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A Laundry List of Fun Ideas You Can Apply at Your Company

There are plenty of fun ways to make work enjoyable, reinforce your culture and increase retention, engagement, and productivity in the process. Here’s just a few. What fun things has your company done? Please do share!

  1. Bring your _______ to work day (dog, parent, kid, spouse, therapist).
  2. Celebrate change – bury the past in a ceremony.
  3. Assign vision, mission or value “keepers”.
  4. Be a customer for a day.
  5. Bring in a motivational speaker.
  6. Community service – your employees can help in schools, shelters, with the elderly, at rescue centers, support the PBS fund drive, non-profit, create a clothing drive, sponsor a community day, give them a day off for volunteer work.
  7. Customers – Any form of recognition, thank you notes, t-shirts, thank you calls, candy bars, referral bonuses.
  8. Line a wall with pictures drawn by employee’s children or grandchildren, inspirational quotes, personal vision and mission statements.
  9. Send thank you cards home…maybe even with a gift card.
  10. Feed them – potluck lunches, healthy salads, ice cream trucks, popcorn trucks, cookie-baking contest.
  11. Fun – Create a mascot, fun committee, red nose day, poem contest, company rock band, sports teams, pass the trophy, company song or dance, costume day, wig day, hat day, tie day, sweater day, scavenger hunt, fill in the blank joke contest, company crossword puzzle.
  12. Holiday parties – There’s a holiday every month that you can turn into some type of theme party. Let your fun committee put it together!
  13. Create one page “how I make a difference” form where employees show how their work makes a difference on a single sheet of paper. No rules how they do that.
  14. Create some team videos, attain a customer video testimonial.
  15. Miscellaneous – Create a wishes box, time capsule, business cards for everyone, a haiku contest.

Those are just a few of my ideas. What are yours?

Don’t File That Lawsuit!

In 1983, I began my employment law practice, motivated to represent poor victimized employees and help them overthrow their dastardly, villainous bosses. I went all in. Worked 70-hour weeks, out to be the hero. At first, I took on basic cases like sexual harassment and discrimination, and by the end of my career, I was handling more sophisticated dramas like whistle-blower and glass ceiling cases. By the time I turned 30, I was divorced (Daddy wasn’t home enough), and by the time I was 40, I was burnt out of litigation. And I quit.

Over the ensuing 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to re-invent my career by being an entrepreneur, trainer, investigator and executive coach.

Given the experience set forth above, let me get to the title of this article. I now advise people who seek my advice that the preferred approach is to spend their time and energy focusing on finding the right place to work rather than spend another moment looking backward, trying to prove that you were “right” …about the wrong place to work. I have received far more gratifying thank-you notes from people who took the move-forward approach suggested.

Yes, you may have been violated. Wronged. Discriminated against. Bullied. Sabotaged. Did I miss anything? Because of that conduct, you now feel victimized, angry, resentful, revengeful, and determined to bring the dastardly villain(s) to justice!

But…not so fast. If you were my son, or sister, or father, or best-friend, here is the advice I ask you to consider:

1. Let go of the need to be “right.” You know the truth. Does it really matter if anyone else does? Instead, focus all your energy on moving forward and working in the right place, which may be for yourself.

2. If you are being accused of wrongdoing, and as a result, permanent damage can occur, you must defend yourself. Your reputation and livelihood. Even then, all-out war is a no-win scenario.

3. If it’s the other way around and you are accusing somebody of wrongdoing, do you turn the other cheek? Or do you forget those lessons and punish them or tarnish their reputation in return? The answer may be “yes” if it’s to prevent them from doing further damage. That does not mean you need to file a lawsuit. But it would be appropriate to “out” them.

There are rare circumstances where people have been seriously damaged, and it’s difficult to simply dust yourself off. You may need psychiatry sessions not paid for by your insurance. You may have a very niched job where it takes longer to be re-employed. If that’s the case, then work with an attorney to see if they can negotiate a severance, without you having to go through the litigation process. Often, a demand letter and meeting will suffice. Try to get a settlement that will help you move forward. Do not worry about getting a pound of flesh on top if it. And, think twice before you sue to get settlement leverage.

4. Unless you’ve been through the litigation process, you do not understand how crazy it gets. If you thought you were violated in the workplace, wait till those defense counsel get to you. You will not only be questioned by attorneys but perhaps their psychiatrist as well. And, you will wear out your friends and family listening to your story. They will tire of it far sooner than you.

On too many occasions, I have seen plaintiffs put their life on hold waiting for resolution from their lawsuit. They often lose years of career and personal growth in the process. Staying in your victim role is not in the least bit attractive or helpful.

Take into consideration how long these cases drag on for.  I often read appellate reports related to lawsuits filed more than five years ago. Do you want to find yourself dragged through the courts for the next five years? Do you like getting beat up by lawyers? Who ever benefits from that?

Another thing not publicized is that employees win, at the most, 60% of the cases that go to trial. There’s no publicity for the 40%+ of plaintiffs that lose at trial. This figure is consistent with EEOC claims filed, where half of them are dismissed as being without merit. Imagine spending all your time and energy wrapped up in a lawsuit for three years, only to lose in the end. You will be in worse position than the day you filed that lawsuit! In fact, the company (or their insurance company) may chase you down for their legal costs!

If by chance you get a big verdict, you can all but guarantee it will go on appeal for years. Either that or you must settle at a reduced amount. So, while the claimant may have received a $2.5 million jury verdict, an appeal was immediately filed which has been dragging itself through the courts for years, and now you find your attorney wanting to settle for $500,000. Since the case was tried, the attorney gets 40% of that for legal fees. Then there are appellate attorney costs, court costs, fees for experts, depositions and the inevitable IRS. In the end, the most you get to keep is about $200,000 …if you are lucky.

Then, like the vast majority of lottery winners, that money will gone within three years.

So was it worth it?

Trust me; this happens on a regular basis. There’s no press for it. Nobody is bragging about it.

Then there is the stark reality that most harassers and bigots and other people that cause these problems, are seldom punished. Not by the company or the media. There is little press for it. You are not in Hollywood or Silicon Valley and nobody cares about your story. Many of these people don’t even lose their jobs. Often, the company pays a small portion of any settlement you get because they have an insurance company to do that for them. So, while you feel you may be “teaching them a lesson,” it seldom turns out as hoped for.

I say let the bastards rot in their own miserable lives. In the end, they will pay the price. And it won’t be because you sued them.

5. Unless you like repeat scenarios, look for your responsibility in the situation. Were there early warning signs you ignored? Do you wish you had handled certain things differently? Can you see how you may have given people a wrong impression about you? What we can control is our own behavior. We must always examine if we were less than responsible to ourselves in the circumstances. So we don’t do it again.

Growth does not come from finger-pointing but rather awareness. If you have challenges “moving forward,” then hire a coach to support you. Somebody like me can get you back on track. Yes, coaches cost money but you are thinking about your long-term growth. I can tell you this: you’ll pay far less for your coach than for your failures.

That’s 30 plus years of employment law wisdom right there. If you like destructive dramas then, by all means… file that lawsuit!

The Change is Coming, the Change is Coming!

Sometimes change can feel like some monster lurking in the deep, ready to pounce on us in an instant. Nice calm day one moment, disruption the next.

People are in fact losing jobs…and companies… to AI and robotics and other technologies. But it should come as no surprise.

Woe be the unprepared. (I think that was the Boy Scout motto)

Are you prepared for the change coming your way? Have you given serious thought to how these technologies are lurking up behind your business or career?

To help you I have summarized a presentation I give on this topic. Click here to download Managing the Crazy Changes Coming Your Way. I know you will like it!

In addition, here is a checklist addressing The Future of the Workplace.

Here’s to being prepared, Don

17 Blockages to Being a Great Executive

“First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5

All humans have their baggage, blind spots and blockages. Unless we recognize and work on them, they can sabotage our careers and relationships. Having been an employment lawyer, investigator and executive coach I’ve experienced…and been guilty of…some of the following.

  1. Acting out of integrity – It is difficult to salvage an executive who acts out of integrity. I usually advise employers to fire those executives. Because you cannot trust them. Trust is a delicate fabric. When you act out of integrity, you lose it.
  2. Inability to motivate and engage employees – This has become a “hot topic Data shows two-thirds of employees are disengaged. My experience is that leaders and managers do more to disengage employees than engage them.
  3. Not communicating the big picture – I’ll never forget an employee stating one time in a survey “How should I know what the vision is? I’m treated like a mushroom.” Do employees know the long-term vision and goals? Are you assuming they do?
  4. Inability to develop talent – I remember a Jim Collins discussion where they asked him what he considered the most important thing for building great companies. His answer was to make sure your managers hire great people. As a leader and manager, do you understand the most important thing you’ll ever do is hire great employees and then develop that talent?
  5. Handling pressure/stress/emotions – When we run 75 mph, it becomes all about our doingness. Our beingness gets left behind. We lose the emotional capacity to manage with grace and instead overreact, micromanage, criticize and even yell. What are you doing as a manager to steady yourself under this pressure?
  6. Inability to delegate functions and authority – I’ve coached many executives who claimed they are on “overwhelm.” It was their resistance to being coached . “I don’t have time for this they would tell me.” Then when I worked with them, I realized that they were six-figure executives doing $30/hr work. When you build a good team around you, constantly be delegating – not just functions but authority . Ask yourself this question – how well would my team run if I was absent for a month? Would my people have the confidence to step up and take over the functions and authorities I cannot address?
  7. Inability to stay focused – Many of us have so much on the plate we become scatter-brained. When scattered, our energy is dispersed. However when focused our energy is like a laser beam and powerful. The easiest way to stay focused is to plan activities and not get distracted by those “squirrels” running by.
  8. Non-inclusive – If you are a “my way or the highway” executive you will eventually get kicked to the curb. You are leading or managing adults, and they want to be included in decisions that affect their work or career. Remember – none of us is as smart as all of us. How are you including others in your decision making?
  9. Lack of transparency – Many leaders and managers still don’t like to share information. “None of your business, just do what I tell you to do” is their mantra. That might have worked 30 years ago before the explosion of transparency , but it won’t work now. When you are not transparent, your employees will think you’re hiding things from them. And they won’t give you their best.
  10. Poor listening skills – Are you a good listener? Can you listen to somebody for five minutes straight without judging them, nit-picking them, providing your comments, or do anything other than ask clarifying questions? Try it sometime; they’ll wonder what happened to you.
  11. No sense of humor – Who wants to work for deadbeat? Do people enjoy being around you? Are you a fun guy or fun gal, or has life become so serious for you that you haven’t laughed with anyone at work in ages? If you are no fun, I suggest you try to bring an appropriate sense of humor to the workplace.
  12. Out of alignment with the company vision, mission, value or goals – Are you aligned with the company vision, mission, value, and goals? If I sat you down in front of your CEO and asked both of you “what’s the most important work being done here?”… would your answers be in alignment? In my experience when people are not aligned they tend to vector off, and it gets worse . It’s the job of leadership and management to continually bring both themselves and the people they manage into alignment.
  13. Plays favorites – When I managed, I had my favorite employees. Those got their jobs done on time and without drama. However, I have met plenty of leaders and managers with favorites, and they are not necessarily the best employees, but perhaps their best friends. When you play favorites, and it’s not related to results, you cause dissension. You can also find yourself accused of discrimination.
  14. Failure to recognize and reward – Again, when we run 75 mph we can forget the importance of stopping to recognize and reward when people do good work. Sooner or later if you don’t provide recognition and reward, your top performers will leave for a job where they appreciated. Note: I will be recording training for Lynda.com on Rewarding Employee Performance. Should be out by the Spring of 2018.
  15. Won’t or can’t think strategically – Many managers are great tacticians. They are often elevated to their roles because they did their jobs better than anyone else. This does not mean they are strategic thinkers. When we think strategically, we work on our business and not just in the business.
  16. Unwillingness to take responsibility – This is big. The buck stops with you. The beauty of taking responsibility in a situation is it does not open you up to guilt, remorse, and regret. That’s what happens when we know we’ve been less than responsible. While responsibility feels like a burden, (since we were teenagers) it is liberation.
  17. Doesn’t value diversity – While many companies talk about valuing diversity, many of their executives do not. Many would rather work with people in their own image. It makes them feel safer. They feel they can trust these people more. A lack of diversity can lead to myopia. We can get caught up in our little safe world without realizing the greater one outside .

There are other factors that influence the ability to be great leaders and managers including physical or mental health problems, personal relationship problems, financial problems, and upset with company leadership.

As I state in my workshops “If it doesn’t make sense, don’t try to make sense out of it.” These are not logical problems leaders, and managers face, they are emotional ones. One reason executive coaching has become so popular.

My invitation to you is to look at this as a checklist and see which of these factors may be a weakness in your game. Then just focus on improving one item at a time. Perhaps you can spend the week showing employees how you care about them. Or think of what five hours of low-value work you can delegate. Or even better…get a coach to support you in the process!

Interested in learning more about coaching? Contact me to experience it first hand as my gift to you!

PS what follows is a doc you can use to check your head!

17 Virtues of the Great Executive

Every one of these virtues matters. Focus on one or two at a time you want to improve on. You’ll become a better and more desirable executive when you do!

  1. Act with integrity – is there any place you feel “uncertain about the “right” thing to do?
  2. Motivate and engage employees- control won’t cut it.
  3. Be transparent – don’t make people intentions.
  4. Communicate the big picture- share vision, mission, values, BHAGs. reports.
  5. Delegate tasks and authority – let them do it 80% you.
  6. Develop talent – hire and keep great employees.
  7. Don’t play favorites- except based on performance and attitude.
  8. Find the value in diversity – and the commonality in all of us.
  9. Get aligned- are your actions in alignment with the , mission, goals?
  10. Handle pressure/stress/emotions with grace – any drama only make things worse.
  11. Have a laugh – life’s too short to work for a stick in the mud.
  12. Listen, be present – it’s the best way to show care!
  13. Be inclusive – , none of us is as smart as all of us!
  14. Recognize and reward performance – or they will take their performance elsewhere.
  15. Stay focused – like a beam. Avoid “gotta minutes.”
  16. Take 100% responsibility – and avoid guilt,
  17. Think strategically, not just tactically – be creative.

Can You Be Free Having a Job?

Jim Altucher is one of my favorite writers. In a recent blogpost, he did his usual spiel about ditching your job so you can free yourself. Challenge is most executives I know have a job and aren’t ready to leave it.

Can you be free having a job? is the question he challenges us with.

I wouldn’t know. I have had a boss for only four years out of a forty-year career. But I know this: I’ve seen executives “free” in their work and it’s a beautiful sight!

Here’s what Altucher’s says about the Zones we can find ourselves in:

  • “There’s the COUCH ZONE (“I like to eat popcorn all day and sleep”)
  • There’s the SAFETY ZONE (“I’m going to work my steady job, hope I don’t get fired, and retire and try to enjoy the remaining years of my life”).
  • There’s the COMFORT ZONE (“I have to make a paycheck and own a house but I’m not going to go off on my own. Too much risk.”)
  • There’s the DISCOMFORT ZONE (“I’m going to make a new friend every day.”)
  • There’s the DANGER ZONE (“I’m quitting my job and exploring my dreams! I have no idea what I will do tomorrow but I can’t take another day of this”)
  • Then there’s the “FREE ZONE”, (“I’m going to keep experimenting and ultimately scale the things that work.”)

All the zones are fine.

Sometimes I’m in the couch zone. I don’t mind. It’s ok to sleep on the couch. But I try to spend as much time as I can in the free zone.

The civilians are stuck in the comfort zone. This is ok also. But they might not see all the things that are happening around them that makethe Free Zone so beautiful.

The Secret Agents in our society use creativity to track down where the Free Zone is. This is where I want to be.”

So, what he’s saying is this: if we can use creativity in our work we can be free. The mistake I see employees making is thinking it’s an either-or proposition. I can be free on my own or have the security of a job.

It doesn’t have to be thought of in those terms. Here’s how it should be viewed.

We can decide to bring creativity to our ourselves first. Altucher gives good examples of how to do that. An hour playing with your own creativity is far more interesting than anything you can watch on your TV or mobile device.

Until my late 30’s, I didn’t feel very creative. I had a litigation practice and hadto play within a strict set of rules. When I left litigation, I purposely sought out programs on Creativity. De Bono’s Six Hats, Whack Upside the Head, I read books for artists and musicians on their creativity. And then I began experimenting. First with clients and then with online programs. And I eventually got results. And so will you.

Orville Wright didn’t need a pilot’s license to fly the first plane and you don’t need a creativity license to begin.

As Covey said, begin with your circle of influence. You first, then engage your team, then the dept. and so on. One solid step at a time. With enthusiasm.

Altucher is talking about freeing your mind. And your soul. Everyone has the ability to that in their job. It’s a choice. Creativity is fun, and it stretches you. Keeps you alive and anti-fragile. And, it’s the ultimate form of job security too.

Here’s a link to a Creativity Checklist I put together.

Here’s to working in the Free Zone, Don