Sterling Reminds Us Again – You Can’t Ignore Stupid People

When you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas.” – Benjamin Franklin

Welcome, NBA Owners, to the flea circus.

On your watch, you allowed the consistent bad behavior of a peer to continue relatively unopposed. The only real surprise of the latest Donald Sterling gaffe is that anyone would be surprised. The guy has a solid track record of buffoonery, discrimination, sexism, and racism. And yet, he’s among the most tenured of all NBA owners. Apparently, membership has it’s privileges, and they include the art of jack-assery. To boot:

  • In 1981, Sterling tried to get out of paying $1,000 to a contest-winner who hit a half-court shot at halftime.
  • In 1983, while interviewing Rollie Massimino for the Clippers head-coaching position, one of his less constructive questions was “What makes you think you can coach these n******?”
  • In contract negotiations with Danny Manning (1988), Sterling refers to him as a “poor black kid.”
  • In 2002 he makes disparaging racial remarks when describing apartment tenants whom he felt poorly represented his image….smelly, dirty, and lazy among other descriptors.
  • In 2006 he was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for housing discrimination.
  • In 2009 he was sued by former General Manager Elgin Baylor for employment discrimination.
  • In 2010 he heckled his own players on more than one occasion.
  • His latest blunder tops the sundae; over 100 hours of recorded conversation with his nookie-girl mistress, where his racist rants have become a viral bombshell.

How does this happen?? Don’t be silly…it always happens.

My guess is anyone reading this can immediately pull up an example in their corporate life where someone was allowed to behave in a completely inappropriate manner, but seemingly suffered no real consequences for their actions. A senior leader was allowed to sweep indiscretions under the rug; sales people are allowed to behave boorishly as long as revenues are solid. Bullies tolerated despite the departure of talented and skilled underlings who could no longer tolerate the unfair treatment.

Why do we allow this to perpetuate? “We” in this sense meaning the collective population, but specifically in Human Resources, why do we allow this to happen?

So I’ll be paying attention to the events that unfold from this latest Sterling gaffe. He’s a known quantity, i.e., NBA Leadership already knew he was a racist, a sexist, a pig on feet, yet he continues to be a member of an exclusive club. His fellow NBA owners knew he was a personal disaster, but they remained silent throughout the years. The coach, Doc Rivers, knew he was going to work for a man who is on record as viewing minorities as “dirty” and “lazy.”  We can only assume that the financial rewards for tolerating Sterling have outweighed the potential discomfort with removing him.

But no one, to date, has done jack-squat to really address this man. And that, to me, is the most disappointing piece of the story.



Be The Top Banana…(or at least one we’ll remember)

My oldest son is 13. He and a couple of his (wonderful) knucklehead buddies like to record original songs whenever they are goofing around. This band incarnation goes by the handle Velvet Banana. Most of their current material revolves around the digestive process, but they are certain to reinvent themselves as they grow.

Now, if the name Velvet Banana sounds oddly familiar, you’ve obviously got some appreciation for the history of modern music. It was in the late 1960’s that Lou Reed and John Cale collaborated to begin what would come to be known as The Velvet Underground. Their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (released in 1967) was an acquired taste, to be sure, but would go on to later be recognized as one of the most important albums in rock history. Even if you’ve never cared to listen to the music, chances are you are familiar with the album cover…you know the one – the “banana” album.

Andy Warhol, who managed the band during this period, presented the band as performance art, rather than just a musical group. That’s why a record that sold a relatively small amount of copies in its day still resonates as one of the most memorable. “Stickiness” personified.

So why did it work? There are a million bands toiling away, trying to establish a name, a niche, a message, or maybe just a buck…how did this group, which included an electric violin player, a female drummer, and a lead singer who sounded like he was reading the telephone book, succeed?

  • THEY FOCUSED INWARD ~ A quick search on LinkedIn shows over a half-million recruiters with active profiles. Choosing to look at your competition as a half-million people would be self-defeating. Look inward, not outward, when determining “who” you are. This band looked inward, and then gave an honest assessment of who they were, not who they thought others wanted them to be.
  • AUDIENCE AWARENESS ~ “Acquired taste,” remember? The “Underground” were not immediately embraced by a large audience….but that was the plan. They played for the audience they desired, even at the cost of numbers. Who is your audience? Are you playing for the client? For the candidate? What are you doing for that audience? Trying to play for broad appeal makes you Nickelback…you don’t want that to happen, do you…DO YOU?
  • DIFFERENTIATION ~ The freaking “banana,” the non-traditional instruments, the experimental records, the Warhol circus, “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable,” this was all part of the brand (and band) experience called Velvet Underground. Look at your industry peers in recruiting sometime – how many profiles/pictures/messages stand out to you? What about any recruiter makes he or she memorable? What makes you memorable?

So, 649K recruiters on LinkedIn; 158K “Executive Recruiters;” 258K Sales Recruiters; 232K IT Recruiters; 20K headhunters – how in the world do you stand out?

I know where you can start; May 8th, 2pm on the “Recruiting Makeover” webinar. Jobvite and Fistful of Talent present a look at how recruiting has become more and more dependent on marketing skills. 

Learn from the best and steal ideas…that’s pretty much what we’re saying here, right?

Rock on. 

Register HERE!

I See Dead People

Occasionally, I do weird things. Ask anybody.

One such thing is communicating with the dear departed. Let me explain.

It was just over a year ago that my Uncle Danny left this mortal coil. Imagine John Lennon with multiple advanced degrees, and you have a mental image. Brilliant, gentle, kind, pleasant, humble (basically the antithesis of the rest of my family, myself included), Danny was a wonderful man, and we miss him.

Which is why (here’s the weird part) I still endorse him on LinkedIn whenever I get the chance.

I may be alone in this, but I doubt it…despite the condition of our physical being, our virtual footprint remains long after. It’s not just Uncle Dan; I see a few friends and colleagues that pop up from time to time. Kinda creepy, and also kinda heart-warming.

So, I endorse him. And that’s a weird thing I won’t change.



Happiness Means Letting Go

All in.”        Duffy-Clock-Logo

What? You haven’t even looked at your cards!”

"Tell her I'm on my way."
“Tell her I’m on my way.”

Don’t care, man…I’m tired, need to go home…all in."Tell her I just left!"

This is not an atypical midnight conversation at Duffy’s Double Down Emporium (serving your Texas Hold’Em needs since 2010). It’s getting late, we’re getting old, somebody’s wife sends a text asking “Where ARE you?”, so the natural response is to start playing loose as a goose by pushing your chips in on every hand.

Instead of sneaking a look at the hole card, determining pot odds, calculating the number of “outs” available, etc., they just lean back and push in. To the rest of us, it’s a blank slate. Nothing to read. Nothing to bluff, bully, or chip-whip. The short-timer just grins his tired grin & checks his Twitter feed. And inevitably…he starts to rake a few pots.

It’s maddening.

And it’s brilliantly effective, at least in the short-term. Why? Because now they aren’t playing the game, they are just letting events take their course without fearing loss. You see, somewhere around hour 5 of the evening, the reality sets in – it’s just money; the Sun will still rise tomorrow morning.

Have you ever been close to someone at the office who is short-timing their current job? Happy, carefree, amiable, seemingly at peace with the world. Maybe they have an offer from another company. Maybe they decided to go back to school. Maybe they hit the lottery. It’s all the same though; they stopped playing the game, and the scent of freedom is all over them.

It’s maddening.

And it’s also brilliantly effective, at least in the short-term. Suddenly you hear real opinions and feedback, instead of the highly curated version of corp-speak or gossip. You see smiles and relaxed laughter instead of angst and politicking. For a brief respite, clarity sets in ~ It’s just a job; the Sun will still rise in the morning.

Basically, you get a real view of what this person may actually be like when they’re happy. And happy people are productive people. Obviously, you can’t keep playing blind for too long, that’s just nuts – at some point you need to look at your cards again. But when you do, try to keep the same perspective – you may very well lose this hand, but there’s another deck being shuffled; a new hand is coming.

It’s a simple concept we often forget in our workplace. Be happy – don’t wait for midnight.









Organizational Autism

Curiosity and adaptation are natural, right?  You’d be surprised – I know I always am.

I was talking with my friend about his child’s autism.   Our conversation wasn’t about the real or perceived causes of autism, rather what it meant to the individual (and family) as they assimilate the world around them.

I opined that while most of us respond to and incorporate information around us, then come up with a new thought, approach, or behavior, the autistic human being accepts only what “fits” into his/her world. “Adapt” does not enter the equation.  My friend said I was spot on, to which I replied “duh!”.

He was surprised that I had such a good handle on the topic because I’m childless and haven’t spent time around autism.  And that’s where I quickly corrected him.  I’m around it all the time.

Organizational autism is rampant.  No matter the level – organizational, functional, or personal – I deal with it all the time.  The organization or the function doesn’t think they need to adapt.  “That’s not the way we do it around here”.  They miss or ignore the signs and trends in the marketplace.  On a personal level, people ignore feedback, whether it’s from their boss, peer, or 360 degree feedback tool.

I can’t tell you if it’s because of politics, ignorance, stubbornness, or all of the above.  I do know that if you embrace organizational autism or choose to act in an autistic manner at work, you will go the way of Kodak.  And if you don’t adapt your personal behaviors, you better get an organizational protector…

– Mary Fors

Meet Mary:
Mary is Strategist who brings business and people together.  If you want to improve the way you lead in order to improve the results you get, give Mary a call.  Her approach is simple, snarky, and stylish.  She worked her way from facilitator through coaching executives, and on the way got a couple of master’s degrees and way too many certifications.  She’s done the leadership thing in a number of different industries.  She’s currently in Nashville, TN, with her dogs and cats, working on the leadership focus for Asurion.