوع وفى أيام العطلات الرسمية وبألوان تحدد ذلك .. الشوارع هناك مخصصة فقط للسيارات والمشاة بأرصفة عريضة تسمح بحرية الحركة وسلاستها والتمتع بالنظر إلى ماتعرضه المحال من منتجات .. حتى حين يتهافت الناس على منتج جديد يريدون أن يكونوا أول من يقتنيه فإنهم يقفون فى صفوف منتظمة لعدة أيام فى حراسة عدد قليل من رجال الشرطة .. وطبيعى أن يكون ذلك هو نفس السلوك عند التظاهر الذى يتم دون إذن مسبق من أى جهة ولكن فى حراسة الشرطة المتواجدة فى كل وقت دون استعراض للقوة ودون كثافة عددية كما هو الحال عندنا.. الإستجابة سريعة عند طلب النجدة فتالشرطة والإسعاف عندك خلال دقائق جاهزة للحركة طبقا للحالة .. فوضى اللوحات الإعلانية التى تخنق شوارعنا وتلوثها جماليا وتحتل أرصفة المشاة لكى تحرم الناس من حقها فى التجول بحرية على الأقدام غير موجودة فى التدول المتقدمة .. اللآفتات الوحيدة المسموح بها هى اللافتات الرسمية المكتوب عليها تعليمات المرور والإنتظار وأماكن الإتصال بالخدمات العاجلة والمطلوب من الناس أن يركزوا عليها ويستوعبونها حتى لايخالفوا القانون فضلا عن الشكر المزرى والفوضى التى تسببها لوحات الإعلان لوتركت لسلطان المال بغير تنظيم ، وقد تتسبب فى حجب الرؤية والحوادث للمشاة والسيارات على السواء.
• أما مايثير الإعجاب فعلا فهو أن الناس يستغلون بمهارة فائقة المساحات المتاحة لهم والإمكانات والأجواء التى توفر لهم الراحة فى أداء أعمالهم فتجد المقاهى منتشرة فى كل مكان بما فى ذلك المحال الكبرى ولكنها تستغل لأكثر من تناول قدح من القهوة أو الشاى .. هناك أماكن بسيطة ومريحة ومجهزة لاستقبال إشارات الإتصال لاستخدام الإنترنت المجانى مخصصة لإجتماع بسيط تناقش فيه الأعمال أو تعقد الصفقات أو تجرى المقابلات الشخصية لطالبى الوظائف فى جو غير رسمى فيضرب صاحب المكان عصفورين بحجر واحد : تزداد مبيعاته وشهرته ويصبح التنافس على قدر الراحة التى يحس بها من يرتاد المكان، ويقلل من التوتر المعتاد فى بعض لقاءات العمل التى قد لاتتطلب فى أحد مراحلها أجواء العمل الرسمية التى تفرض قيودا وضغوطا يمكن تجنبها.. طبعا لاأريد هناك أن أتحدث عن مستوى النظافة وحسن السلوك والتسابق على إرضاء العميل والإنصات باهتمام لأى ملاحظة أو اقتراح من شأنه أن يحسن من مستوى الخدمة .. العاملون فى تلك الأماكن يعرفون أن بقاءهم فى وظائفهم رهن بتفانيهم فى خدمة العميل وتتأثر دخولهم تبعا لذلك ومعها مستوياتهم الوظيفية .. الحدائق المجانية موجودة فى كل مكان لمن يريد الإستمتاع المجانى بالطبيعة ، وفى كل مجمع سكنى صغير حديقة مشتركة يقوم الحى على صيانتها ويحافظ عليها الناس.. يحافظون على أى مساحة خضراء وحين تنحسر المياه عن الأنهار فى بعض مواسم الزراعة يسارع الناس باللقاء على الشاطئ فى أجازات قصيرة يقتنصونها ومعهم كراسيهم ووسائل التسلية البسيطة يتعارفون ويتسامرون فى لهو برئ .
أعلم أن الإتهامات بسوء السلوك والسمعة للناس فى لعبة البيضة والفرخة التى تلعبها معنا حكومات مصر المتعاقبة جاهزة، ولكنى أعلم أيضا أن الإصرار على تطبيق القانون على المسيئ وبالتساوى دون تفرقه كفيل بأن يردع من يتعمدون إفساد المرافق العامة أو يسهمون فى انتشار العشوائيات .. وتلك قصة أخرى.