The lifesytle expat is a sign of times, their existence is a logical necessity; they are the byproducts of flawed views and the corresponding thinking that are prevalent in the corporate world, which promotes arrogance and infantile behavior and necessarily divides employees into cynics and idiots.
The lifestyle expat may be best described by one word: entitlement.
They are typically sent from mature markets to developing ones to “get things done”, to “teach and educate those people”, to “achieve” and what in light of all this seems to be paradoxical: to gain international experience. Not all expats are lifestyle expats but we won’t speak here about the others.
Six simple ways to recognize the lifestyle expat:
- She’s doing the company a favor. The ones that are not that bright are convinced of this, the cynical players are just good at playing this card smart.
- He has demands or non-negotiables: these are typically stuff he could not get at HQ in his “normal job”. A good example could be vacation days for North American expats (a scarcity in their home markets), job for the spouse, paid (elite) school for kids, the best house money (not budget!) can buy – and similar. For lifestyle expats non-negotiables are a vanity question (a “question of principle” as they put it) and they fight for them vehemently.
- She is not really participating, let alone rocking the boat. She typically lets her team working overtime while she’s leaving precisely at 5pm (work/life balance), takes her vacations when the going gets tough (on short notice if necessary), etc. She often counterbalances this with a great smile and a smooth personality.
- No ideas, no strategies. He’s much happier talking about his career plans. This typically boils down to becoming a general manager and a regional CEO. The career usually stops at the GM level, they rarely become regional CEOs and never become CEOs of multinationals….and this is of course a good thing.
- When it becomes clear that there is no “room for growth”, or when the lifestyle is not likely to be financed by the company anymore she moves on to another company. The plan is typically to become a GM by the time he’s 35…then by the time he’s 45, etc. Some of them are out of there way before the notice period is up… like they had never even been there.
- Never learns a local language, interacts mostly with expats and locals who share “his views”. I link here some more relevant stuff to this from my friend Eric Bilginoglu, who has a unique perspective on the issue.
…and you can probably list many more.
Someone dealing with these guys often summed up their performance like this: nice guys, great at building relationships, perfect presentations, structured input, absolutely no results.
Top 3 reasons why lifestyle expats exist:
1. There is no leadership in the organization: the boss of the lifestyle expat may very well be another lifestyle expat, a Like-minded Local or just a weak manager
2. The company’s “culture” actually favors the lifestyle expat; this means that it’s full of incompetent super stars. Since in this case the company is not performing well (most of the good guys have already left and the cynical and the stupid constitute the majority) a CEO change and a major organizational change should be expected – or the company’s demise.
3. The organization is going through massive change and they haven’t got around firing them yet (see also point 1)
If you have lifestyle expats reporting to you,
- you MUST start showing leadership NOW
- if you haven’t yet, you must realize that business is NOT as usual: you have a CRISIS on your hand and you must manage accordingly
- you MUST re-think how you approach and manage change
- you should start looking for another job
Excerpt from the upcoming book: The funny business of executive search
Search guys’ networks maybe large but it doesn’t mean that they are valuable for clients or potential candidates. This is logical since agents benefit more from their network than their network from them; and when we look at search guys specifically, who are after people not looking for new jobs, they provide actual value only to current clients (even for those ideally NOT through their network) and to a lesser degree to shortlisted candidates: percentage wise – in proportion to their total network– this is close to zero. Even if we consider potential benefits to their network the ratio is not much better for the same reasons.
Interestingly neither the clients nor the candidates act as if they were aware of this. It happens often that clients call search guys saying: here’s a great guy do you have something for him? Or vice versa: candidates often check in with search firms when they are looking for jobs. It’s not a 100% useless to do this but realistically there is not much point in it. Unless they have special arrangements with clients to bring them top candidates without a formal search process in place, the search guys are not that motivated to make moves: they don’t want to jeopardize coming across as desperate or “creative”. There are “influential” search guys out there who can call up a client and say: hire this guy! In some cases they can do this because they put the guys they call in their position the same way, sometimes for other reasons – the number of these players are not substantial and these practices are of course highly questionable from an ethical point of view.
Search guys are of course selling heavily the size of their network. This is typically a sign of the clients and/or the search guys being clueless. People hiring search firms often tell me: I spoke with this guy and I couldn’t finish explaining what the situation was, he kept on interrupting by telling me who he knows who maybe relevant…
Strongly related to the size of the network is when local search guys sell the “I know everybody” proposition. The disadvantage of the search guy “knowing everybody” is that the chance that he will subconsciously screen out candidates before even starting the search is big. A search guy who is not that tied in to the social fabric in a particular location and performs a thorough research will go in without any preconceived notions and talks even to candidates that others may not even think about approaching for whatever reason.
Another thing about this proposition is that people tend to associate knowing everybody with being influential. Knowing everybody often means that they spoke once in a conference, somebody was a candidate once or they both member of the same chamber of commerce, attend the same networking events, etc. Some search guys throw BBQs, have lunch and drinks with somebody every day, etc. None of this means influence. Even if both the search guy and a high profile candidate are members of an exclusive club where members tend to deal mostly “insiders”, the only advantage from all this for the client is that the candidate will be more willing to talk about their role. It absolutely does not mean that the candidate will be influenced by the search guy when considering the opportunity- provided that he really is of high caliber. There are managers who just recently entered high enough positions to get on the search guys’ radar and they often make the mistake to get into discussions and even go to client interviews to please the search guys all the while knowing that they will not take the job. This normally happens when it comes to top tier search firms and the candidates typically think this maybe a good way to build “relationships”. Most candidates sooner than later realize that this is a big mistake and their reputation will become stronger when they deal openly and say NO right off the bat when they see that there is no point in continuing.
Only influential people (the ones high caliber people tend to call before making big decisions) have valuable networks and the size of the network obviously has no co-relation to its value. By being professional agents with one single weapon (similarly to real estate agents and similar), search guys’ sphere of influence is highly limited and so is the value of their network.
Excerpt from the upcoming book: the Funny business of executive search
According to the association of executive search firms the global search business is about $7B. This maybe less than Google’s payroll. Small of course does not mean insignificant or unimportant. In fact: the more elitist a business is the smaller it should remain – at least when it comes to the number of players. Based purely on numbers, if a $7B industry disappeared nobody would notice.
How companies would hire strategically important managers without the search business is a different question altogether. Since search really wants to be perceived as a consulting business, I asked a few people this question a little differently: what would happen if the consulting business disappeared. Two types of answers emerged:
- Great: managers would grow balls
- It would mean demise
The first consulting companies emerged almost immediately after the first private corporations had been registered (from the mid 1800’s), . This fact sheds light to something significant:
business is a mechanical organization.
It means it’s been put together to achieve an artificial goal. I prefer to say: an inorganic goal. It is not by accident that the registered private corporation came to the scene right after the industrial revolution. The registered private company was perhaps the first completely mechanical organization in the history of mankind.
Of course it can’t survive without help! In fact: it needs all the help it can get not to disintegrate. There is no organic force that keeps it together. This is not a great exaggeration! There is of course always a little organicity in any organization; it’s unavoidable, since we are talking about people, right?
So back to the question of what would happen if the search business all of a sudden disappeared: It may mean simply one less mechanical process and a little more organicity. Growing balls is something organic; leadership is definitely organic: there is no such thing as business leadership!
Let’s look at some hypothetical scenarios in the world of business without executive search:
- Advertising would become more intense and diverse.
- Passive candidates would not be approached or would be approached significantly less often; this means that
- The overall quality of candidates would drop; this means two things:
- Lower business performance AND/OR
- More focus on hiring for potential, more training, mentoring, internal promotions
- The significance of business clubs would increase
- Boards’ role and composition would change significantly. At the very minimum, boards would take MUCH MORE responsibility for recruiting and retaining the CEO, but also for all other areas (strategy, compensation, etc.). They would also have more skin in the game.
- The CEO would become much more difficult to replace but it would also be more difficult for him to change jobs.
- The team dynamics in top management would change significantly.
- Shareholder’s expectations would change
- HR would change
COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!
image source: http://www.flickr.com/people/polubeda/
We learn stuff: in schools, courses, conferences, from reading and conversations. Then we repeat.
This is bad enough but it gets worse: whoever repeats stuff louder is considered to be better. If on top of this all somebody is also more aggressive, she’s often considered to be a “leader” – most careers have been built on this recipe.
Authentic knowledge is quiet. It is not acquired, it is created; and since it is more than the individual, it calls for humbleness!
Powerful people strive to break the bondage of their individuality. They don’t need anybody’s recognition! This kind of independence is the only vantage point for control: controlling impulses, control to stay in context and control to think about timing when the time pressure is big; control for listening.
No control, no power. “Me, me, me”, “I did this”, “My idea” and similar was invented by people with no inner power and the weak is almost always loud and they are always overcompensating.
To do big things we need to become quieter. Let’s leave loudmouthing for….others.
Stephen Bates is the managing director of Blackberry Europe.
He’s making a name for himself for acting at interviews like a…how to say it correctly politically…let’s just say like somebody without any authority at all.
If you haven’t haven’t seen any of these interviews yet, the bottom line is that the reporter asks him a semi-tough question, like why was the launch of the blackberry 10 delayed and he talks about completely different stuff – with a straight face. Here’s an example:
People are talking about this phenomena like this is his “PR strategy” ….NOT LISTENING.
Reminds me of the movie with Peter Sellers, Being there. It’s about a gardener with less than average intellect who follows the same strategy as Bates and people tend to hear in his answers (all garden talk) whatever they want to hear. This way he makes his way up to the top. Bates is already the managing director of Europe. Continuing acting like the Gardener may bring him down.
UNLESS: this is the blackberry way: don’t think just do what you’re told! Or worse yet: WE DON’T LISTEN TO THEM (to the market, to customers), WE ACT DEAF AND JUST DO OUR THING!
In this case Bates embodies the company culture and we (customers, employees and investors) must ask ourselves: is this approach sustainable in one of the most innovative fields in business?
I am definitely not buying what this guy is selling!
When BNP Paribas terminated withdrawals from three hedge funds citing “a complete evaporation of liquidity” on August 7th, 2007, it didn’t have the slightest effect on employees anywhere. Business was booming and companies were recording record performance.
Things were different in September, 2008: higher level employees like CEOs, general managers, managing directors and others in strategic roles were faced with questions they never had to answer before both from their subordinates and their boards. But interestingly in some industries business continued for a few months like nothing had happened. I remember one confident manager in the Czech Republic telling me in November: I was in Pandorf (a small village in Austria with a big outlet plaza) over the weekend; it was packed. There is no crisis here! His pipeline was also full. Within 2 weeks orders got cancelled, all of as sudden there was no pipeline and Pandorf lost its prestige as a reliable economic indicator.
Now we have the first 3rd of Q1 in 2013 behind us and a lot of those managers from 4 years ago have “consulting” in their linkedin profile which is another word for being unemployed (if they changed their linkedin profile at all) - some of them for as long as 2 years already! They have to touch their savings now. Most of them never faced this situation before: times have changed dramatically.
The common denominator between most CEOs and waiters for example is that they are both employees. The difference is that it’s much easier for a waiter to find another job and they feel less threatened if they must change their lifestyle.
I have conversations with ex managers on a daily basis. Their “strategy” for survival is surprisingly similar:
- find consulting gigs from previous employers AND
- continue “looking” for a job AND
- maybe start a company
None of them are working.
The first two don’t work because despite all evidence to the contrary, they still believe in a strange illusion: if you reach the top of a career (meaning that you become a C guy, a gm, an md, whatever) somehow you’re in control. Now that they are out of the system they still WANT to believe this: the title has become their identity. This is especially bad in Europe where failure is frowned upon and they consider THEMSELVES as failures, loosing confidence and eventually getting caught up in a vicious circle.
The 3rd one doesn’t work simply because you can’t start and run a company with the mentality of an employee.
They are paralyzed and feel that the only thing they can do is to go from interview to interview, waiting for something to happen; the whole thing reminds me of how a tiger that was born in captivity desperately wants to go back to the cage when he’s been released into his natural habitat.
Changing our own mentality is unbelievably tough; as tough as changing our lives. What’s been happening since 2008 is not a shakeout, it’s a cleansing fire that burns up our illusions about employment, careers and entrepreneurship. I thought it maybe worth making a short list of the most common illusions that hold managers back from moving forward:
- Nobody is born as a corporate function! This is tough to believe, but it’s true. Nobody is born as a payroll administrator, a marketing manager, a controller, an IT guy, etc. You won’t ever be fulfilled even if you get a certificate that proves that officially you are the world’s BEST controller!
- There is no such thing as corporate Darwinism: the natural unfolding of life does NOT happen according to corporate hierarchies! The VP is not a superior life form to a manager in an evolutionary ladder: if you’re a VP and believe this, Darwinism may catch up with you in the end after all, and you may go extinct. Also: an employee doesn’t have more prestige than an entrepreneur and vice versa.
- Prestige doesn’t come from a position or anything quantitative like the money you make, the car you drive, the home you live in and similar. There is only one thing that determines your prestige: the impact you make on others. Naturally the more authentic you are, the bigger the impact you can make.
- Authenticity doesn’t mean read/look/listen and repeat. The least authentic guys are probably those strangely upbeat and annoyingly loud evangelists who are spreading the “good news” to anybody who listens and also to those who don’t. Authenticity is knowing who you are and looking at everything through this lens, doing things that correspond with your identity and simply not doing things that don’t. It’s always quiet, intelligent and considerate and it is not concerned with rewards or risks.
Not being employed is a great chance to start living and working authentically. Wake up and don’t waste this unique chance by holding on to destructive illusions for years. You used to have a nice cushy job, great! It’s like your first love that will never come back. You gotta move on!
One last note: if you are employed and miserable, here’s a list of reasons from James Altucher on why to quit your job right now. YOU MUST READ THIS not for getting motivation but to get real:
There is still a lot of discussion going on about our constant access to information and if it makes us smarter or stupider. I think raising the question like this completely misses the point. Everybody knows that access to data or information has nothing to do with being smart or stupid. The confusion about this issue comes from systematically disregarding world views as the most important factor. This of course raises tons of very interesting questions like the relationship between the EXISTENCE of data and awareness for example, but there is no room to address these here in detail.
To keep things interesting and not to insult anybody’s intelligence I won’t even elaborate on the world views themselves; I only resort to listing some important aspects to consider.
BY ITSELF data NEVER becomes information, information NEVER becomes knowledge, and knowledge NEVER becomes wisdom!
In a hierarchy, the lower levels depend on the higher, not the other way around.
Data MAY become information, information MAY become knowledge and knowledge MAY become wisdom (wisdom as purpose is often mentioned but is rarely actually considered or addressed!)
The key is the observer (the man, the player, the guy in charge)!
If the observer is wise, data and wisdom are directly connected through awareness. The significance of quantity is minimal; in other words a wise guy (forget the Sopranos!) doesn’t need an iPad!
If the observer actively knows (knowledgeable would not be an appropriate expression), data and knowledge are connected.
If the observer is well informed, data and information is connected.
If the observer has absolutely no awareness of anything, give him all the access to all the data: he’ll use his iPhone as a fashion accessory: goes well both with suits and turtlenecks.
From the lower point of view: knowledge is gained from wisdom, information from knowledge and data from information!
Without knowledge, data will never become information and without wisdom (intelligence in a supra rational sense) there is nothing: no data, no information, no knowledge!
More explicitly, without QUALITATIVE, essential leadership:
Wisdom cannot be achieved by knowledge management (itself an absurd idea).
Knowledge cannot be achieved by information management.
Information cannot be gained from data management.
Most importantly: the less wisdom is present, the more data proliferates.
To deny this automatically means that we say that there is no wisdom without data; and this is a question of world views!
This has of course far reaching practical implications in all areas of business; it’s enough to think about “knowledge management”, the once again popular big data question, decision making, risk management, organizational development, marketing…pretty much all business functions + leadership, which is of course NOT a business function!
So: looking at the size of the mobile and enterprise software industries how many wise guys do you think there are out there?
Yes, yes: we are irrational: we know this, but hey: this is life.
There is ALWAYS A VERY GOOD REASON behind 200 pairs of shoes in the wardrobe, behind hiring 53 highly compliant kids from Deloitte without life or any other experience but PP skills to “transform” our nation wide retail banking operation, to finish off the night with one last glass of JD (after bottles of wine), to make that guy miserable because he questioned my authority, to check facebook updates in the middle of the night, not to hire a highly experienced woman returning from maternity leave into a team of inexperienced people, to enforce gender quotas across all industries and if possible across all countries, to put up with years of humiliations in order to build a career, to lie to clients to get projects, to comply with non-sense just for the sake of being compliant, to invest in a psychopath because he produced returns before, to start calling ourselves gurus or authorities, to try to change people for the better, to hire a personal brand coach, to take out a student loan, to pay $500,000 to get a shortlist of candidates for a CEO role only to have some options before we choose the same type we always have, to take on a second mortgage, to “work the room” at schmoozing events, to watch TV, to use entertainment as currency, to ADMIRE business “leaders” for their accomplishments in terms of the market share or ebitda they achieved…and the list continues indefinitely, you get the point.
Marcus Aurelius had felt the need to spell it out that people who do not act according to reason are not any different from animals. He went on to compare people who care only about feeding, clothing and housing themselves to “well fed animals”! Strong words from a man who chose his words carefully. Before his time (2nd century AD) this maxim did not have to be spelled out, it was still obvious to most.
Today being irrational is considered to be either fun or something unchangeable; and the worst thing is that in most areas of life and in most actual situations acting rational is considered to be UNDESIRABLE !
It takes intelligence and courage to go against the current, but hey: why would we do it any other way?
Enough philosophy, here is a non-exhaustive list of things that happen when you start thinking and acting rational:
1. You start questioning conventions. With time this will expand to more and more areas of life: about food, about fitness, about your job, your company or your business, about people, education, experts, etc. You will stop asking (and paying) personal branding coaches about questions of authenticity, celebrities about food, collectors about art, doctors about treatment, psychologists about identity, business fanatics about how to live, real estate agents about investments in real estate, Tony Robbins about how to motivate yourself, preachers about spirituality, your boss about your career, your banker about your goals, etc.
You will not accept anything on face value just because of the source. No matter who says what, you will run it through the lens of your own reason and examine things from all angles and develop you own, independent opinion. You critically read authors you respect but you also read authors you disagree with with an open mind and recognize the value in their work. The same goes to how you listen to and how you reward or acknowledge people.
2. Your values will change. You’ll stop confusing bigness with greatness and this will affect your style. You’ll return (get) to the classics: you’ll ditch Warhol and Hirsh for Goya and maybe you’ll ditch Goya for the icons of nameless masters, Pink and Madonna for Beethoven and blogs like this for Plato, etc. You will introduce more quality and eliminate more quantity, developing a sense for the middle way. You’ll eat a little when you’re hungry, drink when the occasion allows, buy stuff that you CONSIDER to be necessary. You will choose your friends based on their virtues, you will give no attention to the show and to the facade and DECIDE who deserves your respect wisely. The same goes the other way around: you’ll recognize how little acknowledgement, fame and prestige means to you and how much value you see in being able to act based on your conviction; how little value you see in “visualizing your new car or house” that your “mind will bring into your reality” “if you just desire it with all your being” and how much value you see in just doing the right thing now with no emotional attachment, hope for gains or fear of consequences.
3. You will be able to differentiate more and more: between words and intentions, between patterns and words, discerning the reasons behind actions, between art and entertainment, between quality time and sheer stupidity, between the genius and the talented. On a more practical level you will recognize the crook behind the polished consultant, your great future employee behind the terrible candidate, the guy who can’t pitch that good now but who WILL deliver on your investment, the client you need to fire and the ones with great potential, etc….AND you will not accept substitutes and you will not make exceptions: why on earth would you?
4. This last one is in a way a synthesis of the first 3 points: you will slow down, talk less, take time out, eliminate activities that don’t make sense. You will keep a bigger distance but your relationships will become richer and fear will gradually lose its grip on you.
1. It sets an illusion as a purpose to pursue: MORE (higher, faster, stronger, etc.).
2. Modern sports fit the tendency of progressivism which assumes that with time things improve unavoidably. False principles (illusions) always birth corruption. To maintain the illusion of “more” on the physical plane, the agents of sports introduced progressive moves: doping is normal, genetic engineering is up next.
3. This illusion is seemingly less dangerous for the “fans” or viewers and definitely more dangerous for the athletes, who dedicate the first quarter of their life to it – if they are lucky and retire in the age of 20-25 and move on; most of them can’t.
4. The “don’t think, just do” mentality characterizes everybody involved in sports which leads us to the next point:
5. It is promoted, developed (coaches) and administered by bureaucrats. Only bureaucrats do everything without questioning the fundamentals. If there was the smallest spark of leadership present in sports, it would not be what it is.
6. It has become mindless entertainment and (because of that) it has become big business. It is hard to miss the common denominator between business, entertainment and sports.
7. It’s easy to see that the remaining qualitative factors used to give meaning to sports are grotesque parodies of what they really should be: determination, dedication, sacrifice and achievement. These qualities are only positive if the context is based on true principles! Somebody without the intellectual capacity to grasp principle(s) is also fully capable of determination, dedication, sacrifice and quantitative (!) achievement. From this point of view knitting the world’s longest scarf deserves about as much respect as winning the Olympic title in ping-pong or weight lifting. To reach Olympic heights in the classical sense, you need the intellect.
8. If you were still wondering about the negative aspects of sports and entertainment (business is a separate topic altogether), just look at the fans!
9. Lack of control! This means there is no class. The overwhelming majority can’t even exhibit sportsmanship on the level of a five year old.
They can’t win gracefully and they certainly can’t lose without fear (remember the bureaucrats?)
To what degree control (an obvious pre-requisite for dedication and sacrifice) is a burden should be obvious by the party atmosphere in the Olympic village (see condom consumption) when the Olympians release steam.
10. Confusion: false achievement is coupled with false Pride. Fans’ pride for athletes is perhaps the most comical example of confusion, outdone only by the “national pride” triggered by sports events.
Balazs, a talented engineer approached me back in 2007 with an idea he had for outsourcing funding to the crowd, as an alternative to angel investors – 2 years before Kickstarter took the crowdfunding model mainstream.
I didn’t like the idea, because I couldn’t image that I would pitch in $20 together with hundreds or thousands of others to help launch something… I always imagined(!) that when it comes to funding I am more like a VC than a … whatever.
So I did a thorough analysis proving beyond the shadow of the doubt that it’s a logical impossibility (my expression of choice at the time) that this model would EVER work. Not only did I not help Balazs launch the initiative, I persuaded him that he should not do it at all!
What happened in simple but significant terms was that I projected my own limitations onto somebody else’s life and then simply rationalized them: rationalized my limitations!
True story – unbelievable.
Now that we are at the topic of limitations I can throw in here that when Ebay already proved beyond the shadow of the doubt that auctions work for pretty much everything, I still couldn’t believe it and thought that they will surely fail. Why? Probably because I just don’t get auctions.
I have more of such stories but I stop embarrassing myself for now.
So here are a couple of considerations / reflections about advising and using input for decision making in so called “highly uncertain environments” which is another word for life:
1. Be aware: We are what we are not and there is a lot more of what we are not than of what we are (not bad, eh?)! The individual IS limitation. Everybody’s limited! People can express only their limitations. Always – unless they are aware! So when you’re considering feedback or giving feedback, be aware of whom it’s coming from or whom you’re giving it to. Know the guy. Know his patterns! This is more important than what he’s rationalizing. Same thing is true about you! Chances are you don’t know the guy or – be honest! – yourself – so forget about the concept of “your opinion” and keep an open mind.
2. If they ask you for advise about ideas, do not focus on why it won’t happen! You simply don’t know if it’ll happen or not irrespective of identified risks, constrains and perceived realities! Focus on how, in your limited opinion, it may happen! Same if you ask others for ideas: “this may sound stupid, but what do you think it would take to make it work?” So if for instance a guy who can’t draw an Audi logo wants to launch a product design company, don’t shot him off, introduce him to designers!
3. Forget (abstract) mathematical or statistical logic! Seriously! The world works on a different logic – the kind that helps for example the con artist and the victims always find each other. There is a large element of stuff in this logic which from a sterile mathematical point of view will SEEM stupid.
So don’t forget the Stupidity Quotient (SQ)! You must count with it, especially in b2c! Assume that when it comes to anything “mass”, the more stupid something appears to the personality, the more chances it has for success. Think about consumer behavor! Look at twitter! Look at the sharing craze! These are high SQ industries. Quick: did skype emerge when the amount of nonsense conversations globally reached a critical mass, or skype caused a critical mass of non-sense conversations? Did music become free (“illegally” or otherwise) after it became crap (I am aware of exceptions!), or it became crap because the publishers were cut out? The key is always in patterns!