Posted tagged ‘job security’

Carbon footprint

August 25, 2011

When I was a kid and disputes were escalating among siblings, your “ace in the hole” often was, “I’m telling mom” or “I’m telling dad.”  You knew you ran the risk of being called a tattler or escalating things further, so you tended to only play that card in desperate times.

Fast forward a few years…

I always thought that CC in an email stood for “courtesy copy.”  According to the search I just conducted, it stands for “carbon copy” and is defined as:

Carbon Copy, it is for those that are not part of the main email but are just being informed of it

But that’s not what it’s used for in many organizations, is it???  It’s used to tell mom.

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I have a theory that I bet some really smart developer with access to an organization’s MS-Exchange data store could prove or disprove.  I submit that the level of bureaucracy in an organization can be measured by counting the number of emails that everyone cc’s their boss on in comparison with the total number of emails they send.   The higher the number, the more you have to tell mom to get a co-worker, peer or someone else who doesn’t “report to you” to actually take action and help you when there’s nothing in it for them.

It’s a sad state of affairs when two co-workers who allegedly work for the same organization and should have the same goals won’t collaborate unless it’s under the watchful eye of one of their bosses.

Why don’t you take a moment and ask what your “carbon footprint” is?  If it’s more than 5 to 10 percent, maybe it’s time to reduce your emissions…

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You know you make me want to shout

August 18, 2011

As Raymond said in Rain Man, “I’m a very good driver.”  In order to be so good, I need a lot of information.  I need to know where all the other cars around me are, how fast I am going, how much fuel I have left, what gear I am in, what the speed limit is, and of course, who am I listening to on the sound system.  I have devised a system to deliver all this information to me in real-time, while allowing me to focus my attention on the road in front of me as well.

I have five other people sit in the car with me, each responsible for some key piece of information, and have them all shout it at me, constantly, for the entire trip.

What??  You think this is a bad idea???

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Well, then riddle me this.  Why is it that every time I create a well-crafted dashboard for an important project, program or entire collection of projects and ensure that it is kept current, executives and other “drivers” of the business never look at it, choosing instead to be “shouted at” by the other people in the car?

I am not suggesting that a dashboard is a substitute for genuine and important human interaction, but I do think that humans, as many studies show, are genetically pre-disposed to assembling and interpreting disparate visual information quickly and accurately.

What gives?  Is is the colors on my pie chart?  My far too infrequent use of the term “almost done” and “coming along nicely” in the status narratives??  Or do they simply not care?

I can fix just about anything except the last part…

PS – Here’s an awesome footnote:  If you google “dashboard” on Google Images virtually every image is a Business Intelligence Status dashboard, not the kind behind the wheel of a car…  Go figure.

Empower(less)ment

August 4, 2011

For any of you who have kids (and many who don’t) one of the great joys you get raising your children over time is the pride you feel as they gradually mature, take on new responsibilities and learn to make good choices.  In short, you teach them empowerment.  And other than an occasional allowance here and there or some money for the movies, you’re not really paying them to make that progress – you’re just trying to help them be self-sufficient and most importantly, make sound decisions when you’re not around.

So why was I not surprised when:

a) a good friend of mine told me her manager said to her, “I don’t pay you to make decisions, I pay you to do what I tell you to…”

b) I was told by a co-worker, after waiting weeks for budget approval so I could order equipment to keep a project on schedule, “a lot of the execs that have to approve the budget are on vacation so it’s been tough to get them to review and sign off on the document.”

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It seems that, even as unemployment stays high and we ask workers to take on more and more, that doesn’t include decision making, especially when it comes to spending the company’s money.

I fear that a lot of managers out there have blurred the distinction between control and leadership.  So here’s a fast refresher:

Control is the illusion that you can orchestrate all events to your liking (just ask Hosni Mubarek how that’s working out…).  Leadership is establishing and communicating goals and objectives to your team and then trusting that they can do their part to get everyone there.

Just ask my kids…

Gettin’ busy

July 15, 2011

Maybe it’s always been this way, but it seems like lately every time I ask someone how they are doing, they say, “good, busy…”  It appears that, perhaps without even being aware of it, we have all succumbed to the “busyness” bug.   You think you’re busy?  Look at me!  I’m three times as busy!!  I am late for all the meetings I am supposed to be at, and at least twice a week I tell people how I can’t make it to their meeting because I am already triple booked.   And if you are lucky enough to get me to attend your meeting, I will have my iPhone in my hands the whole time, checking email, texting other meeting attendees, and generally squeezing a few more messages into my already “busy” day.  And if you hadn’t noticed, if I am busier than you, I am also more important than you…  The busier, the better…

Admit it.  If you asked a colleague how it “was going?” and they said, “pretty good, not much happening, only have one meeting this week, kinda looking for a new project, you know, something to sink my teeth into, I have quite a bit of spare time right now…” you’d be aghast!  What?  You’re not crazy busy??  You must be, wait for it…  expendable.

But this approach does not end well.   I think I can safely introduce this sketch from the old I Love Lucy show to a new generation who may not have ever seen it. 

To continue to accumulate more and more work (or just say you have it) does not improve the quality of what you do, your ability to be attentive, or your stress level.  And I think that’s part of why unemployment is still at close to 10%.  If I hire someone to help with our workload, we might not be as busy.  That’s bad, right???  Or is it?

Nature v Nurture

May 26, 2011

I was hanging out in my friend Lori’s office a few weeks ago.  She had a magazine in her lobby – HR Magazine.  Who knew such a publication even existed??

The cover story?  “Slackers, Can they be saved?”  The byline?  “Most slackers can be turned into better performers by removing organizational conditions that create or enable loafing behavior.” 

Next, the definition:  “Slackers are people who know they could be much more productive but make a conscious decision not to be.”

And finally, the requisite quadrants of slackers, who apparently fall into one of four quadrants:  Sandbaggers, Weasels, Parasites and Mercenaries.  I kid you not.

I would post a link to the article, but you have to “join” HR magazine first and I already re-upped my membership in the KKK this spring, and there are only so many hours in a day to stereotype people and then mistreat them…

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Let me just say a few quick things about this:  I understand that it can be challenging to get the most out of any team on any given day.   I also understand that a lack of motivation can cripple any undertaking.  But I suspect that many of these so called “slackers” are highly engaged parents, mountain bikers, runners, audiophiles, volunteers, or hobbyists.   Nowhere in the article, whoever its intended audience might be, does it suggest that the leader or senior executive might be the problem.    The article does seem to suggest that a manager’s job is to “catch them,” calls them “time bandits” and bemoans the fact that in this age of computers, slacking is “easier to mask.”

Maybe the organizations goals are not clear.  Maybe the slacker cannot relate what they do to the achievements of the team, department or company.  Maybe they think the company’s “mission statement” is a bunch of BS.  Maybe management’s actions and words are more misaligned than a Yugo that just jumped a 2 foot curb.  Maybe they showed up for their first day at a new job all those years ago, full of enthusiasm and optimism, and the management style, hypocrisy and bureaucracy drained them of their energy like a slow leak in an above ground pool.

As Rodney Dangerfield said long ago, when asked by his spouse to take the trash out, “You cooked it, you take it out…”

It’s not you, it’s me

February 24, 2011

If you’re writing a blog about leadership, it’s hard to ignore what’s going on in North Africa.   I am no news analyst, but it appears that a large number of citizens in quite a few different countries including Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya are quite intent on seeing their leaders step down.  What I find most interesting about this is that, other than some relatively vague though passionate ideas about democracy and free speech, they seem m ore intent on getting rid on whoever’s in charge as job #1 than they are certain of what to replace them with.

At least in Colonel Kaddafi’s case, this must fly in the face of what he believes one of his key leadership qualities is: charisma.  I decided to look up a few definitions of the word.  Here’s what dictionary.com says:

1.  Theology . a divinely conferred gift or power.
2.  a spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people.
3.  the special virtue of an office, function, position, etc., that confers or is thought to confer on the person holding it an unusual ability for leadership, worthiness of veneration, or the like.

Wow, divinely conferred power, authority over large numbers of people, worthiness of veneration!  Strong stuff!

Unfortunately, when your ‘charisma’ wears off, there is often little substance behind it to shore up your ‘right to lead.’  And that degenerates quickly into “I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not you.”

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As usual, I think there’s a lesson in here for all of us.  Although your personality, empathy, optimism, compassion or penchant for motivational rhetoric all contribute to good leadership, there really needs to be some substance behind it all.  Substance that transcends you and reflects the values of the organization itself that your leading.  Think Boy Scouts of America or Doctors without Borders.

An interesting characteristic of despots – it has to be all about them.   I think your tenure as a respected leader will be much longer if you’re just the personification of something bigger, and not the other way around…

Right back at ya!

January 20, 2011

According to this blog post, retaliation lawsuits, defined as “retaliation against an employee for complaining internally or with the EEOC” outnumbered racial discrimination suits for the first time since the EEOC started keeping track in 1965.

Now of course, the glass half full guy in me would say, “maybe that’s a good thing – maybe racial discrimination in the workplace is finally on the decline.”   But sadly, the total number of discrimination suits of any kind appears to have hit an all time high in 2010, too.  Nice.

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Unfortunately, I think this statistic says a few things about the state of relations between leadership and employees, neither of which are good.

  1. Employers know they have the upper hand in these times of high unemployment, and are not afraid to exercise the power that comes with that hand, however inappropriately.
  2. Actually listening to employee grievances, real or imagined, before the employee feels compelled to contact the EEOC as their best recourse is on a lot of leaders “to do” list right after “take a relaxing vacation in Kandahar Province.”

Here’s the other great irony in this:

I’ll bet that many of these same leaders have energetic projects underway to build Facebook sites and Twitter accounts and corporate blogs so they can “find out what the buzz is” about their company, products, and brand in the marketplace.  Good strategy!!

Or, you could open your office door for more than 10 minutes a day and listen to what the folks right outside it in the cubicles outside are saying…