leadership, management, motivation, training, work life

So You Want To Rock The Management World?

Oh boy, are you going to be mad at me when you’re done reading this.  Reader be kind, and understand that sometimes the best advice may not make your top ten choice for best lyrics and the rhythm may be hard to dance to, but it is destined nonetheless to replay in your head ceaselessly (kinda like “Mandy” by Barry Manilow – you want it to leave, and it stays and stays and stays…).  I hope today, I am your “Mandy”….

I began leading a five part training program yesterday, working with new managers and supervisors on the fundamentals of their jobs now that they are responsible for people other than themselves.  We had an energetic and productive day; the conversation was lively, thoughts were unfiltered because the environment was conducive to the trust and acceptance that comes from working on a level playing field.  We’re all looking forward to next Thursday.  Do you hear a ‘but’ in my written voice?  Please tell me you do, for there is one.

Here it is – if everything went so well, why do I feel ambivalent about the results?  Why are these engaging people attending this program? (“Oh, Mandy….”).  I know the obvious answers – the syllabus looked intriguing, they need/want training that will enhance and/or introduce new skills to their managerial toolkit, their supervisors want to feel like they are according them with professional development opportunities, etc  (“You came and you gave without taking…Oh, Mandy”).  I get all that.  Each person left with a detailed commitment to doing one thing differently before next week.  And their takeaways were good.  Talk about ‘koombaya’ moments – it doesn’t get much better for someone like me.

Yet with all this good stuff, there is a reality that can’t be ignored.  The supervisors of these people – whether at the C-level, director, administrator – regardless – send people to training with some implicit expectation that they will emerge more seasoned, greatly enhanced and/or permanently, positively changed by the experience.  The supervisor gaveth the training, and the new supervisor is now minted.  Well, I’m going to shoot myself in the foot here – give me a moment, while I consider the value of self-harming…hmmm..

Ok, I’m going to do it anyway.  Sending people to training – even the most outstanding training on the market – doesn’t mean a damn thing if you are not planning to hold people accountable for their post-training results.  It is critical that supervisors expect that along with attendance comes a post-seminar conversation that addresses any ‘aha’ moments the individual may have had, what revised goals or objectives might be derived as a result of the training and then (drumroll, please we’re getting to the bridge of “Mandy here” – oh, and can I have a shield to protect me from your pelting tomatoes)  – you have to hold them accountable.  There is no training in the world that is going to catapult a new supervisor into the sphere of rock stardom.  No course is offered from which managers will emerge forever changed – unless someone is following up with them.  People may feel short-term inspiration, pumped up about the interesting conversations and ideas, hopeful that they can now deal with a challenging employee in a new way.  But you know as well as I, that the ROI is not measured in the first days post-training (“But I sent you away, oh Mandy….”).  It is measured in the engagement of employees within the department, the quality of the intra-and-inter-department communication, the effectiveness and facility with which newly trained managers pay-it-forward.  As I have said before (sigh…”And I need you today…”) – people aren’t ‘managed’; people are ‘developed’.  That takes time – your time.  How accountable do you hold yourself for ‘developing’ your people?  Tougher question – how accountable do you hold yourself for getting involved in the professional progression of your people post-training?  Besides asking how the program was, what do you do to ensure that their ‘takeaways’ become organic elements of their management style?  How often have I heard a participant say, “My manager would never let me do that”, “How can I get my boss to see that this is really a good idea?”, “I have the title, but not the authority to really impact the team”….

So there’s my big ‘but’ (please note the spelling of the word) – If you’re going to invest in your people financially, recognize that it doesn’t get you off the hook.  It puts you directly on it – as it should.  You are now going to have to invest your time, your flexibility, your willingness to walk the walk and talk the talk if you want to truly maximize the impact of  training and development programs.  It’s so not about the money – it is so about you.  After all…”…[you] write the songs that make the whole world sing…..”  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  

discretion, humor, life lessons

Who Steals The Lorax??

Someone stole the Lorax!  I can’t believe it’s true

Don’t people around here have better things to do?

A Lorax bronzed and proud perched among Dr. Seuss’ flowers

We’re all pretty pissed here, we’re all pretty dour

I need to repeat this – some people forget

If it belongs to another, it’s not yours to get

Leave our garden alone!  Bring our Lorax back home!

Go hug a tree, save the whales, write a tome

Your fifteen minutes is up, you looked really dumb

And since this is G-rated, I flip you my thumb.

discretion, humor, life lessons, management, mindfulness, work life

Um..Are YOU Googling ME??

Dear Young-Talented-Eager-Person-Seeking-Challenging-Employment-Opportunities;

Thank you for your interest in our company.  Your education and experience closely parallel that which we consider in candidates for employment.  I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your recent Oscar win for ‘Best Short Film’ – the images of the hollers of Appalachia were hauntingly beautiful and Morgan Freeman’s voice overs provided a lyrical gravitas.  When I think that you are also under consideration for a Pulitzer, you should be applauded for accomplishing so much in your relatively short tenure in the work force.  As an aside, we are all beneficiaries of your full-time efforts while in college to discover the cure for the common cold.  You are truly an impressive individual.

As such, it is with great ambivalence that I must advise you of our decision to extend an offer to a candidate who we feel may enjoy greater success within our organization.  In the interest of full disclosure, the suggestive pictures on your Facebook page, coupled with the salacious conversations between you and your friends gave us pause.  Also, in the future you may want to Google yourself, for there are some rather unflattering comments about you written by some anonymous person claiming to have been held as your unpaid valet during elementary school.  We found the incident concerning the rain boots particularly disturbing.

In closing, I want to thank you again for your interest in employment opportunities with us.  We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and great success going forward.

Best regards,

Will Nothire

There’s been quite a bit of press about the appropriateness of employers asking for the Facebook passwords of potential employment candidates.  On its face, there is nothing legally wrong with an employer asking for this information, just as there’s nothing wrong with you denying to provide it.  This is however a far thornier problem than access to a personal site, which may or may not have anything to do with one’s ability to perform a job satisfactorily (I can hear some employers arguing that such information can tell you quite a bit about one’s judgment, but so can really good interview questions…I’m just sayin’)

In the days of MySpace, employers could (and did) access people’s pages and discovered some very disturbing material that certainly impacted their views of prospective and/or current employees.  People would share confidential information about their employers, posted pictures of themselves in compromising situations, wrote about co-workers in ways that bordered on the libelous.  Under circumstances such as that, what would you have done as the employer?  The answers are complicated, and reveal a gold mine of questions pertaining to personal and professional integrity.

Do employers ‘google’ applicants?  I know that some do – and rarely consider that some of the information on the ‘Net may be completely inaccurate (like the ex-boyfriend who posted an article about his girlfriend on a professional web site, which became part of her technological footprint without her knowledge).  Most firms do background checks – carefully ensuring that the information they are seeking is part of the public record and relevant for the position being sought.

But you need to know that nothing is private.  Whatever you put on your FB page; the article you wrote for your university that called for a boycott of classes until the administration conceded to lowering the number of required courses in order to confer a degree; the tweets full of epithets and disconcerting shout-outs to the judges on “The Voice” – it’s all out there for the world to see.  And judge.  Whether it is right or wrong is not the issue we will solve today – or tomorrow for that matter.  But the presumption of privacy when all of our information is dancing around on a cloud with everyone else’s is naive.  Think before you post, consider who may end up being your audience.  And if you really want to be safe – here’s a crazy thought – pick up the phone and talk.

anxiety, humor, life lessons

Marlon Perkins And Me

My husband thinks he’s Marlon Perkins.  I don’t want to dissuade him, for it gives him such joy and feelings of power that can’t reasonably be replicated in any other aspect of his life.  I feel like I’m a bit player on “Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”, though we live about 25 miles outside of Washington, DC.  I don’t think of myself as Bill necessarily – I always felt bad for that guy – Marlon would narrate as Bill was sent to wrestle the alligator, run from a charging silver back gorilla, etc..  I am more of a hysterical observer as I watch my husband approach his nemesis,  his focus nothing short of laser-like, his exhaustive knowledge of his prey’s behavior shames those of us lesser beings who are just simply grossed out.

He is in search of the notorious brown marmorated stink bug.  For those of you who live on the East Coast and/or China, these interlopers are not uncommon to you.  A few of them apparently booked vacations here, arriving by boat only to find the environment conducive for permanent re-location.  The vineyards were plentiful, the fruit crop bountiful, job prospects were strong and the housing market very competitive.  What a place to raise a family – very large families.

These are disgusting bugs.  I’m sorry if I offend those of you who find all of God’s creatures to be wondrous, but these guys rate right up there with cockroaches in my book.  They have these hard brown shells and emit a potent, offensive odor if challenged (or squashed or vacuumed up).  They prefer the warmer weather, so after hibernating in the eaves and crevasses of one’s home, they emerge in the spring.  Needless to say, they don’t even have the good manners to bring a thank you gift for allowing then to stay rent free on your property for part of the year.  At first I thought they were a new form of psychic terrorism –  like water torture – they just keep coming back over and over and over…They have no known natural enemies ( but for a specific type of stingless wasp who is still hanging out in China), are virtually impossible to completely eradicate and make their presence known in some very inopportune places (I have had one crawl across the keys of my computer – while keying; take a car trip with me to the supermarket; one even jumped out of my briefcase when I went through security at the airport – until then I had never heard a TSA agent scream).  I love the outdoors; I hate sharing my space with these pre-historic looking insects who actually think they are entitled to be here.

Enter my husband, pith helmet jauntily placed on his head, shorts, knee socks and a safari jacket to die for, stalking his prey with his weapon of choice – The Bugzooka.  This is a large cylindrical contraption with suction-like properties  (sold by Ronco or some such company).  If you bring the tip of the Bugzooka within touching distance of the offending bug and press a button, it sucks the insect into a holding cell.  There they remain imprisoned, no doubt wondering what happened to the free food and room service, before being unceremoniously flushed down the toilet.  Of course, we have a septic system, so you can imagine my anxiety when considering how many of these ugly little buggers are clogging the tanks (my apologies in advance to the people who will come and empty those tanks – it will be a really awful experience which I hope doesn’t leave them permanently damaged).

My husband has quickly become  my hero.  I just have to whisper “stink bug at 2:00” and he is at the ready, calmly pursuing his prey and dispensing his swift, unequivocal  justice.  I think he has probably developed a reputation among the stink bug population, for there do seem to be fewer this year.  I am a  member of the Humane Society of the U.S., the SPCA and really believed I loved all animals great and small.  Yet I now must admit that I have been bested by the brown marmorated stink bug, and saved by my very own Marlon Perkins.

humor, life lessons, mindfulness, motivation

When In Doubt – Be Grateful

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet on your shoes.

You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own and you know what you know.

You are the guy who’ll decide where to go” — Dr. Seuss

Today for reasons I don’t fully understand, everything seems complicated to me.  Attribute it to lack of sleep, the relentless beating of the rain on the roof, the aches and pains that seem to accompany me uninvited with greater regularity these days.  Decisions are playing hide-and-seek in my head (so I’m choosing not to play, for I hate that game), the banal rituals that provide an outline for my day seem purposeless and silly (ok, brushing one’s teeth is always a good thing).  So, I’ve decided to write about these last three months or so and see if it can help define my day’s path – even if it’s temporary – something that produces more than my frustration with the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle.

I started blogging because I was curious to see what would come out of this crazy head of mine, because I now had the time to pursue alternatives which had piqued my interest in the past and because I am driven by this nauseatingly neurotic need to make a difference.  Let me clarify – a positive difference.  When I was working, so many people encouraged me to write a book – I’m not sure that will happen.  Blogging seemed like a logical step towards exploring the feasibility of publishing.  I could see if a) I was entertaining enough, b) had a message worth sharing and c) had the discipline to do it.  I’m still not sure I have these answers, but I am truly enjoying this experience even though I will likely never be a candidate for ‘freshly pressed’ (not sarcastic or wry enough, don’t use enough media links in my posts and arguably may not write well enough either).  But – in less than three months, over 2600 people have checked me out (figuratively speaking of course), some incredibly smart people have commented on my entries with cogent, inspiring wisdom (family and friends exempted ’cause they’re already pretty awesome) and I am slowly beginning to find my uncensored voice about work, life, leadership etc – I can only imagine what will flow from these keys once I feel my own personal FCC beginning to fade into the distance.

I have learned that there is so much friggin’ talent out there, that I’m humbled to be part of a circle of people who truly question and opine with thought and humor.  I don’t know any of you, and yet I look feverishly for your responses every time I put up a post.  And you never disappoint.  Every time someone ‘likes’ a post, I feel like Sally Field during her ridiculous Oscar acceptance speech (“You like me!  You really like me!”).  When I see a comment, I feel the same anticipation as I did when I used to get my report card in elementary school (that’s when the comments were kinder, but for the standard reminder that I’d learn more if I socialized less).

Specifically, there are bloggers who have kept me going, totally unaware that their generosity, opinions, and ‘atta boys’ were providing me with commitment to this exercise when my spirits began to flag.  These are people you should read – for their originality, entertaining perspectives, experience and life stories.  Props to them all – and my abundant thanks for keeping me engaged in this process as I figure out where I want to go next.  Here’s my list of tremendous writers – I hope you take the time to check out their sites:  kungfuleadership; manage better now; david kanigan – lead.learn.live; misunderstood genius; greg blencoe; rlagee; business coach steve; girl on the contrary; the good greatsby; where’s my T-back and other stories; never contrary and the middlest sister.  I could go on – there’s truly some terrific talent on WordPress.  But I know what I know and I said what I meant/Your talents inspire me 100 per cent.

That you for your shout outs on Twitter, your encouragement and ability to remind me of the beauty and insanity on this little planet of ours.  I feel like I have found an invisible, yet powerful cohort group, as understanding and accepting as my friends and family.  People who understand that on days like this, sometimes all one needs to do is breathe – and be aware of all there is for which to be grateful.  Consider yourself counted.

humor, leadership, life lessons, management, motivation, work life

B-B-B-Bad To The Bone

There’s something to be said for being bad – and there are many who have become quite successful for their complete lack of ability (presuming of course that one is represented by some tremendous PR people).  The examples come quickly to mind – any Kardashian, reality tv (I’m sorry, I know many of you love it – I just think watching people reduced to tears because of their appearance, love life, swapped spouse or horrific fashion sense is just not, well…good), shock jocks, Paris Hilton, etc.. I get it – there’s a lot to be gained by being talentless – fame, money, one’s own personal posse, Louis Vuitton doggie carriers, an interview with Dr. Phil…

So I’m here to help in the only way I can – I can provide you with some very clear guidance on being a lousy, really bad boss (without violating any federal or state labor laws).  Please, please – no need to thank me.  If this is what you’ve been searching for all along, I share your surprise at the dearth of information than can help you be a terrible supervisor.  Perhaps some of this has been obvious to you all along, yet with all the emphasis on self-improvement, professional development, challenging one’s self to embrace excellence, I can see how the simple steps one needs to take to reach farther down can get lost in all of this positive, ‘you-can-do-it’ energy.  Sit back and relax dear friends – let me offer some basic actions that you can apply today in your quest to hit new lows in lousy leadership.  I promise – you too can make your company’s “Worst Supervisors” list and begin your descent into infamy.

– Don’t give a hoot about the people for whom you have responsibility.  This can be done in any number of ways – ratchet back your feedback to the barely relevant;  assure you’ll get back to someone asap and don’t do it; provide conflicting information about a project’s requirements.

– Say ‘no’ as often as possible.  Leave any affirmative responses for times when you are under untenable duress and see no other alternatives.

– Gossip as much as you can – ideally about people within your department.  If you can manage to engage in these conversations with others on your team, all the better.

– Complain – a lot.  Don’t feel that it is your responsibility to make the workplace a collegial, energized, collaborative environment.  Put that on someone else and then find fault in whatever efforts s/he makes.

– Own as little of your job as possible, and demand that your people take full ownership of theirs.

– Play favorites if you can, though I caution you that you may begin a slippery slide down the path of discriminatory practice.  I’m not looking to help you become a defendant here.

– Take everything personally and react as defensively as possible.  After all, isn’t it all about you?

– Keep your people in tall, separate silos – the less they know what is going on around them, the better.

– Try to understand as little as possible about what your people are doing – there’s nothing more demoralizing than having a boss who has no clue what the hell you do everyday.

– Maintain an opaque quality to your communications.  God knows what could happen if you sought the maximum amount of transparency – people may get ideas, offer their thoughts about a given objective, feel part of a bigger whole, etc.  Ix-nay on the communication, ok?

– Don’t commit to doing what you assure people you’re going to do.

– Keep your door closed, don’t walk around and whatever you do – try not to smile – even to those who may acknowledge you warmly.  The good news is that if you keep doing these things, you will quickly not have to concern yourself with anyone greeting you at all.

– And finally, I would tell people that all that matters is results, though I wouldn’t disclose what those measures are.

See?  I told you this wouldn’t be tough.  I am confident that if you follow these simple guidelines, you too can be really bad at what you do.  Of course, if you are one of those people who responds to reverse psychology, I apologize in advance.  You may end up responding in the exact opposite manner than that which is outlined above – and we all know where that gets you.  You’ll become one of those people who is driven by the challenge of making a positive difference in your day and the days of the people with whom you work – ugh!.

humor, leadership, management, motivation, work life

The Wizard And I

“The Wizard Of Oz” – not to be confused with The Wizard Of Menlo Park of course.  After all, one was a movie musical with a series of limited but determine characters in not-so-subtle costuming, the other referenced Thomas Edison, thought by many to be one of the greatest Americans of all time.  Given that scores and scores of books have been written about Edison, I think it is my duty to address the brilliant management and leadership lessons that one can learn from following a yellow brick road.

1 – There’s something to be said for being ‘the man behind the curtain’.  The strongest leaders do not need to advertise their power, rather they advertise the talents of those around them.

2 – Mentors typically don’t make themselves known by descending from the sky in a transparent globe, holding a wand and wearing a crown.  But they’re out there.  Mentors can be people within your organization who have successfully navigated its twisty, winding paths, know where the flying monkeys lurk, who have the magnetism and talent that people gravitate towards and/or have the technical expertise from which you can learn.  They also may not be looking for you, so it would behoove you to seek them out.  And parenthetically, it’s probably better if they don’t sing soprano with an insufferable vibrato.

3 – Some days you’re the house, other days the house falls on you.  Either way, neither state is forever (unless you happen to be a wicked witch – and if you are, there’s probably better reading for you out there).

4 – The best teams are comprised of people with markedly different talents.  It’s best not to duplicate areas of expertise, rather seek those who’s abilities will be complementary.  Chances of effective project completion are highly increased, everyone emerges stronger and more well-versed than when they began and you can maintain a shared vision of the goal without introducing individual competitiveness.

5 – It’s good to carry a bottle of water around with you at all times.  At the least, you’ll stay hydrated.

6 – The easiest way to achieve insurrection is encouraging people to follow you by dicta rather than by choice.  Rest assured that your people will leave your side at the earliest opportunity if their contributions aren’t valued, their input ignored and their chances for professional exploration limited to a narrow, controlled orbit.

7 – Help your  people realize their professional goals.  Not only is it your job, it will enhance the talent stream, engender loyalty and infuse the work place with energy.

8 – Courage means different things to different people, but supporting your people as they break out of their comfort zones is an enriching experience for you and a thrilling new beginning for them.

9 – Show your heart – it only makes you appear stronger, more authentic and relatable.  It will not diminish your authority at all.

10 – Work and home are inter-connected.  They don’t exist in separate silos.  It is impossible to separate the two when there are issues or concerns involving one or the other.  It is far better to recognize this and determine the best way to reconcile the two rather than having them at war within you.

And finally, if you really feel you need to, invest in a pair of ruby slippers.  They aren’t going to help you get anywhere, but they should appreciate greatly over time.

life lessons, mindfulness, motivation

Basic Inspiration

“Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness.  If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most.  It is not complicated but it takes courage.  It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it.” – Pablo Casals

You can probably tell by now that Machiavelli and I wouldn’t get along.  I have a very firm belief in the fundamental goodness of people.  For the most part, I don’t believe people intend to be hurtful, mean spirited or relish opportunities to display their most unpleasant qualities.  This in no way runs counter to my earlier post about the abhorrent (and aberrant) bullying behavior that is evident in schoolyards and offices.  On the contrary, I believe that such aggressiveness is more environmental than innate, more learned than inherited (with a nod to the studies that support a heritability factor associated with aggressiveness).

What I love about Casals’ quote is the implication that honoring one’s goodness takes courage.  Doing the right thing isn’t easy.  Opening one’s eyes to the wonder that passes throughout the course of a single day requires a conscious shift in focus from all that we rarely notice – or worse still – all that we see that disappoints us.  So I introduce you now to one of my constant sources of inspiration – Archie.  This picture captures him in a moment of brief repose – or exhaustion – resulting from his relentless pursuit of happiness.  Archie approaches our driveway and yard as a constant source of amazement and surprise regardless of his thousands of explorations.  Today, the cherry blossoms are falling from the trees, and Archie pursues each falling blossom with limitless unbridled excitement and delight.  Of course, the wind blows them into multiple directions and he loses them before they hit the ground.  Nonetheless, he forgets any other reasons why he’s out there – he is on a mission fueled by sheer joy  (and a sizeable absence of grey matter, but none of our dogs have ever ranked high on the intelligence scale – except for Bubba the Wonder Dog – a story for another day).  Archie makes me pause and look around – I stop and notice that the buds on the Japanese maple are beginning to slowly swell under the warmth of the sun, hear the neighbors’ kids laughing hysterically as they try and double jump on their trampoline.  I sit on the porch realizing that I’ve been touched by more good karma than one person could ever take for granted.  I sip my tea and giggle as Archie is outpaced by his older, smaller and more dignified partner-in-crime Teddy (he didn’t want his picture taken today).  And in this moment, I am inspired to find the time in each day to pause and look around me.  To consider it an honor to be able to share my ideas with an increasing number of fantastically gifted people.  To make a conscious effort to make one person’s day a little better through word or deed (I have no illusions of heroics here –  just take the time to be slightly kinder than the day before).  Now Archie, Teddy and I are going to take a walk and see how many of their friends we can track down, kibbitz, sniff and play with, see how many blooms are opening on the magnolias and pause for a moment to experience the indescribable  inspiration that begins with gratitude.

leadership, life lessons, management, work life

Written From The Bully Pulpit


The new documentary dealing with bullying of school age children is getting a lot of well-deserved press.  The excerpts I have seen and heard evoke my tears, rage and yes, personal memories.  Nothing can justify what these children endure on a daily basis.  There is no rationale, explanation, excuse or defiant bluster that can in any way mitigate the pain – both physical and psychic – to which these kids are subjected.  In these situations there is no such thing as ‘toughening up’ in order to take it.  The only acceptable response to such behavior is that it stop.

The reality is, bullying doesn’t stop with adulthood.  There are bullies in the workplace – different from those who harass others within the context of federal and state EEO and Sexual Harassment Prevention statutes.  There’s time enough to write about the latter; my passion this morning is directed to the leaders and managers who are aware of the bullying that occurs on their watch.  While I agree that education and zero tolerance must begin with and for our youngest children, the fact that such behavior is deeply affecting adults in the workplace suggests that perhaps we need a bifurcated approach.  In more basic terms – we should not condone any hostile or aggressive behavior in our offices – hard stop.

“In a prevalence study of U.S. workers, 41.4% of respondents reported experiencing psychological aggression at work in the past year representing 47 million U.S. workers (Schat, Frone & Kelloway, 2006).  The research found that 13% or nearly 13 million workers experienced psychological aggression on a weekly basis”.  This is inconceivable to me – and I hope you are as enraged as I am.

When I started working at the firm, we had an unwritten (but enforced) ‘no asshole’ rule.  I found this to be part of the firm’s value system that I respected the most.  The vetting process was almost absurdly extensive – potential associates and partners traveled to as many offices as possible, meeting as many people as possible to learn about the firm and vice versa.  Believe it or not there were some pretty impressive business producers who were not pursued after this exercise – they couldn’t pass the ‘no asshole’ rule.  Was the firm replete with only genuine, engaged, gracious, respectful people?  Of course not – sometimes somebody made it through.  Parenthetically, none of these people were put into positions of power; their sphere of influence was limited as much as possible and of greatest importance – they were told why their contribution would continue to be valued in money, but never in leadership roles.

That was then, this is now and I’m not there anymore.  Further comments about whether or not such a philosophy is still in practice is specious and of no value to this dialogue.  But I will always applaud the organization for uncompromisingly articulating its abhorrence of bullying and those responsible for its horrible consequences.

Aggressive behavior in the workplace can range from subtle to overt.  Being the frequent recipient of invalid hostile criticism, receiving continuous unwarranted and/or fictitious blame, being sworn at, experiencing social and professional isolation and/or exclusion are examples of bullying.  I ask that you apply a ‘reasonable person standard’ to this description, for I am aware that an occasional misguided comment or decision doesn’t meet any threshold that is being discussed here.

As a current or future leader, you must be acutely aware of the ramifications of such toxicity.  If you consider the impact purely from an economic perspective, you will find decreased performance, higher turnover, distorted information flow and high levels of distrust.  Bummer for your profitability.  As a compassionate leader, the consequences are equally dire – disaffected employees, higher incidences of medical leaves, depression, misdirected frustration and criticism, dysfunctional collaboration,etc.  Bummer for morale.

To me, the larger issue is the need for us to address this with unrelenting, unwavering commitment in our schools and in our companies.  It is not enough to say that we are anti-bullying – we need to step up and be as unequivocal in our actions as we are in our words.  I realize I do not sound like a compassionate therapist here – the workplace is not the backdrop for working through the long standing issues that plague most bullies.  The bully is hurting your people, diluting any humanistic value system that your organization holds dear and eroding your profitability and reputation.  Zero tolerance policies are truly that – without caveat, rationalization and multiple do-overs.  Your people are entitled to be led by the best you have to offer – and that includes establishing and invoking a ‘no asshole’ rule.Image

humor, leadership, management, motivation, Uncategorized, work life

Back To Basics – Part 2

I feel a little vindicated.  An article in Forbes recently appeared that dealt with the overabundance of email and its impact on the development of quality professional relationships.  The author offered a solution you may have already read on this site – the idea of having a ‘no email’ day – invoking a day where people have the choice of getting up and talking with each other or at the least getting on the phone.  Please don’t burst my happy little bubble by delicately suggesting that this is hardly a new idea.  I know – but it sure felt good to see it in a more legitimate, well read format.  As my babelicious nephew would say – “True dat, Mimi”.

So I’m intrepidly going out on a limb, despite my fear of heights, and offering some other basic principles which I think could bring your employees greater professional satisfaction, enhance the quality of your leadership and perhaps, just perhaps improve your results.  At the least it may give you something to think about.  And as always, if it can provoke a smile, all the better.

1 – You can never learn anything while you’re talking.

2 –  You can have a happily-ever-after work experience – especially if you look at is day by day.

3 – Presenting yourself as one who knows it all, doesn’t inspire confidence or make you a great boss.  It makes you insufferable and impossible to work for (or live with for that matter).

4 – Try congratulating the person who owns up to making a mistake.  I’m serious – I used to do it all the time.  To me it was reflective of the individual’s willingness to take responsibility for the work under his/her jurisdiction and greatly increased the likelihood that such an error wouldn’t occur again.  What I never did was let them take the fall in public – I took the hit.  When all was said and done, I’d ask the employee what the ‘takeaway’ was and was never disappointed by the thoughtfulness of the response.

5 – If you’re going to take professional risks – and we all should – put your faith in those with whom you work.  Let them know that you’re willing to back them and show your trust in them in deed.

6 – I used to have regular meetings with my team.  Twice a year though we engaged in an exercise called “Building BHAGs (big, hairy, ambitious goals).  The rules were few – the goals had to be a little scary, strategically important for the firm, and require that they be achieved collaboratively.  Timelines were established with the knowledge that they could be somewhat fluid and each person tracked their contributions on a SharePoint site.  Eventually they asked me not to come to the first meetings because they wanted to do it themselves, showing me their final recommendations.  They were amazing.  In other words – you don’t have to put your mark on every piece of paper, idea and/or project.  If you’ve developed your people well, give them every chance to shine.

7 – “I’m sorry” are two of the most under-utilized words in the workplace.

8 – “Any new venture goes through the following stages:  enthusiasm, complication, disillusionment, search for the guilty, punishment of the innocent and decoration of those who did nothing – Anon”.  If you are in a position of responsibility, you can change this outcome with a modicum of effort and close attention to the rhythm of the work that is being done, the tenor of the conversations that are taking place and the quality of the activities that will drive the result.  Oh yeah – that’s your job too.

9 – Always, always hire people who are smarter than you and then give them the substantive work that will make them thrive.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but I promise you will not be hiring yourself out of a job – rather making room for you to take on more signficant projects of your own.

10 – Mike Ditka was right – failure isn’t fatal.  The corollary of course is that success doesn’t last forever either.  Learn to accept the ebb and flow of the realities of work.

Finally, think about your professional legacy.  Do you want to be known for something other than showing up?  I’m convinced most of you do. Identify the values and leadership style for which you will want to be associated even when you have moved on to new adventures.  Try one thing differently every week – big or small – and see if there is more you can do to ensure you will be remembered in a way that will satisfy and please you.  And Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone – may each day hold at least one four leaf clover for you.

life lessons, management, mindfulness

Back To Basics – Part 1

my infamous mirrorI was going to write a little bit today about inspiration – those intrinsic, palpable exchanges or moments that propel us forward with renewed purpose and passion.  I realized however that two of my favorite bloggers – the authors of kung fu leadership and lead.learn.live, had recently posted thoughtful pieces in a similar vein.  Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but these guys stand on their own.

That said, it’s been a thoughtful kinda day and I wanted to share some basic truths which I invoke daily.  I have a mirror in the sitting room off our bedroom which used to hang in my office.  Framed in wood, there are nine life lessons which I know by heart, for they are now etched there.  My kids probably know them with similar confidence, because it has been around for so long, they’ve acquired this knowledge by osmosis.  My team at work knew that these were certainly the simplest life rules one could follow – if not because they came to believe them but simply because of their ever-present position on the wall opposite my desk.  So…I thought I’d share them with you.

On the right side of the frame the following squares appear:

– Seek peace

– Learn lessons

– Vote honestly

– Share

The left side of the frame holds the following truths:

– Stay on track

– Know love

– Be calm

– Dream

And at the apex are the following words “Do the right thing almost every doggone day of your life”.   I remember someone telling me that I “had full authority to do the right thing”.  We all have that authority.  We all get sucked into the occasional eddy that swirls around us forcing us to  lose our footing.  Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of ground to stand on, to allow us to re-balance and get back to the basics.  You can’t skip any of these steps in your path to personal and professional success – not unless you accept that by doing so, you are destined to slip and fall.  Simple truths on a beautiful day.

leadership, management, work life

The Color Of Money Can Make You Green

There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today by Greg Smith titled “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs”.  After an impressive career with this professional services powerhouse, Mr. Smith found that the values he embraced, touted and evangelized for the firm now rang hollow.  He speaks about the erosion of a culture that embraced the priorities of maintaining client trust, reflecting a “spirit of humility” and teamwork.  Those were the big draws for Mr. Smith when considering his professional options.  I don’t want to sound naive – Goldman, as any other firm of its kind, will always reward rainmakers with additional compensation and bonuses, and though it may downplay the ever-present eat-what-you-kill undercurrent that permeates much of the professional service zeitgeist, it is certainly a widely accepted approach.  All professional service firms do it to some degree.

What has happened at Goldman is also not unique.  I think it is indicative of the cultural shift that occurs when firms move farther and farther away from the tenets that made them great.  Organizations that were seen as formidable now seek to become formidable-on-steroids.  Firms that aspired to greatness – and achieved it – through the principles of trust, team effort, shared focus, may no longer be practicing such fundamentals of good business.  These are still the words that are espoused, but the authentic practice is devalued – and certainly no longer rewarded.  The most foreboding harbinger of all is that some who excel at making money, used to be content with increasing monetary rewards.  Now they are expecting to be provided positions of leadership as part of some perceived additional entitlement.  I have been in the world of professional services for more than twenty five years (true, I started when I was three :-)), and it is undeniable that Mr. Smith’s observations reflect a train that is racing out of the station.  Firms like these will always compete with each other based on their financial results; perhaps in the past they compromised less on the collective ethos upon which such success was founded.

I do believe there is good news for those of us who forlornly watch the Kool-Aid we drank becoming increasingly rancid.  I think firms will return to their basic values over time.  Firm will become indistinguishable from each other for awhile, distinctions only made my profits and global reach.  Each organizations’ Web page will speak to the brilliance of its teams, state-of-the-art-technology, ability to respond to client needs in real time any where in the world.  Ultimately though clients will demand the return to an organizational philosophy that is evidenced in action as well as word.  Clients will drive the pendulum back to the values of trust, quality and collegiality, for the color of money will be making them green (with figurative nausea).  Profits per partner may go down – and they arguably should if it means a return to humility, shared effort and collaborative success.  Perhaps this is the dark night of the soul for firms like Goldman.  Perhaps it is the only way they will again experience the dawn. Continue reading “The Color Of Money Can Make You Green”