“You can do anything, but not everything.”
With the seemingly never-ending to-do list, that little statement is very true in the entrepreneurial world.
You’re a smart, capable, able and willing business owner who can achieve anything you put your mind to. Where people often get discouraged is when they try to do TOO much, and they end up not doing a great job at any of it.
When you are able to focus on one single thing and put your whole self into it, you can accomplish incredible things. It’s a proven fact.
When you spread yourself too thin and do EVERYTHING instead of one thing really well, you end up delivering OK content and getting OK results. You do NOT want “OK” anything in your business, you want great, exceptional, fantastic.
When you try to do too many things, it can feel like you’re not moving forward, and when you’re not moving forward then it’s a sure-fire way to get discouraged and down on yourself.
The ratio of the pay of corporate chief executive officers (CEO) to ordinary workers has exploded in the last 40 years. It was a bit over 20 to 1 at the start of the 1970s, now it is well over 200 to 1, and in good years for CEOs, it can be more than 300 to 1. Steven Clifford’s book, The CEO Pay Machine (Blue Rider Press) is an effort to explain how this happened and what we can do about it.
Clifford speaks from firsthand experience, having spent 13 years as a CEO of major corporations and having subsequently sat on more than a dozen corporate boards. Clifford makes it clear at the onset that he deplores the run-up in CEO pay, but he is trying to explain why it happened.
Clifford’s basic story is that the process that determines pay has become hopelessly corrupted. At the most basic level, the corporate boards that are supposed to represent shareholders and put a check on CEO pay have little interest in doing so. Clifford describes a process of whereby boards are captured by CEOs and other top management. Being a board member is a cushy job, typically paying well over $100,000 a year for around 150 hours of work a year, by Clifford’s calculation. With many boards paying $300,000 or $400,000 a year, the pay can be in the range of $3,000 an hour.
And, as Clifford notes, it is almost impossible to get fired from a board by shareholders. More than 99 percent of the directors who are nominated by the board for reappointment win their election. Furthermore, the boards are typically used to working with the CEOs. The CEOs and their staff are the ones who provide them with information. Often the CEO himself is a board member, usually the chair.
In this context, board members have little reason or incentive to ever challenge CEO pay. After all, the CEO is their friend, why would anyone object to giving their friend more money at the expense of a diverse group of shareholders, the vast majority of whom the director does not know. Furthermore, what difference would a few extra dollars make to the typical shareholder, if this is what it takes to add a few million to the CEOs pay?
Last week’s column addressed “What Older Employees Can Learn From Young Executives.” Granted, all five characteristics represent generalizations and aren’t universally applicable. But as generalizations, they guide thinking toward positive expectations.
The same can be said about what younger managers can learn from older employees. Stereotypical thinking, for sure. Nevertheless, the following traits are common in older employees—and well worth considering.
What Young Managers Learn From Older Employees: 4 Attitudes
Traditionalists and Boomers were taught to let others do the bragging. When they’ve earned the gold watch after 40 years or built their entrepreneurial venture, they take a bow modestly. When faced with competition or conflict, they embrace Frank Sinatra’s observation, “The best revenge is massive success.”
The evidence of humility? Grandparents don’t mind having their grandkids teach them all about their smart phone, program their TV’s remote control, or rewire their sound system. The 60-something CEO will ask the savvy teen next door to build him a website for his hobby and teach him how to log in to update it. The seasoned executive may select an oncologist who has just finished her residency to ensure she’s getting someone familiar with the very latest research and techniques for treatment.
Older employees have lived long enough to know what they don’t know—and be humbled by that knowledge.
It’s tough to hold on to good employees, but it shouldn’t be. Most of the mistakes that companies make are easily avoided. When you do make mistakes, your best employees are the first to go, because they have the most options.
If you can’t keep your best employees engaged, you can’t keep your best employees. While this should be common sense, it isn’t common enough. A survey by CEB found that one-third of star employees feel disengaged from their employer and are already looking for a new job.
When you lose good employees, they don’t disengage all at once. Instead, their interest in their jobs slowly dissipates. Michael Kibler, who has spent much of his career studying this phenomenon, refers to it as brownout. Like dying stars, star employees slowly lose their fire for their jobs.
“Brownout is different from burnout because workers afflicted by it are not in obvious crisis,” Kibler said. “They seem to be performing fine: putting in massive hours, grinding out work while contributing to teams, and saying all the right things in meetings. However, they are operating in a silent state of continual overwhelm, and the predictable consequence is disengagement.”
In order to prevent brownout and to retain top talent, companies and managers must understand what they’re doing that contributes to this slow fade. The following practices are the worst offenders, and they must be abolished if you’re going to hang on to good employees.