Pursue the Passion

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Sparkle Hickey

Career Interview: Casting Director

March 6, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Sparkle Hickey is a casting director in Los Angeles. She is the owner of Make it Sparkle Casting.

What’s a casting director do?

A casting director acts as a liaison between executives and actors or actresses. The process is that a producer, director, and executives of television shows, commercials, photo shoots, print ads, and events are looking for talent to fill their production needs. The casting director fills those needs with talent they’re looking for.

What do you spend the majority of your time doing?

I spend the majority of my time networking. That, and going through tons of photos and headshots.

It’s hard to find someone with a critical eye for talent and know what it is that people are looking for. As a casting director, you have to find that talent, and you have to have that critical eye. If you have that critical eye, and know what people want and know what the role calls for, the possibilities are limited.

What’s the biggest challenge in your job?

The biggest challenge is finding the talent to fit the role. Because it can be difficult. You know what the director is looking for and you know what the script calls for. You want it to be perfect. And to find someone who fits in perfectly is tough, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth time.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a casting director?

My advice would be to start now by doing your research on every single show you watch. Start to read through the credits when they roll, and research the credits. It’s important to know that everything you see on TV had someone envision it, and place someone in that role.

Cece Harris

Career Interview: Video Game Recruiter

February 9, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Cece Harris is the recruiter for video game company, Rainbow Studios in Phoenix, Arizona. Rainbow Studios has been making video games in the Valley for 23 years. Cece has been with the company for the last eight years and was among their first fifty employees. They now have 130 employees.

What’s the best way to make contacts in the video game industry?

The best way to make contacts in the video game industry is to really put yourself out there. There are a ton of events you can go to just to meet people who work in games. The IGDA, the Game Developers Association is one organization who has networking events all the time. Also, colleges have a lot of different opportunities to meet people who work in games. Sometimes there are guest speakers on campus and other times it’s just going to a career fair and networking.

Probably the best place to hit a lot of people at once is the Game Developers Conference that takes place every year in San Francisco. This year the event is going to take place March 23-27 at Moscone Center in San Francisco. They actually need volunteers to work the conference, and often times you can get your trip paid for if you volunteer. I actually know people who have gotten their flight paid for in exchange for volunteering. I’m going this year. I would recommend that if you’re serious about working in video games, print up some business cards and get out there. Shake as many hands as possible and don’t be shy about meeting people.

How do you recruit for Rainbow Studios?

I’ve used job board services like Jobing.com before. But mainly, I do the majority of my recruiting on LinkedIn and by putting out the position need internally and seeing if anyone knows someone who would be a good fit. Because the thing you’ll find in the video game industry is that everyone knows everyone. It’s a tight knit group. So the people that already work here are my best recruiting source.

But LinkedIn is a great resource too. Not so much Facebook. I had a difficult time trying to find people through Facebook. But if you’re not on LinkedIn, I’d suggest creating a profile and uploading all your professional information. Because I find a lot of people through LinkedIn. I look at their resume and put an emphasis on their skills, both their future upside and their current skills.

How many cold calls or unsolicited resumes do you receive a week?

I receive anywhere from 50-75 unsolicited phone calls or blind emails from people per week from people who want to work at Rainbow Studios. So it’s a very competitive field to get into. Which is why it’s so important to make contacts so you can take away the ‘cold’ in the cold call, and the ‘blind’ in the blind email.

One of the things we do with our interviews is we get questions from the people who follow our interviews from resources like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. One of the questions that was submitted relates to the ‘nerdy’ stereotype in the video game industry. The question that was submitted said, ‘Have you ever kissed a girl?’

Well, I’m a girl. And no, I have never kissed a girl. That stereotype isn’t very accurate.

Flickr Photos

Oren Matteson

Empathy is Key

October 4, 2007 | by Noah on the writeup.. Jay on the Video | Permalink

Oren Madison, a child psychologist working in Chicago, IL, is becoming more accustomed to working with adults, but only after realizing that be helping kids, he’s helping their parents too. Currently working at a Chicago area children’s hospital, Oren hopes someday to work in a school setting, where he can establish himself, and hopefully develop a program that will extend beyond the reach of one man. He was inspired to this vocation after extended internships in local high schools, in Denver, during his matriculation as an undergrad there.

Oren realized, at an early the age, the power of therapy, when his own parents got divorced. After seeing first hand the power of empathy in the therapist’s office, Oren’s future began trending the way of helping children confront their social and emotional issues.

“Everyone,” Oren says, “has something going on. Empathy is simply listening [to what’s going on] without judgment.” Oren says that “trust is the key to everything,” and that without trust, there is no meaningful progress to be made. Adults, Oren says, often cannot listen in the non-judgmental way that children need to
really trust someone. Oren’s advice to all who care is to “Study harder. Pay attention to what you’re learning and really learn it. Don’t fit right in the middle academically, but rather, stand out.”

Robyn Williams

Life Facilitation

September 27, 2007 | by Noah on the writeup...Zach on the Video | Permalink

Robyn Williams considers herself a professional coach and facilitator, but arriving at this career was not a direct path. At 17, working for the Chicago Tribune, Robyn aspired to one day be a television anchorwoman. An accident made her leave her job and return home to San Diego, whereupon she joined her father in the insurance business, and continued along that path for eight years. Although she was successful, she “never really understood what [she] was chasing.” What she really wanted was to “reach people,” and in her life as a coach, she has done just that.

Robyn preaches the “vision driven life,” where limitation is cast aside as something self-imposed. “Limitation,” says Robyn, “is a story of collective experience,” and therefore can only be overcome if a person is willing to admit that they are limiting themselves. Robyn is a woman who exudes confidence in her “whole life approach to supporting vision,” both hers and that of others. Robyn defines passion as “feeling alive and authentic, and being able to communicate that.” She advises all who are in the pursuit of passion to not “allow circumstances to cloud their vision,” and stick to whatever path they see as their destiny. “I’m living my dream,” says Robyn, and she is delighted to help others live their dream too.

Jesse Gros

Do Something

August 7, 2007 | by noah | Permalink

Jesse Gros became a life coach to help people avoid the frustrations that nearly crushed him. As a psychology major, Jesse says he felt “tortured” by the anxiety of what to do with his life, and the pressure of the paths so strictly ingrained in the world of academia. Much to his parents chagrin, his first job out of college was in a factory, doing manual labor. Subsequent jobs include a three stint as a tour guide in Mexico, and over 3 years as a therapist, working with Autistic children.

Yet every job, no matter how rewarding or adventurous, left Jesse unfulfilled and constantly seeking the next step, renewing the anxiety he felt during college.

These feelings prompted Jesse to take a life-changing trip to India, which lasted less than a year, but changed his entire life. Upon returning, Jesse became aware of how many people felt like he did, frustrated and anxious, and decided then to make his life’s mission helping those wayward souls find comfort in whatever path they’ve chosen.

For Jesse, life is not a series of pre-ordained paths but rather something every person must find peace with individually. Although not a reckless man, Jess attempts to inspire action in his clients. With logic reminiscent of a Greek philosopher, he says, “any time you’re not making a decision, you are in fact making a very profound decision to do nothing.” It is never too late to recognize an opportunity for increased fulfillment, but taking those opportunities requires a proactive approach.

Here’s the transcript of the interview:  

What should I do with my life? You get so overwhelmed that you freeze up. At least a lot of the people I talk to.

That was my thing, I just kept trying different things and failed beautifully. Sometimes succeeded. It works.

So at 22 years old, where were you going to go in your career?

Basically I got out of school. I was a psychology major. I wasn’t real clear about how I would use it, but I knew I liked psychology. I wanted to be some kind of coach of motivational speaker.

There’s so much anxiety around what you’re going to do. But it’s not ‘What should I do with my life?’ It’s ‘What am should I do next?’ It’s the only way to calm down those nerves. Because you start looking so far ahead. And that works great if you’re going to be a doctor or a lawyer. If you know you want to get on a path that will take x number of years, awesome. But if you’re not sure, I would say to focus on what’s the next, tiny little baby step. It might even be a volunteer position. Or a part-time internship. It’s not really going to be that you’ll go out and slam the first job you want.

I always try to tell people that it’s the tiny little baby steps that make a difference. Looking too far down the road on that level, I feel like it freaks people out. At least it did for me. Because you think you have so much life. And at some certain age you think that’s what you’ll be doing for the next forty years of my life? Maybe you do, but most people at our age don’t.

Everyone knows someone who doesn’t like what they do, or wants to make a change.

Why are you passionate about being a life coach?

I was so tortured with the question of ‘What should I do with my life?’ I changed my major like, eight times while in college. You have all these external influences, parents, friends, tv. The process was so painful for me that once I started figuring out what to do, I just thought if I could share my experience with people, that would bring me joy.

If there’s something you do really well, there’ nothing more fun than sharing that with other people.

I try to get my clients to do a spontaneous outgrowth of what they enjoy doing.

Z: I got a question. When you’re talking about the next step. How does a person ensure that the next step is something they will be doing as a career? How does anything you have to do to ensure that you’re not just taking steps and steps and steps and not going in any type of common direction. It’s just like you’re moving around and before you know it, you’re…

Fifty and you’ve had 400 jobs.

Right. It’s like you’re a hundred feet wide, one foot deep. You’ve got all this experience, and none of it is specialized so you can’t help anyone or yourself. They’re just experiences.

There’s no guarantee. There’s absolutely no guarantee at all, it’s just a decision. At some point you’ve tried enough different things that you’ll have enough information to make a decision, stick with it, and do what it takes to progress within that one line.

But you’re right. There’s absolutely no guarantee. And someone could say that there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve met people traveling who have had fifty jobs in their lifetime and they’re happy. They’ve lived all over the world. They might not make a million a year or own a lot properties, but they’re very happy doing what they do and trying different things. It just depends on what’s right for you.

I would say, especially when you’re young, just jump. Anytime you spend overanalyzing things, you’re just wasting time. You’re killing time. Anytime you’re not making a decision, you are making the decision. Which is to do nothing.

When you’re young, as long you keep you’re expenditures low, and live below your means, try anything. You never know who you’ll meet and how it will evolve. You meet enough people who have really interesting careers, and usually when you talk to them, it’s like they’re all over the place until they met that person or had that experience. They kind of had that aha moment and then they stuck and rolled with it.

I would have told myself to relax at 22. And to try more things, earlier. When it really doesn’t matter, and you don’t have anyone dependent on you, and you don’t have mortgages or debts or anything overwhelming, I wish, or I should say go back, I wish it would have taken me less to time to realize to really take risks. And really just jump out there and followed my whim and follwed my heart rather than overanalyzing it all and thinking about what it will do for me thirty years down the road.

Because you can’t predict that anyway.

Wanda Marie

Be Free

July 27, 2007 | by noah | Permalink

When asked what she would tell herself at 22, Wanda Marie says, “be free.”

The advice from the woman who acted as life coach and business partner to the late Yolanda King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., lingers in magical simplicity. Speaking with Wanda in the Leimert Park home formerly owned by Dr. King’s daughter, one immediately feels the presence of a woman sage beyond her years. Admittedly hopeful to someday “heal the planet,” Wanda dreams big but acts locally and effectively, with programs such as the Inner Peace Conference, a telephone support service that advises anyone who calls on a wide array of issues.

Noah, Wanda, and Brett

Growing up in the slums of South Central Los Angeles, Wanda found her spirituality while coping with an alcoholic mother and sexually abusive step-father. None could blame her if this had ruined her life.

Far from ruin her life, her childhood experiences taught her that her soul could be at peace even among the turmoil of her everyday life. Today, she inspires her clients to set strategic goals, ones that push a person just outside of their comfort zone, and therefore yield more valuable reward. She teaches to never disregard the ills of society, but rather to find peace within, hoping one day to heal without.

Check out Wanda’s new book being released as we speak, “Living Inner Peace: A Personal Guide to Greater Happiness” and if you’d like to contact Wanda, please visit www.WandaMarie.com.

Arte Nathan

The Human Resource

July 24, 2007 | by noah | Permalink

Arte Nathan seems an intimidating man. In his 20 years in the gaming industry, the Cornell graduate hired more than 80,000 people to staff hotels all over the world. His secret? Go ask your mother.

After leaving law school, Arte managed a steel company in New York until he was injured on the job. This led to a two year hospital stay, perhaps the root of his understanding how people want to be treated. That, as well as an excellent recall of every piece of advice his mother gave him.

The simplicity is a misnomer. As the head of human resources for Steve Wynn, Arte oversaw the staffing of hotels that would eventually dominate the market. He gives credit to Mr. Wynn, however, who sees “human resources not as a department, but as the department.” That sentiment, after the intimidation subsides, radiates from Arte.

He once dressed up as Mrs. Doubtfire to give a talk to an audience full of employees, simply to put them more at ease. It is that sensitivity that Arte used to study Chinese culture for a year before attempting to staff a hotel in Macau. His diligence paid off. Arte retired from the gaming industry, but could not quit working for good, as he simply has too much energy.

Today he is the vice president of human resources for Irvine Resort Properties, and he carries into this new endeavor his style developed in the gaming world. Respecting and valuing employees “isn’t a thing we have to do. It is the way run our business.” Sounds like something a mother might say.


Here’s the (long) transcription of our interview with Arte Nathan…

What have you learned about people?

People like to come to work at a place where there’s a lot of respect and fairness. In most companies, the pay is about equal. The benefits are about equal. But the treatment is all over the place. And if you can provide a work environment where people have fun, feel as though they can get ahead, feel that there’s a lot of respect and fair treatment, I think they’ll stay with you.

It was an idea we came up with that didn’t have a lot of those things. We tried it out, and in successive properties, they became more successful. At the end of the day, we probably had the highest performing casino hotels with the lowest turnover and the highest productivity. So it seems to have worked.

Back in the mid 1980’s and into the early 1990’s, hotels didn’t have a lot of Human Resource expertise. They had people who maintained personnel files. They had people who made sure that you got paid correctly. We started a program called Employee Services. It was to treat our employees like guests. Over the years, we extended that to treating applicants like guests. And treat them the way we wanted to treat our very best guests.

At the end of the day, we had the lowest turnover of any hospitality company in the United States. We have to attribute that to this program of treating people well. And putting ourselves in their shoes, understanding what they like, what they want, what they need. Maybe it’s the golden rule- treating people they way they want to be treated. And they responded very positively to that.

I was lucky that I had a guy like Steve Wynn, who gave all the support you can imagine. He loved Human Resources. He believed that Human Resources wasn’t a department, it was the department. It wasn’t a thing we had to do, it was a thing that ran our business. He just kept supporting me in the ideas that I had, and I kept running to achieve the goals that he had. And together, we were very successful. It was a fun career.

I retired from there last year and had a chance to come to California to work for another company that is 150 years old. They believe in all those same things. Very passionate about people. Very passionate about excellence. That’s what I like about working. If you can get into an environment like that, you can have fun and be successful.

So is that your passion? Putting people in places where they can excel? Why are you passionate about Human Resources?

Because you have a chance to shape somebody’s life. You have a chance to give them something that they have hoped for, but rarely found. And if you can create that environment, and that connection with them, you can see the excitement on their faces. And you can follow their progress, where they get to do things that they’ve only dreamed about. That they get to be fulfilled and rewarded for things they’ve heard others may have done, but they never got a chance to. And, just the excitement on their face. I don’t know if you remember the first time you rode a bike. The first time your father lets go of the bike, and you don’t know it. All of a sudden you discover that, and then you think, ‘Wow. I’m doing this on my own. Wow.’ And you get all excited. You see that look on a kid’s face, you see that look on employee’s faces. When they get in that same kind of employment situation. I live for that. I think it is so cool to watch an employee to finally, get the realization that this is it. This is what I’ve been thinking about. This is what I wanted.

But yet, most people don’t find it. I like to figure out a way to give it to them. That’s what I love about Human Resources.

Do you have a first time you rode the bike moment with Human Resources where you realized that this was your industry?

It’s not that it was this industry, it was the idea that in Human Resources, and in management in general, people tend to be like McGruff the Crime Dog. They want to catch people doing things wrong. And they think that’s so cool that ‘I caught him. I stopped that from going on.’ And people hate that stuff. And they really don’t react positively to that. And I thought, ‘What if you catch people doing things right? What if you actually thanked them for doing what you asked them to do?’

When I first proposed this at the Golden Nugget, the management team looked at me as if I was crazy. They wanted to know where the basis for this came from. I said it’s in that pysch 101 class that you took in college where you learn that the behaviors that are good are the ones you ought to pay attention to. And if you pay attention to them, they’ll be repeated. And if you don’t pay attention to them, people will do anything to get your attention.

So I thought, ‘What if we go after people for doing things right?’ I challenged the management team to catch people doing things right. At that time, turnover was horrendous. Much higher than the industry average.

We tried it out in the housekeeping department. Tough job. Dull job. We started with the maids. And I said, ‘Look. You have very high turnover among the maids. What if we stopped giving out disciplines and we give out stars. For everything you did right, you get a star and you can redeem these stars for goods and stuff you couldn’t sell in the retail stores and were piling up in the warehouse.

We started this, and everyone was mad at me. This was not going to work. Turnover went from 300% to 75% in six months, and down to 8% after a year. Just by catching people doing things right. And the looks on the faces of the maids, and the excitement on the managers faces when they saw that this actually worked. And that this was more fun than being tough on people, and trying to find out who did what wrong.

Because people come to work everyday and they want to do a good job. And they want to be recognized for doing a good job. Or just doing the job you asked them to do. So why wouldn’t you thank them for just that?

It was a revelation that I started talking about throughout SHRM and all my friends there. People were a little surprised that they hadn’t thought of it themselves, because it’s an obvious thing. They were more surprised at how effective it was. And it really turned around the management style at Mirage Resorts. It turned around the way we engaged ourselves with the employees, and how they saw us. All of a sudden, it became a nicer, fairer, better place to work. And it really calmed down. Everyone enjoyed it. And we did a lot better. That was one of those ‘aha’ moments.

It’s funny. Most things that are very successful are not real complicated. If you just try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it usually works. Because you’ll see it, you’ll know what they want. And you can give it to them.

It took a leap of faith however, to get people to go through with this. At the end of the day, they thought, ‘Nope. You want me to write them up so I can get rid of them.’ And when I told them no, we want to thank them so we can keep them, that was a big thing. It was one of those ‘aha’ moments.

Is that mentality, like you said, it’s so simple, everybody should be doing it, but why aren’t companies today doing that?

I don’t know. It’s probably one of those guy things. Where you have to be tougher than the next guy. Where you want to be seen in the board room as the toughest dude in there. And you don’t need to be. You just have to be the one who’s right. And you have to have some guts to try things like this. It was just one of those things.

And it started me on a long road of doing fun things like that for people. And I think our employees appreciated it.

So you mentioned earlier that you retired last year from the casino business, was that the only time you retired?

Ah, I tried it once before. That didn’t work. I got bored. I was a consultant. That didn’t seem to work. I didn’t have the DNA to be a consultant. If I have an idea, I like to run it all the way to home plate. I don’t like to just talk to people about it. So I went back to work in the gaming business. I took three years off as a consultant. It was okay. I got bored though.

What brought you out of it? Just that boredom?

Part of it was the boredom, but the other part was when Steve Wynn called me and said he was starting a new company and asked if I could help him open a new casino in Las Vegas and in China. And getting the international experience, and learning how people operate in a different culture, and trying out the ideas that I had that worked very well in the United States, and see if they translated internationally. And they did.

It was really an interesting idea. In Macow, where they had never had big time gaming, like we had in Las Vegas, they weren’t ready for somebody like us. They certainly weren’t ready for big American companies and big American policies and procedures. I was nervous about it. We actually took a whole year to study the culture and to learn the culture before we actually went there. And if we hadn’t done that, I think we would have made a lot of mistakes.

We made a conscious decision to hire a lot of Chinese nationals to run that company, as opposed to bringing in a lot of foreign nationals, in the U.S. or Australia. And that was very successful. The community appreciated that, the employees respected that, and they worked very carefully with us to make sure these things were successful. And it was a great opening.

You said that there were a lot of similarities between the cultures and the staff and what motivates people?

There weren’t a lot of similarities. But at the end of the day, people are people. I think that no matter where you are…if you were to go around the world, and I had the chance to do this in a couple of the properties because they were so diverse and multicultural. But if you were to ask a room full of a hundred people from fifty different countries, and you were to read some statements that are ‘My mother said to me as a kid.’ And I’m going to read some of these, and tell me if you’re mother said that. So I said the first is, ‘Sit up straight.’ Everyone raises their hand. I said, ‘Ok. How about ‘Wash your hands.’’ Everybody raises their hands. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it. I’ve got a thousand of these. I’ve been studying up on things your mother used to tell you. They really do apply at life and at work.

As I read off fifty of these statements, ‘It hurts me more than it hurts you,’ everybody in the room was agreeing. It dawned on me right then that most people in the world have had a basic understanding of how to interact with one another. If you were to say to treat others the way you want to be treated, I suppose that’s something someone can learn in Sunday school, but it’s far deeper than that. People who are non-religious learn the same thing from their parents. So on that level, people are pretty similar. They’re all looking for the same kinds of things. So if you just dealt them in a way that showed you respected their culture and understood the dynamics of how they lived their lives, then you could probably be successful.

As opposed to coming in there and saying we’re going to have a job fair. In China you certainly can’t have a job fair and be successful. Because everyone is afraid that someone will see them applying for a job. And that’s disrespectful, because if you have a job, it’s disrespectful to apply to another one.

So all the other companies that were trying to start in China were having these big job fairs where no one would show up, because they were afraid to be seen. We said we were going to allow them to apply online. Everyone yelled at me. ‘They’re not going to able to apply online! What’s a matter with you?’ Well, we got 65,000 applications in a little under a month by people applying online. And they were so thrilled that we didn’t make them come in and expose themselves in the beginning.

That’s just a simple example of how we learned their culture and applied our ideas to their culture. And showed that we were respectful of them. And that made us very successful.

So we’ve been talking a lot about people and employees and getting the most of employees, how important is passion?

If you don’t love what you do, you should quit. Unfortunately, more than 60% of the American people hate their jobs. I don’t know how they get up in the morning and go to work. If you don’t have a passion, if you don’t have a fire in the belly, if this isn’t so exciting that you can’t wait to get back there the next morning, then you shouldn’t do it.

The economy is good enough right now that you should go looking for a job like that. And you shouldn’t have any notions of what’s right and wrong for you as an individual. It should be something that you love to do.

I think I was born to do Human Resources. I love this. And every day I come in to this job or my previous jobs just full of energy. ‘What can I try today? What can I come up with that will make people say that this is a great place to work?’

And if you can make it a great place to work, that’s saying something. And it’s good for people because they spend eight hours a day where they work. You don’t spend eight hours a day anyplace else. You don’t interact with the same group of people for eight hours in any other level of your life. So you’ve got to make this one great. And I think you should hold out for that, and keep looking for that.

On the flipside, I think employers have a responsibility to make it like that. If they don’t make it like that, I think that they are cheating themselves, their employees, and their customers. And it’s so easy to do. It’s not like this is rocket science. No offense to the rocket scientists in the world, but it is simple to do if you just think about it.

‘What turns me on? What do I love about what it is I’m doing? What do I like about this environment?’

And if I do like it, and I think it’s great, I should make that for everybody. And I don’t think enough companies do that.

And we argue about this thing called the ‘War for Talent.’ I think that’s bullshit. I really do. Bad companies can’t find employees. They can’t keep employees. All you have to look at is how they train and treat their people. They don’t put any energy into it. And everyone says, ‘Employees are my most important asset. My biggest asset.’ And they put no money into it. And every chance they get they cut this and they cut that. I think if you invest in your people, they’ll invest in the company and make it successful.

And creating the passion, having the passion, everyone that works here at the Irvine Company is so passionate about what they do, and doing things right, the quality aspect of what they do, and I love that.

Didn’t your mother say that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right?

Noah: My momma told me that.

It’s funny because you just go repeat these things to people. They agree. And you wonder where do their mothers come up with this? How do mothers all over the world know these things? And it’s just common sense. I’m not sure that there are many businesses that incorporate common sense in how they run things. They should do more of that.

Brett: I can definitely relate to that because Zach and I were corporate auditors before we started doing this.

That’s an exciting job. Did you have a passion for that?

Brett: Not at all. And it made it worse because the employer treated us like we were another number in a big environment. Just sit at your computer and go home and wonder why you’re doing it.

It’s really not the job of auditing that made it boring. It was the employer.

Brett: It was the environment.

Just thinking about how they want to make this place. I mean, a nice environment, clean rugs, bright lights, nice windows. I think a lot of things go into making a place nice. But how you’re treated. Does your boss know who you are? Say good morning and good night? Hello and thank you? Those are just the things you learn as a human being. It’s the right way to interact with human beings.

I don’t know if we encourage that enough at work. I don’t think companies pay enough attention to it. If they did, more people would be happy with where they work. Unfortunately, the statistics are frightening how many people hate where they work. Not dislike, not ‘I rather get something better,’ but they hate it! And they have to get up and trudge to work.

Can you imagine that? It’s like carrying a fifty pound bowling ball on your head.

Zach: I had a question. A lot of what we’ve been talking about is how to give the employees the respect they deserve, which, without question is invaluable. But you also talked about fun, and when we’re at Jobing, it seems like all the employees are having fun, so without a doubt, you can create that environment. But what do you do to create that environment when employees are having fun and distinguishing…

Fun and enjoyment are somewhat synonymous. And if they enjoy where they work, then they’ll have some fun. And there are little things you can do. I mean, how many companies encourage employees to sing together? People love to sing. They just love to sing. People listen to music all the time, so you’re allowed to hum at work.

Now most companies would freak out by humming at work. Well, allow people to bring some music in their life. What’s wrong with that? How about if you have a book club at work? How about you have lunches that encourage people to sit around and tell jokes to one another? We often complain that no jokes should be told at work. Like jokes don’t exist. Well they do exist.

Tell me something funny that happened to you this weekend. ‘Did you have a good weekend’ is what you ask your employees. They go, ‘Well yeah, I had a good weekend.’ They probably didn’t, but they feel compelled to say they did. ‘Tell me something funny that happened this weekend.’ As a manager, that’s more fun. Because managers often say, ‘We don’t have enough money to pay our employees. We don’t have enough of a budget to give big increases. And I’ve got nothing to give my employees.’ Well you have yourself to give to your employees. And if you do that with humor and humility and a sense of creating a better place, employees won’t be so fixated on the little bit that you have for increases.

If we give them none of the fun things, none of the good things, they will be fixated on money. And they’ll want more of it, because this is a lousy place to work, so you better pay me better. But if you just try to make it a nice place. How many people say thanks for being here today? As opposed to, ‘You’re supposed to be here today. If you’re not here today, I’m going to write you up.’

Because most people come to work every day of their lives. And do we ever thank them? Noooo, it’s expected. I think you have to change the attitude.

But you can have a lot of fun. We did a clown ministry once, where we encouraged people to learn how to paint their faces and learn how to become a clown to entertain people in old age homes, hospitals, and orphanages. And as a company, you want to encourage people to give back in the environment in which they can give back, and the time to give back. And thank them, and recognize them for doing that.

At Mirage resorts, we had thousands of employees that participated in volunteer activities, of all kinds, not the least of which was a clown ministry. It was wonderful. I’m actually a trained clown. And I love it. I love to paint my face and goof around. Because you can be stupid and silly. And where else can you do that?
Employees don’t ever expect an executive to be stupid and silly. But what they heck? If you are, you might as well celebrate it.

I keep a couple of guitars in my office. People want to make music, ‘Come on in. Sit down. Let’s see what we can do here.’ I think that’s fun.

I think that presents management in a different light. And I think people respect that.

Noah: It seems that you’ve been working furiously for a long time to erase a lot of the hierarchical rigidity of the corporate system. Historically, where did that even come from? Where did this idea that you’re supposed to go to work and trudge in the line and sit down in your cube and wait til the day is over come from?

That was the world up through the second world war. I think people were expected to work hard and keep their head down.

Even the baby boomer generation. My father was probably a little bit older than you. I remember what my first job was…

He said, ‘What do you expect? It’s work.’

He said if they pay you for it, it’s called work. And what do you expect? A thank you for doing what they’re paying you to do? And I was like, “Wow. You’re right. I should just be miserable.”

I think it started in the late sixties. Those are really the formative years for me. Where we protested everything. Where we said to ourselves, ‘We want to make a difference.’ We want to make things better. And you see it today in the environmental groups who are trying to clean up the earth. I think if you make that commitment to yourself and you just pay attention to it, and you say, ‘I want to make this happen. I want to make things better, whatever better is, if you commit to doing things better, for me, it was creating a better workforce. A better workplace. A place where people really do have fun and enjoy themselves.

It’s respect. You lose a little bit of array on people and they feel empowered.

Control is not what it’s made out to be. Control is an allusion. And there is no respect for a controlling manager. There’s a lot of respect for managers who give you a lot of rope. And that rope you can swing around on or you can hang yourself. But it’s you, who are responsible for making one of those two things happen. Not the boss. I think enlightened companies and enlightened managers today have recognized that.

I saw it early on because my boss encouraged it. He thought it was the right thing to do. And we created that environment that was very, very, very successful.

Zach: Well there’s a big difference, I guess, between, like you said, everyone nowadays is saying their employees are their biggest asset, which really is new thinking too. Because for a long time, people have always said that your biggest cost is your employees. If you need to cut a corner, get rid of employees because they’re your biggest cost. It’s not that they’re not the biggest cost, it just changes the way you think about it. If they’re assets you make sure you want to invest in them with the best equipment. As opposed to looking at them as a cost where you’re trying to reduce the amount you have to put into it and cut it back and things like that.

Well, you know, as America has changed from a manufacturing environment, it became highly unionized. To a service economy that is predominantly non-unionized. They’ve had to relook at human capital. And the value of human capital.

If you can replace a human with a robot, you might have the motivation to do that. Or the financial incentive to do that. But in the service business, especially in the hospitality business, you can’t have a robot. You either have the bodies to provide that service, and thus you motivate those people to smile and feel good about themselves and have a good time. Or you don’t have the service to provide them. And it’s trickier, today. The hotel business is not something you can outsource.

You have this hotel. You gotta check people in and make their beds. Serve them meals. You can’t outsource any of that stuff.

If you keep turnover down, you don’t have to keep training.

That’s exactly right. And it’s not so much training new people as if you have an employee, who is the door person at the hotel, and has been there for fifteen or twenty years, they know everyone who has ever come there. And their job is to remember everybody, and so you become comfortable with this place.

You can stay in any hotel. You can go to any restaurant. But when you go and people recognize you, because they’ve been there as long as you’ve been going there, you’ve become like family to them and vice versa. Then that engenders loyalty among the guests. It beehoves us to keep our employees.

Look, there are companies that get rid of a higher paid employee and replace them with a lower paid employee that helps a bottom line, but for them the bottom line is all about the customers who come back time and time again. If they don’t come back, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. You’re not going to be profitable and you’re not going to be successful.

The hospitality business is very, very interesting. Because it’s all about people to people. And there’s not a lot of machinization that goes into basic aspects of the business. So you have to have good people. People who are well intentioned and motivated. And passionate. It helps to have passion.

I mean, everyone sees it. When you go out to dinner, I’m sure you guys are traveling around the country, you’re going to go out a lot. Whether it’s McDonald’s, or a fancy steakhouse, you’re going to shop for a lot of things. Whether it’s going into Walmart or going to a Neiman Marcus. Good employees are everywhere and they stick out like sore thumbs. Or green thumbs. And they’re great. And you love it when you see them. And you should applaud them, and celebrate them. And tell them you really appreciate it, and tell the boss.

Because there’s not enough reinforcement for that. In a world where we try to minituarize things, systematize things, I think we as customers have to react when we see something good. Just like we as managers…

Noah: The way you wanted to be treated as employees.

That’s right.

Noah: You really are like my mom. It’s perfect.

It’s funny at Wynn I had all these ideas, so they dressed me up as a 65 year old grandmother. They had the Mrs. Doubtfire crew come and make me up. I got pictures in my office of it. And I became the spokesperson of the ‘Here’s your mom, telling you something.’ Treating people right like your mom taught you to. It was really clever. That they allowed me to do that. People would look at this executive made up like a 65 year old grandmother and they’d say that this guy is something. It must be pretty cool here. Everybody loved it. And I had a lot of fun.

Noah: Coming off the pretty funny guy in my estimation, would you have any suggestion for a formula, ridiculous or otherwise, that you would use to calculate passion?

It’s probably different for different jobs.

Noah: We were suggested yesterday by TV reporter Hal Eisner of FOX something who was interviewing us that we should have a passion meter, which I would imagine is something like the terror alert on the side of CNN. But we were trying to figure out some general way to rate, or give some barometer for people’s passion.

You could get a big thermometer. Just have people hold it. And watch the mercury rising while they’re talking. You could have some fun with that. You could have a meter. But you will note the passion, because you’re searching for it, and you have a collective definition of what you think passion sounds like and feels like. And just see if it starts to resonate with you, if it plucks your heart strings.

Noah: What is your definition of passion?

Passion is you absolutely can’t wait to do what it is you’re going to do.

Noah: I’ve been saying it’s somewhere between lust and rage.

Zach: What do you look for when you’re hiring employees. You’re probably trying to hire passionate people, or people who are excited about what you’re hiring them for, what kind of triggers do you look for when you’re hiring them, or things they might say, or things that come across to you?

When I say hi to somebody, it’s their initial response to me that tells me everything about them. Because there are people who, when you say, ‘Hey! My name’s Arte. Nice to see ya.’ They’ll shake my hand, look me in the eye, smile. There are other people who will just look at me and say, ‘Who are you?’ Or they won’t react to you.

I’ll tell you, you could try another thing. You guys are driving across America. As you’re driving down the street, pick city streets, you’ll see someone walk along the sidewalk. Beep your horn. Go ‘Beep Beep!’ And about seventy-five percent of the people will wave, because they’ll hope it’s for them. They’re positive people! And about twenty-five percent of the people will duck their head and act like they didn’t hear anything.

You try to get that immediate response. Because that’s like a blush. You can’t fake it. If you’re like excited when someone says hi to you, you can’t help but say hi back. If you’re the kind of person who wants to meet everybody, there’s a trigger that goes off. But if you don’t like that, it will drag your chin right into your chest. ‘Hope they’re not talking to me.’

I did this thing at the Mirage when we opened it and I stood there in the employment center. You walked in and there was a receptionist. She said, ‘You go right down that hall and you take a left at the end of the hall, and right there will be someone to show you where you’re going.’ So they told you there would be someone there, but they didn’t believe it. So they’d walk down this hall. They’d keep walking and they’d turn the left, and I’d be right there.

‘Hey! My name’s Arte! Thanks for coming in today! Wow I’m glad you’re here! Come on with me! Let’s go fill out an application!’

There were people that were into it, that shook my hand, and there were people who were like, ‘Whose this guy? What’s going on?’ And sixty to seventy percent of the people were right there. And twenty to thirty percent of the people who wouldn’t react to me just got a big ‘X.’

Because in the hotel business, you have to hire people who like to take care of people they don’t know.

Noah: Or at least they think on their feet. And someone exuberant about meeting them.

But you can tell passion, when you show passion, and see how someone reacts to you. When I met you and you were talking about this project, you were getting excited about it. You were standing up straight. There are people who when they talk about what they do, their shoulders start slump. ‘I’m just breaking rocks all day long.’

So look at their body language. It’s no different than playing poker. You look for the tell in people. It’s the same thing. I think you can sense it as opposed to putting an absolute definition on it.

Because people come at it from different perspectives and different backgrounds or they have different jobs. Someone talking about a job that you think is dull and dreary as could possibly be, but they have a passion for it, you wouldn’t think that until you heard them. So it’s feeling it.

Noah: That is what’s tough though because we were just talking with this reporter, who is actually somewhere between badgering and pestering, which are also synonymous, but, it came to a point where he was saying, ‘How are you going to quantify this? What are you going to give to people who just want to see something kind of simple.’ The more I thought about it, the more complex it became. Because when you’re trying to quantify an abstraction, it’s like telling someone on a scale of 1-10, how much do you love your wife?

Zach: You say 10 no matter what!

Noah: It’s an interesting idea. We have lots of media. We have lots of video. We can almost go back and look at these things again, it’s interesting to think of the qualities. Do you have to be articulate to be passionate?

No! You have to be able to get excited. You can hear it in them. It’s in their whole sense of body language. They don’t tense up when they’re talking about something they love. You should maybe start by saying, ‘So what do you do when you’re not working? What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working? Let’s talk about that?’ That will get them into a feeling of comfort because it’s talking about what they really know and love. And you say, ‘Enough of that already. Let’s talk about work.’ And just see if there’s this complete shutdown.

Or they might go, ‘It’s just about the same. Because I’m lucky. I get to do things I really love.’ And you’ll see it and feel it and hear it in them, as opposed to trying to check that box to believe it.

It’s not that one and one adds up to two. Sometimes one and one equals four. You have to be able to discern that. I think it’s good that you tape it. I think it’s good that you have four people listening. And that you leave here and ask what everyone thinks. And see if you’re all in agreement that that person had anything going.

On balance, you’re going to come up with a decision. And you’ll be right more than you’re wrong. And you’ll be wrong sometimes. Because some people have trouble communicating. If you talk to people who are not native English speaking people. You may have to really pull it out of them in a different way.

I was fascinated to find that I was able to communicate with Chinese people in Macow. And get from them the things that really made them excited. So you have to find out what makes them excited about themselves personally and in their personal lives.

People talk about their children or about their pets. Or about their vacation. Or about a hobby they have. What’s the best thing that you get to do. And you light ‘em up a little bit, and then you quickly turn ‘em on to work. ‘Okay, let’s talk about the other part of your life.’

Zach: That’s kind of why HR is important to cuz you can definitely, probably, passion is something just innate. You can wear someone down and beat the passion out of them if you’ve got a work environment. It can suggest that they can be passionate and they start to talk about work and they turn off. If you have a stale work environment, you can beat the passion out of your employees to the point where they don’t want to work there. And the job is just the same. You can have somebody who wouldn’t generally be passionate and describe themselves that way, but you put them in an environment where you’re fostering that and you’re telling them good things about themselves and thanking them for their job, you can arise that in them, and pretty soon they’re passionate about their job. Because if you can that much about them and what they’re doing, then all of a sudden, they will.

That’s right. You can motivate anybody. You can bring this out of people and put it into people. If you don’t, I think you’re squandering the energy that exists within this group of people.

Now you guys are traveling east? You going through Nebraska?

Brett: Weeee will be going through Kansas.

Oh. See if you have a reason to go to Lincoln, Nebraska. That’s where Gallup’s headquarters is. Alright. They literally have done more research on employee behavior and attitudes than anybody else. They’ve got all kinds of stories.

They’re the ones that showed me the statistics of 65% of the people working in America, hate, not just put up with their job, but hate their job to the point where they’ll do something destructive. That’s terrible. If you wonder why America is not competitive, it’s because we’ve created this environment where people don’t feel as though they need to compete because nobody cares if they compete. Nobody seems to notice the difference between winning and losing. It’s just, ‘Come in. Do this. Go home. No big deal.’ I think we lose a lot and we do a disservice to the American workforce by not making this the best it could be. What the heck. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Pam Slim

The Fire Inside

July 11, 2007 | by noah | Permalink

Pamela Slim never believed that she could go into business on her own. Now she helps people escape from the cubicle to pursue their passions.

After receiving her degree in international service and development, Mrs. Slim set out to save the world. At 23 she was working for a community foundation in San Francisco, yet soon found herself drawn to the corporate world. She does not reflect negatively on this time, rather acknowledging the strength of her team and importance of the mentors she found there.

Pam Slim and the PTP Crew

At thirty, Mrs. Slim caught pneumonia, a result of complete over-exhaustion. This sickness, combined with a change of ownership within the company she was working at, led her to leave the corporate world.

She went to work as a private contractor for another large corporation; because of the nature of her contract she was forced to get her business license, a moment that made her realize she could be her own boss. Nearly twelve years later, she is “deliriously happily self-employed.”

Pam Slim and Brett

Living in Phoenix with her husband Darryl, Mrs. Slim is currently expecting her second child, while running her company Ganas Consulting. Ganas, a Spanish word that does not easily translate, represents an internal motivation. She uses her company to help her clients through the “evolution of the human experience.” When offering advice to people hoping to pursue their passions Mrs. Slim says, “there is no secret formula for passion. Participate in a full contact way.”

Darryl Slim

Lynn Hazan

Passion Collaboration

September 20, 2006 | by brett | Permalink

Storytelling is the oldest form of communication. A good storyteller includes the audience in the experience. As a result of this intimate inclusion, people are much more likely to remember a story than a statistic.

Lynn Hazan is passionate about communicating and combines her love for storytelling into her recruiting business. She has told stories around the world, including frequent visits to, Rancho La Puerta, a health and fitness spa in Tecate, Mexico. She has also gone on expeditions to speak to 1,300 Ethiopian children. In the midst of her travels, she has managed to run her own executive search firm, Lynn Hazan and Associates (www.lhazan.com).

So how does Lynn combine her two passions? Here is her story:

Lynn grew up as a first generation Canadian. Her father was from Damascus and her mother from Cairo. Her parents were true pioneers and at an early age, this maverick spirit was ingrained in Lynn as she dreamt of becoming a pioneer herself.

Her first step towards embracing this drive was moving to the United States, where she received her master’s degree at Brandeis University in Waltham, before moving to Chicago to work with future ‘neurotics’ (aka graduate students) on campuses in the area. After she felt she had hit the glass ceiling and could no longer grow as an individual, she accepted a part-time telemarketing position that led her to one of her passions: recruiting.

Lynn always loved the stage and an early age she would often perform in front of her parent’s dinner guests by reciting commercials she memorized. She knew that she always loved to tell stories and rekindled her by performing a short story for her friend’s daughter’s Hanukkah party. Seeing the children’s eyes light up, she decided that she would try and pursue her passion for storytelling.

Lynn Hazan

She attended workshops and seminars all the while practicing her ability to tell a tale. Meanwhile, her search firm looked for candidates tied into storytelling. She encouraged her students to tell their stories in their interview processes. Eventually, more opportunities to entertain audiences surfaced. Through her energetic interpretations of tales, she received the chance of a lifetime when she was invited to go to Ethiopia.

Her storytelling became a tool for fundraising for humanitarian relief. Lynn increasingly used her storytelling skills, not only to entertain, but also to motivate and inspire people to take action.

Because of her pursuit and desire to do what she loves, she has managed to combine two things that bring excitement and stimulation. She has ingrained them so deeply that there is no separation between who she is as a person and what she does for a living.

Some additional advice that she had to offer pertained to storytelling and getting your ducks in a row:

“The most important thing about storytelling is to touch the emotion, the soul of the audience. You have to create empathy with the audience, and make sure the story is believable. Make it sound like they’ve been on the journey with you. Tell your story, and be authentic.”

In regards to advice for obtaining a job, Lynn said:

“The more you walk like, talk like, sound like and look like a duck; if a client wants to hire a duck, the more you resemble the duck, the better the chances of getting an interview. I literally have ducks lined up on my window sill at the office. While they might look silly, actually, as a visual they are quite fun. It’s good not to be too serious in this business all the time. Candidates laugh when I tell them they need to be duck-like. I also make the analogy of mirroring your clients’ needs. The more my candidates match the specs and client needs, the better the chances of getting a job. Ducks lined up in a row; this is an obvious image of prepping and making sure the candidate is ready for an interview or opportunity. This includes background research, aligning oneself with the client needs, looking professional etc. In other words, ready and eager.”

A Little Piece of Imagery Used to Support the Above

Flickr Photos