The “Look-Down” Generation

It literally drives me crazy…driving in the morning/evening commute every day is a stressful task without added annoyances, but there it is, every…..single…..day. After finally navigating your way around the human impediment clogging traffic for the last five miles, you look over at the driver and you see it. The “look down.

You know the look-down, right? Phone in lap, texting/dialing/syncing/selecting music, etc.? The “I’m not even pretending to pay attention dude, just leave me alone and let me sit here in the left lane until I’m good and ready to move over three lanes and exit?” It’s maddening (especially knowing the blare of my horns is drowned out by the Beats headphones they are sporting.)

It’s hard not to notice, and truthfully it’s hard not be hypocritical about it – I’m just as guilty of taking a glance, answering a text, or managing my incredibly counter-productive Waze app which basically dares me to update traffic conditions while I’m driving. So dangerous, stupid, self-absorbed, yada yada yada…until we finally have “MADAT” (Mothers Against Dumb-A** Texters), this is the world in which we live. For Millennials and GenX, it’s an ever developing, constantly growing challenge.

But for the younger generation, it’s even more problematic. With a constant distraction monopolizing their limited attention span, I’m convinced they have lost the innate ability to know what the hell is going on around them. I’ve got a 15-year old son learning to drive – he can expertly perform the act of navigating a vehicle, but the kid literally couldn’t find his way home with bread crumbs and a compass.

That’s because he’s been in a “look down” mode every time he’s been in a car for the last ten years. He knows the destination, but doesn’t know about the journey.

First-world problems, perhaps, but not insignificant. You’ve been in restaurants where you have four people, four iPhones, right? Parents, kids…it’s a little sad really, but we’ve accepted technology as a babysitter and there you have it. Our kids are going to be different in many ways, more technologically adept than we ever dreamed, but they are (generalization alert) by and large missing the world and the people around them.

And here’s the rub – as much as we would like to deny we ever use our “gut” in talent selection, we have innately spent a lifetime observing the world around us. Years spent people-watching in airports, in restaurants, in class, at the ballpark – the exact kind of activity my kids would find boring.

Hell, they may be right, but “boring” doesn’t necessarily need to be a negative. Sometimes it really is the seemingly insignificant details along the way that make us wiser.

So keep your head up, kiddo. There’s actually more going on around you than it seems.

 

TeamWORK or TeamBUILDING?

My Talent Acquisition team recently participated in a teambuilding event courtesy of our friends at Strayboots. I can tell you we looked forward to this event for weeks, as the thought of a scavenger hunt through the middle of the Dallas Arts District was (if nothing else) an opportunity for a brief distraction from “business as usual” – the key being that “business as usual” for us at DentalOne = “hair on fire.” We literally have a motto in our Recruiting organization that translates to “we keep moving or we die.”

                    which may explain this…

With that as a backdrop, a spirited walk on the streets of downtown Dallas would be a great respite from the grind, and would give us a chance to strengthen the bonds of our team.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum….

We were divided into three teams of 7 for the “hunt.” Our Doctor recruiters (led by our Practice Support Recruiting Manager), our Practice Support recruiters (led by our Doctor Recruiting Manager,) and the “Others” – a collection of cross-functional colleagues, me, and my boss. When the bell rang to start the exercise it became immediately apparent that our team-building initiative had become de-centralized. It was every team for itself, so to speak. The “stroll” turned into a brisk walk, a jog, and then finally a full-out sprint. Each team had a different pace, but one team made a decided effort to bury the others. Without mentioning names, this team was also, hands-down, the most intelligent and attractive of the bunch, and I don’t feel that’s an exaggeration at all…did I mention that was my team?

But I digress.

Sometime around our 8th or 9th task, as I sprinted to the Meyers Symphony Center, I observed that our day had become much more of a “teamwork” exercise than it was a “teambuilding” exercise. What does that mean? Let me give you three key differentiators that stood out:

  1. “Teamwork” can be immediately implemented ad-hoc. The “Others” really had very little direct working history with one another (outside of me/my boss), so an altruistic view of building the working effectiveness of our team was decidedly task-based. “Teambuilding” implies a fluid, ongoing process over time. We didn’t have time – we came, we saw, and we kicked butt by immediately assuming roles and hitting the pavement.
  2. “Teamwork” is benefited and amplified by a common goal, a finite timeline, and (whenever possible) the spirit of competition imbed in the process. Our team knew the “record” for finishing the scavenger hunt, we knew the timeline (2 hours), and we knew we wanted bragging rights at Happy Hour. “Teambuilding” (again, this is an interpretation) pulls the entire team toward a goal, and allows for mistakes and/or delays for the long-time benefit of the team – that’s nice, but our splinter cell was looking to just win, baby.
  3. Teambuilding is a constant process moving towards an eventual state of “world-class.” In a time sensitive, project-based assignment, you are at the mercy of the resources you have for that endeavor – so you succeed by working together for a common objective, possibly at the expense of those outside of your sub-team. That may change drastically for each new project and/or mix of resources. And that’s the beauty of the event in which we participated.

We want to do it again! And then….again. Mix the teams up, add a few new people to the chase, change the locale of the “hunt”…as we construct variations of our project teams and “teamwork” becomes a part of our culture that leads to the North Star we established –  to be a World-Class staffing organization. And that, my friends, is teambuilding.

On May 23, 2016 John Whitaker joined the DentalOne Partners team as Vice President, Talent Acquisition, based out of the Dallas Corporate Headquarters.   John is responsible for leading the Talent Acquisition & Recruiting strategies and initiatives enterprise-wide, and for building a world-class recruiting team.

Thanks again to our friends at Strayboots, we had the time of our lives!

 

Cupid is (Still) Stupid, Six Years Later

It’s the sixth annual reposting of an instant classic, compliments of my first born (now 15), when he created the masterpiece below as his rendition of a class assignment. He blessed us with a poem that I vowed to re-visit on an annual basis, and it still holds up six years later.

Compliments of Jack, my little boy genius & obvious Casanova-in-training:

“I love you, I love you, I love you so much, if I were a dart frog, I’d give you a touch.
 
If I were a boxer, I’d give you a punch. If you were a sandwich, I’d eat you for lunch.
 
If you were a paper I’d tear you apart. If you were a toy I’d sell you at Wal-Mart.
 
I love you the way a dog loves a cat, I love you the way a ball loves a bat.
 
If love was money, you’d be a nickel. If love was vegetables you’d be a pickle.
 
If you were a sink, I’d give you a clog. If you were a chew toy I’d give you to my dog.
 
I love you, I love you, I love you so much, but if we go together we’ll have to go Dutch.
 
I thought that some day we’d be under the steeple, but I think for now we should see other people.”

(For all you Hallmark representatives out there, I’m claiming copyright privileges – don’t make me come after you.)

The point of the post today? Don’t be fooled by the words, there’s a lot of love under there somewhere.

Happy Valentine’s Day ~

You Know You’re a Manager When….

I can count many blessings. Among those is the fact that not only do I have a great boss, I have two fantastic managers reporting to me. When you have strong people supporting your efforts, you can sometimes take for granted the fact that development continues for all of us – even those who are already at a pretty advanced level. So, I try to take mental notes from time to time that fall into the category of “You know you’re a Manager when…”

These things may not appear in the leadership “handbook”:

  • You can admit that “YES”, you do have favorites, but the reasons better be in direct correlation with performance. Jimmy Johnson, the sainted ex-coach of America’s Team freely admitted that the “rules are different for different players.” Fairness is different than “the same.” Don’t let a policy hound tell you otherwise. The funny thing about favorites is that they are usually disguised as excellent performers with good attitudes – it’s the damnedest thing, but performance and reliability should count for plenty.
  • Speaking of performance, many of your own moments of brilliance will happen in a vacuum. Part of our job as leaders is to remove obstacles or at least pave the way for our respective teams – chances are your people will never have visibility to many of the things you do for them. They will see the benefits of your work eventually, hang in there.
  • “Happy Hour” with the team has a time limit for you, Cinderella. It usually coincides about the time you pay for the 1st round.
  • If you think they are talking about you,  you can relax. OF COURSE they are talking about you – you’re the boss, at some point you will not be terribly popular. This is one of the reasons you leave Happy Hour after the 1st round. It’s a part of the tribe mentality – and despite what you might think, you ain’t in the tribe. Don’t take it personal.
  • “Be who you are” in your management style. Don’t try to be a hard-ass if it’s not in your DNA; you won’t be good at it, and you’ll seem phony to your direct reports. It happens to all of us when we first get into a leadership role. At the same time you’re learning your new responsibilities, you’re trying to put on your face for the team. Are you a friend? Mentor? Coach? Disciplinarian? Be yourself, act accordingly.
  • Time + attention = “Development”; if you can’t determine what a “formal” training and development plan should look like, spend time with your people and give them some dedicated attention. A lot of budgeted (read: expensive) training opportunities may not be available to you, but face time is always an option.
  • Here’s one that I recently learned myself…slow down. Yup, actually pasted a stickie on my computer screen that reminds me to “breathe, think about it, then act.” We’re all working managers (pretty funny that needs to be a point of distinction), so we’re juggling alley cats throughout the day. In the world of recruiting, we all live with our hair on fire, so it’s not uncommon for things to occasionally get missed, mixed up, forgotten, delayed, misplaced or miscommunicated. I had a whopper of my own just last week when I sent sensitive information over email to a distribution group that still included the subject of the sensitive information.

Which leads me to my final nugget…

  • Forgive yourself. You will make mistakes. As a matter of fact, you’ll make several – something about being “human.” Own it, learn from it, then forgive yourself and move on. I’m still having to remind myself of this tidbit, no one will be harder on you than you. Covering it, rationalizing it, dodging responsibility all lead to bigger problems. Humility is a lesson we all need occasionally, it’s good for the soul.

Saying that, I’d still double check that email first…

 

John Whitaker is Vice President, Talent Acquisition for DentalOne Partners. For more than 20 years he has built and developed high-powered recruiting teams focused on developing a competitive advantage via strategic Human Capital positioning, planning, and practices.