Saturday, August 30, 2008

Overpromise Worse than No Promise!

Late Thursday afternoon, Mr. B.S., the regional manager for my company’s business insurance called to offer me two tickets to Milwaukee's Harley-Davidson fest. The package included a two-day pass to the festivities plus concert tickets to the Foo Fighters and Bruce Springsteen's performances. I immediately said I'd take them and began contemplating who the lucky recipients would be. Mr. B.S. was to overnight them so they'd arrive at my office first thing Friday morning.

As I walked into the office Friday, I saw was my co-worker JB's harley parked right outside the main entrance. I immediately decided he would get first dibs at the tickets. You should have seen his eyes light up when I asked him if he was interested in the Springsteen tickets. He and his wife had wanted to go, but the $60 entrance fee plus a $40 concert ticket was too steep for their budget. He would need to know soon, however, so he could secure a babysitter. I told him the tickets were his and I'd let him know the minute the package arrived. I would find a recipient for the Foo Fighter tickets once I had them in my possession.

11:00 came around and I still did not have the tickets. I asked J.B. what time our Federal Express courier usually arrives. He said, “They should have been here by now.” This was not a good sign; my past experience with Mr. B.S. has been spotty. He repeatedly has over-promised and under-delivered. I called Mr. B.S. to request he place a tracer on the package. Of course he didn't answer. Of course he didn't call me back. Of course 5:00 came around and I did not have the tickets.

I know this could have been the fault of the express mail carrier, but past experience leads me to believe my express mail package is lying on the back seat of Mr. B.S.’s car. Plus in the eyes of J.B, I now appear unreliable. As I see it, once again this manager disappoints. This could have been a great opportunity for him to redeem himself, but instead I am now more annoyed than ever.

Life lesson:
People don't like being disappointed, so it's better to under-promise and over-deliver than the alternative.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Be Cognizant of Cover Letter's Purpose

In response to an advertisement for a territory salesman my company received a resume and cover letter submitted by one of our competitor's employees. The first paragraph of his cover letter was written as follows:

I am currently employed as a store manager at XYZ Company. They have three stores with their main office located in Milwaukee. I am employed at their Madison location. XYZ Company is managed in such a way that I am continuously working in a reactive mode.

The last sentence automatically disqualified this candidate from further consideration. Our owners perceived two things from this sentence.
1. Our competitors have the same problems we do.
2. This candidate most likely has a bad attitude, especially towards the management of XYZ Company.

The purpose of a cover letter is to explain why an employer should want to hire you. The above candidate had been promoted from salesman to store manager at his present company. He would have faired much better if he had written what a great salesman he had been, how he misses sales and would love to have the opportunity to sell for our company. He currently commutes from Milwaukee to Madison each day. By stating he would prefer a position with a shorter commute, although not a reason we should hire him, would have at least not eliminated him.

For an example of a great cover letter read Ask a Manager’s post "What Does a Good Cover Letter Look Like".

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Was opening the "Kabul Beauty School" A truly unselfish act?

The book Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez is an engaging and insightful look into the lives of Afghan women. Debbie a hair stylist from Holland, Michigan travels to Afghanistan to assist with relief efforts after the Taliban was removed in 2001. Upon discovering she had no real skills to assist with the effort, she began cutting hair to keep busy. After talking to Afghan women, some of them former salon owners whose salons had been outlawed by the Taliban during the occupation, she discovers beauty salons are the only business a woman can control in Afghanistan without a man. Enthralled by the country and the people she met she returns to help open and run the Kabul Beauty School.

In the book, which is written as a memoir she writes about the lives of the women she meets. Afghanistan is a country where woman have no rights and can be killed for dishonoring their families. Marriages are arranged and it is commonplace for an Afghan man to take a second or even a third wife. Unfortunately, many Afghans still agree with the Taliban that beauty salons and any thing that make women stand out are an abomination; many believe beauty salons are fronts for prostitution. Debbie who likes to refer to herself as “Crazy Debbie” has just enough craziness to confront the obstacles the Afghans throw her way. She also picks up an afghan husband, “Sam” who in the book is portrayed as an ally in her mission.

After completing the book, I wanted to know more: Was Debbie still in Afghanistan? How were the women she wrote about fairing? Had their lives improved? Was the Beauty School still in operation? Was Debbie still running it? Was she still with Sam?

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to discover things had not faired well. According to NPR and other on-line news sources when Debbie returned to Kabul after a book tour she discovered her husband, Haji Sher Mohammed (known in the book as Sam), had been sexually harassing the salon girls and was plotting to steal her money. She was forced to abandon the salon and flee Kabul after diplomats warned her she would be kidnapped if she stayed. The country was simply too dangerous for her now. More tragically, she may have endangered the lives of the women she wrote about. The book has caused outrage in Afghanistan, where websites have revealed the salon girls’ true identities. They have been denounced as prostitutes who have soiled the reputation of Afghan women. An American diplomatic source said Rodriguez was well meaning but “naive”. “It’s a bizarre feature of contemporary life that people can fly into Kabul, marry a warlord, set up a beauty parlor, get a movie deal and fly off to another life.

Perhaps the fictional character Joey in an episode from the sitcom “Friends” was correct when he set out to convince Phoebe there are no truly unselfish acts. Many sources claim Rodriguez wrote the book and actually opened the beauty school for selfish reasons. I can’t help but wonder why Rodriguez didn’t write her book as a fictional novel about Afghanistan women rather than a memoir.

The book is scheduled to be made into a movie starring Sandra Bullock as Rodriguez. Rodriguez apparently plans at some point in the future to give the women "a small part" of the book royalties, and 5% of the money from the movie being made. I hope so, but the money seems like such a small token after so much drama.

Enough said.