In-House Team Building & Training – Pubcon NOLA 2014

During Pubcon NOLA 2014 I was, once again, privileged to do a presentation during the In-House Team Building & Training session. While I was up first, Brian McDowell and Dave Rohrer followed up with some excellent information. Here are some notes I took during their presentations …

During Pubcon NOLA 2014 I was, once again, privileged to do a presentation during the In-House Team Building & Training session. While I was up first, Brian McDowell and Dave Rohrer followed up with some excellent information. Here are some notes I took during their presentations:

Brian McDowell – In-House Team Building and Training

  • SEO Function scales horizontally instead of vertically
    • Starts in Marketing or IT
    • Eventually moves across the whole organization
  • Find the proper fit for what you need
    • What talent do you need?
    • Where can you find that talent
    • Look at the maturity of your organization in order to see where you need to fill in skill sets
  • Understand the needs of your business
    • Education – Why
    • Advisors – How
    • Evangelism – Who
    • Analysis – What
  • Look for people who intersect Technology, Marketing and Sales
    • You’re director of SEO will fit right in the middle
    • Other roles will have skills that skew in one direction or the other
  • It’s difficult to train someone right out of school who doesn’t understand SEO
    • Someone from PPC can really understand SEO, that’s a good place to find talent
    • It’s sometimes valuable to hire someone right out of school and put them into PPC and then migrate them to SEO if they are good
  • There are over 1 million people who claim to have experience in SEO
    • Create pressure
    • Do a group interview
    • Have the interviewee do some code on the whiteboard – how comfortable are they in figuring out a problem?
  • Don’t forget about training, consultants, coaching, conferences and dedicated time to do research when figuring out how much a person will cost to hire
  • Don’t forget digital resources when estimating costs of everything. You have to make sure the person has the right tools to get the job done
  • SEO is really more about web presence management – remember this!
  • Be a coach –
    • Build your playbook
    • Identify your position needs
    • Attack free agency
    • Call the plays

Dave Rohrer – In-House Team Building and Training

  • Don’t skimp on CPU and RAM in computers for your team members – there’s not much worse than a huge Excel file crashing in the middle of something
  • Align your goals
    • Company Goals
    • Marketing Goals stem from company goals
    • SEO Goals stem from Marketing goals
    • This way everyone is supporting the next level up
    • Break your goals down into strategic initiatives and tactics
  • Consider hiring a journalism temp or intern to interview people during content creation
  • Keep meetings short and to the point – pay attention , make an agenda and follow the agenda
  • Agencies use task and time management to track projects – in-house should use them, too. Tools can help get you more time, people, budget or other help

Leadership Unplugged – A Google Hangout Event

Last week at the Pubcon Austin Regional, I had an opportunity chat with Rebecca Murtagh, author of Million Dollar Websites, before the final keynote. Rebecca has been hosting Google Hangouts after several recent Pubcon events, and I asked if she was going to do that again. In our pursuing conversation, she asked if I’d like share some of the ideas about leadership I talked about during the “In-House SEO” session earlier in the day. I thought that was a great idea, so we will be having a Google Hangout called “Leadership – Unplugged: What Every Leader Should Know” on Thursday, February 13, 2014, 2pm to 3pm Central …

Last week at the Pubcon Austin Regional, I had an opportunity chat with Rebecca Murtagh, author of Million Dollar Websites, before the final keynote. Rebecca has been hosting Google Hangouts after several recent Pubcon events, and I asked if she was going to do that again.

In our pursuing conversation, she asked if I’d like share some of the ideas about leadership I talked about during my “Elmer’s Leadership Lesson 2.8” presentation I did in the “In-House SEO” session earlier in the day. I thought that was a great idea … so we will be having a Google Hangout called “Leadership – Unplugged: What Every Leader Should Know” on Thursday, February 13, 2014, 2pm to 3pm Central.

Leadership Unlugged Google Event

This is listed as a private event. When you click the link above, please click the “Request Invitation” button. Of course, you’ll need a Google account to join in. Accounts are free … just sign up for one.

I am always pleasantly surprised how well my leadership talks are received at Pubcon events. Certainly, the main reason why people attend Pubcon and other industry events is to help hone their technical skills. While this is certainly a critical aspect of working in a technical field, those of us who lead people are sometimes not as dedicated to honing our non-technical, people-related skills. That’s not to say we are neglectful or bad – not at all. It’s just that we sometimes are so heads-down and focused on work, that we don’t think about those other skills needed to build a great team. That’s where I come in.

During the hangout, I’ll highlight some points from last week’s presentation, then have some time for Rebecca and I to do some Q&A, then we’ll open up the discussion to anyone for questions, discussion or whatever.

Sign up and join me and Rebecca. I’m sure you’ll learn something you can take back to help you be a better team leader.

An Example of Perseverance – Hiroo Onoda

If you’re looking for an example of perseverance under difficult circumstances, you would be hard pressed to find a better example than Hiroo Onoda. Onoda was the Japanese soldier who hid in the jungles of Lubang Island in the Philippines from 1944 until 1974, when he finally surrendered to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. As a young lieutenant in the Japanese Army towards the end of World War 2, as the Americans were clearing out resistance to General McArthur’s return to the Philippines …

If you’re looking for an example of perseverance under difficult circumstances, you would be hard pressed to find a better example than Hiroo Onoda. Onoda was a Japanese soldier who hid in the jungles of Lubang Island in the Philippines from 1944 until 1974, when he finally surrendered to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.

As a young lieutenant in the Japanese Army towards the end of World War 2, the Americans were clearing out resistance to General McArthur’s return to the Philippines, Onoda was ordered to stay behind and run guerrilla operations to impede U.S. and Philippine forces, to never surrender and not take his own life. He and three others took to the hills and continued their part of the war. Over time, the others were killed or gave up the fight. But not Lieutenant Onoda, he continued living off the land (and the occasional stolen livestock) until March 9, 1974 when his former commanding officer was flown to the Philippines to finally convince Onoda that the war was really over.

Some might be tempted to think this man was simply crazy. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. In Onoda we find a man who was dedicated to duty and had the perseverance to see his mission through until the end – even though that end was not in sight and lasted 30 years.

I read his autobiography several years ago. In it, he describes the measures he took to survive all those years. He also talks about the extreme loneliness, the desire to go home and be with his family and the fatigue he sometimes felt in carrying out his duty. This is a man who was far from crazy, and someone from whom we can learn some very valuable lessons about perseverance and follow-through.

Hiroo Onoda passed away on January 16, 2014.

I recommend reading Onoda’s autobiography. No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War (Amazon Affiliate Link).

Companies Without Managers? It Might Just Work!

I’ve read several articles over the past few months that described how some tech companies are doing away with middle managers, titles and hierarchy in an attempt to make their organizations more agile and entrepreneurial as well as to avoid building a bureaucracy as the organization grows. Most of these companies are rather small, but even some larger firms like Zappos is starting to buy into this trend. As a student of leadership, I found this to be very interesting …

I’ve read several articles over the past few months that described how some tech companies are doing away with managers, titles and hierarchy in an attempt to make their organizations more agile and entrepreneurial as well as to avoid building a bureaucracy as the organization grows. Most of these companies are rather small, but even some larger firms like Zappos is starting to buy into this trend.

As a student of leadership, I found this to be very interesting. I am a huge fan of avoiding and eliminating bureaucracy. I also believe that employees, especially in a small- or medium-sized business, need to be agile and entrepreneurial. But, is it a good idea to eliminate “managers” and “bosses” in order to build a flat organizational structure? While the idea seems counterintuative, I think breaking things down into a Holocracy® or some other “-ocracy” can work if it’s implemented properly.

The key is that, in the end, whatever jobs that need to be accomplished are “owned” by someone. It doesn’t matter if the person is called a “manager” or not. Titles, or the lack thereof, are irrelevant. Someone has to “own” the work. Even better if the person who’s tasked to accomplish something is passionate about whatever it is and volunteers to do it. They will do a better job and someone who couldn’t care less being appointed to get it done. I learned this very valuable lesson long ago: “If something is owned by everyone, then it is owned by no one.”

Even in a “flat” organization, there needs to be accountability. In Zappos’ new structure, people are empowered to be entrepreneurial about their tasks, more transparent and self accountable. These are all great ideals that I applaud. But, there doesn’t appear to be any other accountability built into the system other than to one’s peers within the “circle” they are assigned to. This could end up being a fatal flaw.

Going along with the ownership idea: Someone also has be accountable for the work. Whether in customer service, payroll, shipping, etc., if everyone within that team owns it all, then no one really owns it. Who is going to:

  • establish budgets and make sure departments or teams stay within those budgets
  • make decisions about major investments of equipment, software or other property in the organization
  • have the final call on hiring and firing
  • make sure all members of the team are contributing their fair share
  • cast vision within teams and make sure everyone stays on track?

Certainly, some of those tasks can be accomplished by committee; but, it may be challenging or impossible for others. The “Quartz” article about Zappos does not address these questions specifically, but I do believe Tony Hsieh is a very smart person and has addressed these issues so they don’t cause problems as his company moves forward. If those things can be successfully dealt with, then Zappos could lead the way for other larger organizations to follow this trend.

 What say you? Do you think a flat organization is the way for businesses to go in future? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Hiring Vets Makes Sense!

Those dozen or so regular visitors to The Crossing know that I believe veterans bring a great deal of practical experience to business. Not only do they bring valuable leadership experience to just about any business venture, those who worked in the intelligence field are especially suited for online marketing work.

Colonel (Ret.) David Sullivan recently wrote an article appearing on Forbes.com outlining some great reasons why former non-commissioned officers (NCOs) are likely better suited for business leadership roles than MBAs with no experience. Of course, I agree with his reasoning.

Those who served in our armed forces and rose to the ranks of the NCO Corps, regardless of service, had to earn their way to that level. They were mentored and taught from early in their careers not only how to do their own jobs, but the jobs of those who led them. This type of mentoring and success is critical in military life, but often missing in businesses. Because of this unique aspect of career development in the armed services, most former NCOs have a “can-do” attitude and look to mission completion as the ultimate goal. As Colonel Sullivan points out in his article, once they get going, former NCOs usually get things done before their boss even has a chance to tell them to go.

The Missing Element: Leadership
I’ve worked for and with some MBAs who were very good, and I’ve worked with some who were terrible. The issue I usually have with the terrible ones is that they have no experience or knowledge of how to lead people. This is a critical part of the success equation that seems to be lacking in MBA programs. Many people come out of their education with the idea that management and leadership are the same thing. Those people are the ones who look at the workforce as assets, or worse, as expensive liabilities. Those are the ones who demoralize and disenfranchise those who should be members of the their team. Again, not all those who graduate MBA programs are like this, but some are. Many MBA grads I’ve talked to admit they did not learn about how to be leaders in school, just the nuts and bolts of business. Those who were good leaders tended to be those who were mentored by another leader who demonstrated to them proper leadership and helped them to develop their own leadership styles after they graduation and actually got into the workforce.

I remember when I was out in the marketplace looking for new opportunities. I ran into more than one recruiter who told me I didn’t have enough leadership experience to fit some of the roles I looked into. I was quite surprised that they didn’t understand 10 years of experience as an NCO was more than enough experience to fit that organization’s need. While that frustrated me at the time, I’ve come to understand there is a gap in how we veterans communicate what we did so that the business world can understand. That’s something we in the vet community are working on correcting.

In the meantime: If you are looking for someone to fill a leadership role and a vet applies, please give them an interview. I’m not saying to automatically hire them. Just as I have worked with good and bad MBAs, I’ve also worked with good and bad NCOs. But, at least call them in and give them a chance. You will likely be pleasantly surprised at what that person brings to the table.

What say you? What do you think about Col. Sullivan’s piece in Forbes? Please feel free to share in the comments.