Commentary

Stan Sewitch

Stan Sewitch has over 35 years in business as an entrepreneur, consultant and executive. His adventures include founding HRG Inc., Emlyn Systems, Chromagen and KI Investment Holdings. Stan serves as a director on several boards as well. Stan holds an M.S. in Organizational Psychology from California State University at Long Beach, and a B.A. in Physiological Psychology from San Diego State University. He serves as the Vice President of Global Organization Development for WD-40 Company. Stan can be reached at stan.sewitch@sddt.com

Notes From The Corporate Underground

When you think about all the struggles and violence in the world today, it seems that we are consumed as a species with fighting. We fight over oil fields and parking spaces. We fight over fishing grounds and whose skin color is best. We fight over who can gain the most yardage on a football field, and we fight over who gets to be the ultimate cage fighter.

I was talking with Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, this morning about our recently concluded global human resources conference. We convene once a year to share ideas, solve mutual challenges and plan for the future. One of the areas we explored was how to improve our performance review tools.

The shell game is an ancient way to get someone’s money out of their pocket and into yours. The classic example is the huckster setting up his table on the street, dockside, or at the train depot — anyplace where lots of people come by. You need a large candidate pool because you’re banking on tempting the people who combine attraction to quick riches — greed and laziness — with lower-than-average mental faculties. So if 1,000 people come by your table, you should get from 50 to 100 who would be good customers.

When I first started recruiting, I struggled with how to improve the evaluation of candidates so as to better predict success on the job. Like most people who do interviews, I asked the typical questions. I’d inquire about their work history, their compensation requirements, the reasons they left their prior assignments, what they want to achieve in the future, what kind of work they liked to do and so on.

I don’t know who said it, but at some point in my journeys I heard the following: “If you don’t know who the sucker is at the table, it’s you.”

“Keep your mouth shut,” my sis said. “You don’t have to say each and every thought that comes into your head.” For the record, this was one time she wasn’t talking to me.

A German, Englishman, Italian, Frenchman and American walk into a bar in Berlin. This could be the opening line of a shaggy dog story or the opening salvo of a World War II firefight. For me, it was the way my evening started.

Have you noticed there has been a notable acceleration in technological progress in the past few years?

A business conference takes me to the capital of Germany. For most of my life, the capital was Bonn. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, the Bundestag voted in 1991 to move it back to Berlin, the capital before 1949.

It’s easy for us wizened veterans of the world of work to forget how important it used to be to get a promotion, a bigger-sounding title, a higher-than-average pay raise. We have the perspective of longer history and seeing many more patterns emerge over the years. We appreciate different aspects of life more highly than we used to when we were starting out. In the early years, there was an imperative for making progress.

“He really pushes my buttons!” said the woman to her friend over coffee at Starbucks. “I think he does it on purpose!”

“You know you’re blowin’ it, don’t you?” the man said to his workout partner at the gym this week. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop; they were at the bench right next to me.

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