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How to Sell a Product Called 'Democracy'

Marketing – something I know quite a bit about – and democracy are closely connected. Exploring this connection could help us improve not only our country’s electoral and government system, but also the lives of many Americans.

Marketers have a specific mindset. They start by asking what people want and need. They deeply research some group they wish to satisfy. They design a product, service or solution that will attract that chosen group. They win by making a strong promise and delivering on it.

I helped revolutionize the field of marketing by making the argument that marketers don’t have to limit themselves to thinking about physical products and services. They can also look outside business at other institutions and practices and ask whether they are well-designed and effective in serving their target users. Are our schools producing skilled and educated citizens? Is our food system delivering good nutrition? Is our health care system delivering healthy citizens?

We only have to look at world statistics to realize that the U.S. is not a top performer in any of these areas.

In a 2013 study, U.S. students ranked 36th in math and 26th in science when compared with 65 other...

How to Hire for a Cultural Fit

In a recent post, “How to Hire for Motivation,”I suggested interviewers need to break through the veneer of presentation skills to accurately assess both competency and motivation. It’s important to recognize that motivation to get a job and social assertiveness is not motivation to do the job.

Uncovering the source of the candidate’s intrinsic motivation is essential for increasing interviewing accuracy. Most often this is something about the work itself in combination with the team involved, the person’s manager, and the mission of the company or its culture. So before hiring someone you need to understand not only what’s driving the person to excel but also the circumstances involved. Once this is done you then need to assess cultural fit. This technique is covered in Lynda's Performance-based Hiring training program summarized in the video. 

Here are the factors involved in determining a company’s true culture. As you'll see it's a bit different than the one described on their website.

The Factors Defining a Company's Real Culture 

  • The pace of the organization and its position on the corporate growth curve. Fast-growing start-ups are different from their more mature and slow moving...

How to Prevent an Office Dispute From Sabotaging Your Security Clearance

Do you have annoying coworkers? A terrible boss? While you may be concerned your complicated workplace will one day make you fly off the handle and lose your job, if you have access to sensitive information (and most government workers do), then you should be concerned about more than a possible angry outburst. You should be concerned about your security clearance.

“Under the Federal Adjudicative Guidelines, workplace disputes typically fall under the personal conduct category known as Guideline “E,” notes Sean Bigley, a security clearance attorney at Bigley-Ranish LLC. “It’s a catch-all charge for any situation in which a clearance holder’s judgment, reliability, or similar traits are called into question. Because Guideline E is so broadly worded, it is also ripe for use in retaliation or other petty office spats. Unfortunately, this is a particularly common occurrence in the military, where commanders are granted unilateral discretion to suspend a subordinate’s clearance.”

What does that mean? It means it’s often relatively easy for a supervisor or coworker to call your conduct into question, particularly if you get involved in a dispute. And a personal vendetta may turn into a career killer if an incident report is filed...

How to Hire for Motivation

Early in my recruiting experience I placed a highly motivated and experienced candidate for a logistics position. He made a great first impression and was confident, affable and articulate. He had all the boxes checked, too. Unfortunately, he turned out to be the worst placement I ever made – he was more confident than competent. He started changing things before he knew what to change. He was fired a week after starting and I lost a big fee. However, I learned a number of lessons from this situation that I never repeated:

  • Interviewing personality has nothing to do with motivation.
  • Box-checking skills has nothing to do with competency or motivation.
  • Never hire anyone who is more motivated than competent. These are the people who change the wrong things too fast

Yet every competency model in the world starts with driven to excel, results-driven or highly motivated. And every hiring manager wants to hire motivated people. These are people who don’t need a lot of direction and get things done, on time and on budget. 

Interviewers assume a prepared, affable, assertive and extroverted person is highly motivated, and those who aren’t, aren’t. However, they’re wrong.

Ten years after...

Body Language You Should Borrow From Your Dog and Use On Your Boss

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from the animal kingdom, and how to negotiate may be the most important of them all.

Just like humans, animal species engage in constant communication and negotiation. Monkeys groom one another to cement bonding. Wolf packs share a fresh kill according to hierarchy. Each movement, posture, and vocalization in the among animals is part of a rich and deeply-ingrained social structure. Even observing how your pets play can offer a lesson in the importance of clear communication.

Telegraph your intentions

The play behavior of dogs offers one of the best examples of successful negotiation, according to Marc Bekoff, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“When animals play, they typically perform behavior patterns that are used in other contexts, such as predation, aggression, or reproduction,” says Bekoff, who specializes in the study of dogs, wolves, coyotes, and related animals. In order to negotiate play, animals must constantly reassess their relationships even as they are actively engaged with one another.

Bekoff calls this behavior “fine tuning on the run.” And he says there are a lot of parallels with human negotiations, in which one...

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