Book: The Alliance

thealliance“The Alliance: managing talent in the networked age” by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh.

  • “In an alliance, employer and employee develop a relationship based on how they can add value to each other. Employers need to tell their employees, ‘Help make our company more valuable, and we’ll make you more valuable.'”
  • “Employees need to tell their bosses, “Help me grow and flourish, and I’ll help the company grow and flourish.” Employees invest in the company’s success; the company invests in the employees’ market value. By building a mutually beneficial alliance rather than simply exchanging money for time, employer and employee can invest in the relationship and take the risks necessary to pursue bigger payoffs.”
  • “Yet while a professional sports team doesn’t assume lifetime employment, the principles of trust, mutual investment, and mutual benefit still apply. Teams win when their individual members trust each other enough to prioritize team success over individual glory; paradoxically, winning as a team is the best way for the team members to achieve individual success.”
  • “Want your employees to come up with multibillion-dollar ideas while on the job? You have to attract professionals with the founder mind-set and then harness their entrepreneurial impulses for your company.”
  • As Intuit CEO Brad Smith told us, “A leader’s job is not to put greatness into people, but rather to recognize that it already exists, and to create the environment where that greatness can emerge and grow.”
  • “I explain how my job is to create career-trajectory-changing opportunities for them, and their responsibility is to take advantage of exposure to the experiences here to grasp that opportunity and create long-term value for themselves. In some cases, the value will manifest most explicitly later in their career after they leave. During the years we share at LinkedIn, we both win when they grow fastest. This shared interest is at the heart of my management style and my personal promise to my employees.”
  • “He asks the same question of folks who are interviewing for jobs at LinkedIn (‘What job do you want after you work at LinkedIn?’) in order to make sure the company can offer a tour of duty that will advance their future career.”
  • “A general rule of thumb is that an initial transformational tour of a duty lasts two to five years. It’s a time period that seems to be nearly universal for any organization or industry. In the software business, the two- to five-year term fits with a normal product development cycle, allowing an employee to see a major project through.”
  • As Intuit CEO Brad Smith said, “Year 1 [of the tour] lets you gain the important context for the role, year 2 is about putting your definitive mark on transformational change, and years 3 to 5 are about implementing and growing your successes—or pivoting when assumptions don’t play out the way you expect.”
  • “People think career development means moving up the ladder, but moving from side to side can be just as valuable.”
  • “Cisco’s Talent Connection program, which helps current employees find new opportunities within Cisco, increased employees’ satisfaction with career development by almost 20 percent.”
  • “If an employee sees working at the company as his last job, and the company wants the employee to stay until he retires, he is on a Foundational tour of duty. The company has become the foundation of the person’s career and even life, and the employee has become one of the foundations of the company. The employee sees his life’s work as the company’s mission and vice versa.”
  • “Rotational tours provide scalability by helping companies hire large numbers of employees into stable, well-understood roles.”
  • “Transformational tours provide adaptability by helping companies bring in the specific skills and experiences required.”
  • “Foundational tours provide continuity by helping companies retain employees who focus on the long term. Your senior management team should consist of Foundational employees.”
  • “Silicon Valley companies, including start-ups, rely primarily (roughly 80 percent) on Transformational tours, with a small number of Foundational and Rotational employees. This allows them to field a high-performance, highly adaptable workforce.”
  • “Alignment means that managers should explicitly seek and highlight the commonality between the company’s purpose and values and the employee’s career purpose and values.”
  • “Your task is to build alignment with regard to the employee’s specific mission objective, not his entire life. As we’ve said, your company is not a family—you don’t have to unconditionally support your employees’ values and aspirations, but you do have to respect them.”
  • “For Rotational tours, it’s possible to have relatively modest overlap between the employee’s and the company’s interests”
  • “For Transformational tours, there needs to be substantial overlap between both parties’ values and interests”
  • “And for Foundational tours, the overlap is almost 100 percent”
  • “Saying that your company builds great products and meets the needs of its customers is essentially meaningless because those aspirations could and should apply to any company. These are results, not purposes! Which specific needs? Which specific customers?”
  • “The goal is to enable employees to compare their personal values to those of the company or the work group. Even if you aren’t part of the senior management team of the company, you can establish a set of aspirations and core values for your group or business unit.”
  • “We want to know their aspirations in life. We ask, ‘Who do you look at and say, “I want to be her someday?”’
  • “First, ask the employee to jot down the names of three people he admires. Then, next to each name, the employee should list the three qualities he most admires about each person (nine qualities in total). Finally, he should rank these qualities in order of importance, 1 being the most important, 9 being the least important. He now has a list of personal values and can compare them with the company’s values.”
  • “Remember, the employee and the company don’t have to be aligned forever, just for the length of the tour of duty.”
  • “Ultimately, the alignment of interests, values, and aspirations increases the odds of a long-term, strong alliance between a company and its talent.”
  • Theodore Roosevelt’s famous dictum, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
  • “At LinkedIn, the philosophy is to let our brightest go after areas that interest them, especially in areas where they will be a bit in over their head at first,” Hahn said. “It’s been a great strategy to keep our most talented folks motivated and learning as fast as possible.”
  • “Meet one-on-one with each of your direct reports to discuss their core aspirations and values, and how these values fit with those of the company.”
  • “Learning what an employee cares about helps build a relationship of trust.”
  • “What is your proudest career moment?”
  • “Bear in mind that the underlying power dynamics can make it seem intimidating when you ask direct questions. That’s why it’s important for you to start by opening up about your own core aspirations and values.”
  • “‘Tell me in three to five minutes your life’s journey and how it led you to be the person you are today . . . touching on major moments in your life that helped define who you are and your approach to business and leadership, such as dealing with adverse experiences like a bully, the death of a loved one, or major decisions that went wrong.’”
  • “Every employee gets hired into a Rotational or Transformational tour. Define an employee’s initial tour of duty during the hiring process—or at least start the conversation if the situation is too uncertain to finalize the details of the tour.”
  • “What Is the Overall Objective of the Tour?”
  • “The goal is to select a mission objective that helps the company, but also provides an opportunity for the employee to grow.”
  • “What Do the Results of a Successful Tour of Duty Look Like for the Employee?”
  • “Set Up a System of Regular Checkpoints for Both Sides to Exchange Feedback with Each Other”
  • “the goal is to provide an explicit forum for jointly evaluating progress toward both parties’ desired results.”
  • “Remember, it’s a bidirectional conversation: the company talks about the employee’s contributions and the employee talks about whether the company is helping him meet his career goals.”
  • “Before the Tour of Duty Draws to a Close, Begin Defining the Next Tour of Duty”
  • “Succession planning also provides a more satisfying closure for the employee, who can complete his tour of duty knowing that the product, project, or initiative that he owned for several years of his life is continuing on in good hands.”
  • “Discuss a potential departure openly and honestly. As your employee’s ally, it’s your job to help him choose the right next step. This means helping him assess his options, even if those options include working at other companies.”
  • “Together, you and your employee should negotiate a transition period and draw up a transition checklist. The goal of the transition checklist is to lay out everything that the company needs from the employee to finish the mission, especially the question of who will pick up the project ball going forward.”
  • “Managers shouldn’t use the moral imperative of a tour of duty to force an employee to stay in an onerous position, especially if the poor fit is the result of flawed management decisions. The goal of the tour of duty is to build trust with honest communication and to create longevity on a voluntary basis, not to lock employees into roles they dislike or lock up companies with ineffective employees.”
  • “What Happens If One Party Breaks the Alliance?”
    • “First and foremost, the employee will take a major hit to his credibility and reputation. He can’t betray a key relationship and simply say, ‘It’s just business.’ Ethics matter. In addition, the employee will also suffer practical consequences. That employee will forgo future benefits, such as distinguished alumni status (more on this in chapter 7) and favorable references.”
    • “You can’t disregard the relationship, then expect an employee to be an ally in the future, whether in terms of speaking well of the company, referring customers and new employees, or anything else.”
  • “What Happens If the Employee Gets a New Manager?”
    • “The right approach is a respectful transition. The default expectation should be that the new manager will continue the existing tour of duty. However, if she realizes that the mission has to change, she should have the freedom to make the change, while retaining the moral obligation to steer the employee to a successful landing.”
  • “What If One Party Is Performing Poorly?”
    • “alliance is a relationship, not a transaction. Ups and downs are inevitable, and both sides should maintain a long-term investment perspective rather than responding in knee-jerk fashion to short-term turbulence.”
  • “What If the Employee Wants to Move into a New Role within the Company?”
    • “If an employee can keep his mission on track and arrange an orderly transition, you shouldn’t block the change.”
  • “a power imbalance creates the fear that the more powerful party will abuse that power to maximize its own benefit. If you have the upper hand, be proactive about demonstrating your commitment to fair dealing. If your employee has the upper hand and tries to assert his power, acknowledge this fact when it comes up, then return the focus of the conversation to reaching a win-win deal.”
  • “If you carefully manage leading indicators such as mission alignment, an employee’s ability to gather network intelligence, or general satisfaction during tours of duty check-ins, you’ll successfully manage lagging indicators such as employee retention or engagement.”
  • “the alliance at work: growing their professional networks helps employees transform their career; employee networking helps the company transform itself.”
  • “But you can’t just rely on the information circulating in the brains of your current employees. There are more smart people outside your company than inside it. In a healthy ecosystem, this is always true.”
  • “Each employee can receive and decipher intelligence from the outside world that helps the company adapt.”
  • “So don’t treat tweeting on the job like an infraction—encourage it! Ask your employees to expense lunches with interesting people. By helping employees invest in their individual networks, you build an environment of trust and reciprocity. And when you ask employees to tap their own networks on behalf of the company, they’ll be more likely to respond favorably.”
  • “An added bonus is that a proactive network intelligence program helps with recruiting.”
  • “In a highly networked era, who you know is often more valuable than what you’ve read.”
  • “Network intelligence should be tapped ethically; PayPal employees didn’t skulk about in costumes, send questions from fake e-mail accounts, or root through Billpoint’s garbage bins. They simply confirmed their findings by talking with Billpoint managers and employees and asking them how they viewed the market.”
  • “Writer Frans Johansson has argued that innovation arises at the intersection of different disciplines and cultures.”
  • “When innovation, adaptation, and execution are critical, success is closely related to how the team interacts with outsiders” because successful teams “reach across boundaries to forge dense networks of connection, both inside and outside the organization.”
  • “In the interview process, ask candidates about their strongest professional allies. Find out how they solve problems—do they call experts in their network?”
  • “Encourage your employees to play offense. Direct reports should talk with people in their network about key challenges their group is facing. Equip them with questions to ask their friends, and ask them to report back on what they learn.”
  • “How is a key technology trend (e.g., “Big Data”) shaping our industry?
    • What are other companies (and competitors) doing that’s working or not working?
    • What are our customers’ sentiments, what is motivating them, and how have they changed?
    • Who are the key people in our industry that we should engage with?
    • What are the hiring trends in our industry?
    • Who are new entrants in the marketplace and which of them are doing interesting things?”
  • “Of course, employees should use their discretion and always maintain their integrity. If an employee is talking to a friend who works at a competitor, it’s best to steer the conversation to focus on a third competitor that isn’t his company or the friend’s. Or, when an employee brings information back to the company, he may need to make it anonymous (‘I heard from a friend’ instead of ‘I heard from John Doe, director of product at . . . ‘) or change certain details to protect confidentiality.”
  • “You should want your employees to be discoverable by the outside world in a professional context.”
  • “One of the techniques we recommend to entrepreneurial individuals in The Start-up of You is to maintain an ‘interesting person fund’—money earmarked for coffees and meals with interesting people in their network.”
  • “LinkedIn has a similar program under which employees can expense their lunches with smart people in the industry, as long as they summarize what they learned from the lunch on their expense report—a neat intersection of the alliance with old-school HR operations.”
  • “Give your people time to take on leadership roles and speaking gigs in associations. Employees who are thought leaders outside the company improve the company brand and the employee’s own personal brand.”
  • “Try to leverage your firm’s facilities. Bigger companies, especially, should host conferences and events; these attract outsiders onto the campus and make it easier for current employees to meet and engage with them.”
  • “Norshould this practice be limited to formal events that require official support. Simply allowing employees to host clubs and associations is a low-cost way to encourage external networking.”
  • “If an employee takes someone interesting out for coffee or attends a conference, have a plan for ‘scaling’ the learning. Employees can share their lessons learned in forms ranging from a simple e-mail to full-blown presentations.”
  • “when employees return from a conference, they’re asked to host a brown-bag lunch (‘Lunch in Learn’) to share with their colleagues what they learned. If an in-person get-together isn’t an option or isn’t scalable enough, employees can log in to LearnIn, the internal learning portal at the company, and publish their insights on the intranet for all other employees to see.”
  • “Establishing a corporate alumni network, which requires relatively little investment, is the next logical step in maintaining a relationship of mutual trust, mutual investment, and mutual benefit in an era where lifetime employment is no longer the norm.”
  • “When a company is thriving, its alumni look good.”
  • “Meanwhile, when a company’s alumni are thriving professionally, that network becomes a valuable asset that helps the company.”
  • “If more companies studied corporate alumni networks, they would see that the costs of investing in alumni are much less than they might think, and the returns much greater.”
  • “The first way an alumni network helps with hiring is making it easier for “boomerang” employees to return for another tour of duty after an absence from the company.”
  • “Alumni can also refer great candidates.”
  • “corporate alumni can help with reference checks and judging cultural fit, even when they don’t directly source the candidate.”
  • “Finally, the very presence of a properly implemented corporate alumni network can help an employer close great candidates. Candidates don’t need to guess what impact one or more tours of duty might have; instead, they can simply use alumni as surrogates to get a sense of whether they’d like the job. The fact that McKinsey alumni have gone on to lead hundreds of billion-dollar companies helps illustrate the benefits of joining the firm.”
  • “Alumni are a great source of network intelligence—competitive information, effective business practices, emerging industry trends, and more.”
  • “Alumni can become customers or refer customers, especially when incentivized to do so.”
  • “Corporate alumni can help in this regard, especially if they outnumber a firm’s current employees.”
  • “In sum, the more a corporate alumni network strengthens the company’s brand, the easier it becomes to leverage that network for hiring, network intelligence, and customer referrals.”
  • “Almost any company should support its alumni, given the minimal cost and the potential returns from maintaining an ongoing relationship.”
  • “Senior managers should set up formal programs and processes for tapping alumni intelligence before the need for their contribution arises. These could include alumni advisory councils, topic-specific mailing lists for current employees and distinguished alumni, and regular alumni events where current execs mingle with alumni.”
  • “a business without loyalty is a business without long-term thinking. A business without long-term thinking is a business that’s unable to invest in the future. And a business that isn’t investing in tomorrow’s opportunities and technologies is a company already in the process of dying.”
  • See also:

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