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Mentoring

$500 for a Business Idea

November 27, 2005 | By | One Comment

Noah Kagan at Okdork.com is having a contest with a cash prize. This is not a joke. Go visit.

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The First Clue in Character: Is Bob Woodward Wayward?

November 24, 2005 | By | One Comment

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If a manager was going to make a new hire, there would be a number of reference checks. But there is one kind of background check easy to do and often overlooked.

And the candidate himself is the source.

Yes, the best indicator of future performance is past performance.

But there is more.

Permit Your Business Blogger to use Bob Woodward as a brief case study on avoiding a questionable hire.

Rich Galen tells us the backstory on Woodward:

Bob Woodward appears to have lied. By omission and commission.

Bob Woodward. A name which is spoken by other reporters in the hushed tones generally reserved for recently deceased Popes by Catholic priests and nuns: Bob Woooodwaaaard.

But now we come to the Plame affair. The story is now well-known. Rich writing at Mullings reports:

In 2003 someone leaked the name Valerie Plame to Bob Novak who wrote a column about the fact that (a) she was Joe Wilson’s wife and (b) worked at the CIA. It has never been clear that this was a crime.

In the current matter, someone had told Woodward about Valerie Plame a month or so before someone (we don’t know the identity of the someone or someones) had told Novak about her.

However, Woodward’s character begins to show:

But Woodward decided to hide that fact from everyone including his editor because, “I didn’t want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed.”

So, Woodward hid substantive facts from his editor at the Washington Post…

Rich concludes:

The Washington Post has a highly regarded national security affairs reporter named Walter Pincus who was subpoenaed to, and did, testify before the grand jury.

Woodward allowed a colleague be dragged into the fray, but hid his own knowledge so his shoes didn’t get muddied.

What a guy.

Woodward is clearly not a team player. But how would a hiring manager know this?

The question to ask is: who is Woodward’s hero? Who did he choose to understudy for?

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Ben Bradlee

Early in his career, Bob Woodward worked for Ben Bradlee, who was the executive editor of The Washington Post. During Watergate.

Bradlee taught Woodward all the tricks of the trade. And less.

Bradlee had no little influence on Woodward at The Washington Post.

So who is Bradlee, this key influencer?

A little-known vignette about Bradlee revealed that he confessed that he would have printed the WWII D-Day invasion plans if he had known about them.

His dedication to the “scoop” and ambition toward getting a Pulitzer were more important than the lives of American soldiers.

Safe to say — Bradlee has an unusual value system.

And Woodward appears to have learned from his old boss all too well.

During your next series of interviewing candidates, ask them simple backgrounders.

“What was the worst character flaw of your past mentor or boss?”

The purpose is not to focus on what the superior did wrong. But in how long the student/subordinate tolerated, or even, heaven forbid, approved of the deviant behavior.

The best answer I ever heard on this question, as a matter of character evaluation, went something like this, from my friend Bill Oncken:

Interviewer: “Is there anything you did not like about your previous boss?”

Interviewee: “…He had problems lying about expense reports… it got so bad we were asked to cover for him.”

Interviewer: “How long did you put up with this?”

Interviewee: “I didn’t; I quit when he asked me to sign off on some funny stuff…”

Interviewer: “You quit with no job to go to?”

Interviewee: “Yes.”

The interviewee saved up — not just for a rainy day — but for an unforeseen tragedy. He was able to fund his belief system. He could fund his integrity.

And left behind a crooked influencer in his life. He was looking for something better.

The measure of a man is made in his mentor.

Woodward’s style and actions come as no surprise when we look at the traits of his teacher, Bradlee.

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Consider a bookmark for this site.

Thank you (foot)notes:

Don Suber has Anon Open Post.

Euphorical Reality has Drop Zone.

Jo’s Cafe has open trackbacks. Visit and be sure to get Upstated.

The Political Teen has info on TTLB trackbacks.

Generation Why has Scandal and analysis.

Basil’s Blog has open trackbacks.

Blogger Meetup in Your Nation’s Capital

September 17, 2005 | By | No Comments

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Alexis de Tocqueville

David Wayne who pens JollyBlogger is bringing together bloggers with an eternal perspective: God Bloggers. Friday, September 30th at 6:30pm. Details.

Tocqueville would not be surprised.

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Thank you (foot)notes:

Mudville Gazette for Open Post.

Complete the Weekend Assignment at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

Meetup is outside the beltway but on Outside the Beltway at Traffic Jam.

Visit Cao’s Blog and her open Trackback post.

Hire the Homosexual

September 15, 2005 | By | 2 Comments

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The NCWIT

Brad Feld has about the best blog published for early stage companies. But I have a (rare) disagreement with him. The National Center for Women in Information Technology, NCWIT, appointed a male as the board chair. The gentleman, Brad reports, was the most qualified. And this may very well have been true.

But is competence the only criterion in hiring?

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Equal Employment

Opportunity

Over the years, I have been confronted with this question. In two different companies, I hired a homosexual and a woman with serious health problems. In each hiring decision I had a short list of candidates who were nearly equal in knowledge, skills and abilities.

In these two instances I hired the second best resume.

I hired not the best resume, but the best person.

Another smart Brad, Brad Reynolds was Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under President Reagan. We once had a conversation about hiring practices. He gave me some sound advice:

When two identical candidates are being interviewed, choose the one who had to come over the roughest road to get to you.

So how hard was it for the job seeker to get in my office? What hurdles? What hassles?

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Campaign for

Human Rights:

Group Rights vs.

Individual Effort

We hear a lot of blather about equal treatment for racial groups, equity for equity feminists, anyone in plaid pants. But there are individuals who have had unusual life challenges and have had to negotiate a more difficult trail.

I would suggest that a woman should have been selected to chair the women’s organization, “to ensure that women are fully represented,” as claimed in their mission statement. A woman rather a man because, I would submit, she had a tougher row to hoe to get to the candidate pool then to the board. A woman would have been the best person.

The characteristics that drove her to get herself in front of the selection committee, would be the very qualities needed to make the organization a success.

The NCWIC should have appointed a woman as chair.

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Mayor Nagin’s Performance Report

September 14, 2005 | By | One Comment

Tom Peters once said about managing airlines, “If the tray tables are dirty, they don’t do their engine maintenance.” Lack of attention to detail is not confined to a single block in the org chart. It is usually systemic. And can be historic.

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New Orleans

1927 Mississippi Flood

Photo Courtesy of NOAA

US Dept of Commerce

Mayor Nagin’s errors are writ large and small. Let us look at the tiniest of details: spelling. From the Wall Street Journal:

The New Orleans contingency plan…states: “The safe evacuation of threatened populations is one of the principle [sic] reasons for developing a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.” But the plan was apparently ignored.

What concerned Your Humble Business Blogger was that “[sic]” which borders on well deserved sarcasm. Principle; Principal? Whatever.

If a manager can’t spell, should he be entrusted with a city?

During my first days on active duty in the Army, I was flooded with some paperwork and I made a few typos. But we had a Cold War to win. Spelling shouldn’t count.

My boss lost his sense of humor and I was reprimanded, verbally. (But I remember it physically.)

“Son,” the senior officer said, “You need better attention to detail.”

I became acutely aware at age 23 that details were important in the adult world. Especially where a mistake would have my people in body bags.

Something Mayor Nagin never learned.

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Thank you (foot)notes:

Excellent analysis at Sailor in the Desert on Tragedy.

See Outside The Beltway and Traffic Jam. Which points us to Master Snitch! and his biting epic poem.

Visit Mudville Gazette on Open Post. Good reading at Banter in Atlanta posting the Katrina’s ripple effect.

Ace reviews chain of command in NO/LA.

Michelle Malkin has quote round up of my people.

Review Managing Product Development at How Much Planning is Enough?

Bad Hair Blog actually says it better.

In Memoriam: Jesse Brown

September 5, 2005 | By | No Comments

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Jesse Brown

Jesse Brown, 58, passed away some three years ago. He was my friend and business partner. This inaugural post on Labor Day 2005 is to honor his memory and his work.

He was wounded by enemy fire in Vietnam leaving his right arm and hand partially paralyzed. This never slowed him down.

I once asked him when he was at the pinnacle of his career what drove him to work so hard. Money, I thought; status, celebrity? No. “I just want to help my friends,” he said.

His passion for service helped him become the Veteran’s Affairs Secretary for Bill Clinton.

And yet he helped me, a nobody who worked for a Republican governor.

Jesse is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, not far from my dad. Two warriors to whom I owe so much.

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See Reasoned Audacity for more on the ANC.