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Warren Buffett has stated, “Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”

My philosophy about hiring employees is this: I don’t want employees at all. What I want is peers with a congruent value system to share a personal and business journey. I want co-workers in a horizontal company who can teach me and make me a better human being and businessman. This means everyone, including the receptionist.

This journey begins with common values, particularly seeking out executive business associates who want their work to give back to the world through service and truth-telling to customers and potential customers. Under that rubric of shared values, I have always wanted to only hire executive colleagues who are better than me at both genuine caring for the client and creating efficacious results, in that order. However, the truth is we are all better and worse than each other in our variegated ways.

To me, the staffing ideal is a company that affords all associates the freedom to maximize their own service instinct and acumen with minimal interference from the big, bad boss (me). I’ve found that this philosophy makes for an enlivened, creative company and a happy business community. It incentivizes and vivifies autonomy as a core value.

Etymologically the term autonomy derives from the Greek word meaning self-governing. To be autonomous means to act in accord with oneself. When we are autonomous we all emanate service and salesmanship infused with energy, integrity, and a personal authenticity that sells at all points of contact with the public and with stakeholders.

Authenticity is compelling. Like the judge who, when asked to define pornography, said, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” Customers feel much the same way. They know authenticity when they see it. Stephen Colbert famously calls this quality “truthiness.” I see incentivizing “truthiness” in every associate as a primary leadership imperative. You want to activate truthiness, not just because it is moral, but because it is effective.

Therefore, part of incentivization is hiring people who innately share corporate values so they are always, without thinking, succeeding by propelling a corporate narrative from inside themselves. In my case I have hired educated, value-oriented, experienced people who are adults and self-starters.

Of course, everyone works for money. That has to be fair and appropriate. But I firmly believe that passion and commitment are not fundamentally incentivized by money. They are better motivated by a will to generosity, happiness, and autonomy.

As said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing you will be successful.” (Herman Cain frequently appropriated this quote when he ran for President of the US in 2012.)

Thank you, Albert.

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Belgian painter Erik Pevernagie says, “In a lifeworld, where we can be what we are, and not what people expect us to be, we can escape a blank and void existence, which is linked to wrecking ennui.”

I don’t think I’ve been bored a single day since I embraced entrepreneurship in 1996. Not a day. Not an hour.

What is boredom? Bertrand Russell defines boredom as “…essentially a thwarted desire for events, not necessarily pleasant ones, but just occurrences such as will enable the victim of ennui to know one day from another.”

One of the great non-monetary rewards of entrepreneurship is the frisson it brings to each day. There is an elan vital that suffuses every breath of the entrepreneur’s day, a personalization and weight that comes with being radically responsible for your own life and for the life of the corporate entity you animate. What you do, what you decide, really counts.

I was reminded of this reading an article in Business Week five years ago. The article was entitled, “28: Grateful to be Employed, Bored Half to Death” (Mike Dorning, 6/20-6/26, 2011). It talked about the great sense of “stuckness” endemic in the millenial corporate workforce.

“From the factory floor to the boardroom, few Americans these days are willing to tell the boss shove it. Many of those who have weathered the recession with their jobs intact are now sheltering in place, either fearful of risking a change or simply lacking the opportunity. Since January 2009, an average 1 million fewer Americans per month have quit their jobs than in previous years. … That adds up to 28 million Americans stuck in jobs they would have left in ordinary times.”

I think the stagnancy and tightness of the job market since 2008 could have long-term consequences for the vocational health, esprit de corps, and creativity of traditional corporate employees, where the primary goal becomes to survive at all costs and hold tight onto what is at least a stable status quo rather than step into uncertainty, even if that uncertainty offers a potential improvement in pay or career advancement or spiritual existence. It creates timidity and boredom.

Stan Greenberg, a former pollster for Bill Clinton, notes people’s hesitancy to make any moves in the current economy, whether into a new life in a new place, or even to escape from a tyrannical boss. He says, “You’ve got 28 million people whose aspirations are being contained.”

A great, if unquantifiable, benefit of entrepreneurship is the gift of freedom. Freedom to be yourself, freedom to tell the truth, freedom to grow, freedom to laugh, freedom not to be cowed or compromised, freedom to march to the beat of your own drummer. And freedom to not be bored. The price of admission to this entrepreneurial adventure is courage and risk. Even if the entrepreneur fails, the growth of innate stature, earned gravitas, personal dignity, and moral centeredness remains. It is well worth it, whether a business succeeds or fails. And one is guaranteed never, ever to be bored.

The late Susan Sontag says, “The life of the creative man is led, directed, and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.”

Thank you, Susan.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.” So with social media.

I’ll be short this week. I seem never to tire of listing caveats about unanticipated conundrums surrounding social media and technology. It frequently creeps into my essays.

One of the reasons I find myself dubious and cautious about social media is the perfervid evangelical zeal of its proponents, which I frequently find blinker-visioned, jaundiced and of limited practicality for busy, non-genius entrepreneurs like myself.

Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade, partially addressed this issue in his blog, The Cut, last year. Drew is a successful entrepreneur and frequent speaker and thought leader on social media. He writes well and simply. He offers several helpful practical suggestions for “social media fatigue.”

  1. He suggests keeping Twitter lists under 200 and perhaps keeping a much smaller list you really care about.
  2. If you have more than 100 friends on Facebook, hide the dull ones.
  3. Look for trusted curators in your area of interest. Don’t follow everything. Drew recommends PSFK to discover the best of the best.
  4. Don’t feel you can’t go silent for a while.

As I hunker down in my luddite cave, cowering away before the onslaught of social media, I’d like to have more of this kind of practical advice. Every day seems to offer an avalanche of cool new technological must-haves. I need advice that helps me manage, sort, and prioritize a multifaria of social media. I could use a lot more common sense techie thinking. I don’t need to be “cool” and I don’t need every cutting-edge app. I don’t need technological Nirvana. I do need what I can use simply, quickly and efficiently.

Avinash Kaushik of Analytic Evangelist says, “Social Media is like teen sex. Everybody wants to do it. Nobody knows how. When it’s finally done there is surprise it’s not better.”

Sounds right to me. Thank you, Avinish.

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Simon Sinek says the following: “Offer someone the opportunity to rebuild a company or reinvent an industry as the primary incentive, and it will attract those drawn to the challenge first and the money second.”

I believe much of what is expressed about incentivizing the salesman emanates from underestimation, condescension, and even contempt for that person and her profession.

I don’t read sales books. They make me mad. From my own experience as an executive salesman, I believe most sales managers approach the whole subject of sales incentivization ass-backwards.

In my case, this judgment comes from being an unexpected, untrained, and accidental success as an entrepreneur in elite sales outsourcing. My intent as a company founder was to build a happy life and create a community of peers who shared my values. While I wanted to make a comfortable living, money was not my business raison d’etre. And over the years I have managed to assemble a coterie of sales executives who, to one extent or another and in their variegated ways, were compadres in the realm of service, morals, humor, and fierce independence.

After 20 years of sales success emanating from my personal sales intuition and longing to be part of an ethical sales and service community, I began to discover I was not as odd or alone in my approach as I had always assumed. And even more, there is an increasing body of scholarly research that supports the instincts of my life experience.

This is particularly true in the realm of sales incentivization. My core assumption has always been that good salespersons don’t fundamentally work just for money. Rather, they work for satisfaction, service, happiness, a free life and other non-quantifiables as much as for money. Research has shown that, after reaching a threshold of $75,000 or so, money has limited ability to incentivize. (Note, Conscious Capitalism and the Small Giants community).

Dr. Edward Deci, Director of the University of Rochester’s Human Motivation Program says:

“When people say that money motivates, what they really mean is that money controls. And when It does, people become alienated–they give up some of their authenticity–and they push themselves to do what they think they must do.” (Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation).

I have always felt that salesmen are particularly misunderstood. I’m told that sales hires fail 75 percentĀ of the time within the first year. That is a phenomenal statistic. While the reasons for this are complex, I believe the overemphasis on monetary reward is a large part of it.

People want to be part of an organization that imbues quality and meaning to their lives. Yes, they need to make money, but I don’t believe it ever activates their ardor and deep commitment. It does not inspire full use of their internal resources, their full being, their passion.

When I ran my executive sales outsourcing firm Corporate Rain International, I genuinely tried to start with the assumption that every person I hired should be better than me, that every person I hired could teach me something, that each person I hired could comfortably grow the extant values of my company as a corporate companion.

To quote Edward Deci again, “[In speaking about motivation] the proper question is not, ‘How can people motivate others?’ but rather, ‘How can people create the conditions within which others will motivate themselves.'”

I agree. Thank you, Edward Deci.

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Famed engineer and Episcopalian priest William Pollard once said, “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”

Much as I hate it, I am deeply convicted of the entrepreneurial mandate for constant change. That is, change should be a value unto itself, not just a reaction to periodic business challenges.

As I see it, a good corporate culture is erected to ward off and control chaos and the impact of business randomness, while generating a consistent and predictable profit. The dialectic of stability and creativity should ideally result in a vital organization that is both dynamic and steady. But if one is to err, my preference and personal instinct is to err on the side of the dynamic, on the side of change and creativity.

As you may know from my past columns, I was an actor for many years. That has had a seminal, if ineffable, effect on my instincts as a small businessman. One of my favorite acting stories was recounted to me by character actor and teacher Paul Austin. I never tire of sharing it. Paul was doing a Eugene O’Neill play with the actor Rip Torn. Rehearsals were going well, but, with two weeks of rehearsal remaining. Paul felt he had fully realized his character and was ready to open. He was in a quandary about what to do with himself for the last two weeks of rehearsal, so he went to Rip Torn and asked his advice. Paul recounts that Rip Torn thought for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Fuck it up.”

On the same theme, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, of Claremont Graduate University, recounts a story, in his book Flow, told him by Canadian ethnographer Richard Kool, describing one of the Indian tribes of British Columbia:

The Shuswap region was and is considered by the Indian people to be a rich place: rich in salmon and game, rich in below-ground food resources such as tubers and roots–a plentiful land. In this region, the people would live in permanent village sites and exploit the environs for needed resources. They had elaborate technologies for very effectively using the resources of the environment, and perceived their lives as being good and rich. Yet, the elders said, at times the world became too predictable and the challenge began to go out of life. Without challenge, life had no meaning.

So the elders, in their wisdom, would decide that the entire village should move, those moves occurring every 25 or 30 years. The entire population would move to a different part of the Shushwap land and there, they found challenge. There were new streams to figure out, new game trails to learn, new areas where the balsam root would be plentiful. Now life would regain its meaning and be worth living. Everyone would feel rejuvenated and healthy.

Essentially, the Shuswap Indians elected to “fuck it up” every few decades. It kept their business culture (if you will) healthy, thriving, and imbued with aliveness and meaning. They elected to culturally and institutionally discipline themselves to see existence through perennially fresh eyes.

The reason I embrace business is to be happy and whole. Profitability and personal wealth, if they come, are useful and satisfying in this, but profitability disengaged from meaning and spiritual growth is a dead thing. Change is an essential palliative to summon meaning, aliveness, and salvation into any business culture.

Friedrich Nietzche put it, “The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”

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