Rocking the boat can get you thrown to the sharks

29 11 2016

“The only guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

You’ve been there.  You and your group are in a crunch-time situation (for example, our current business pilot, and the pressure to hit our numbers), and almost everyone on the team has their head down, rowing aggressively (or in this case, smiling & dialing  🙂 ).  At the same time, someone on the team is checking their selfies on the phone, or shopping for holiday gifts.  They’re basically rocking the boat, by making you work harder than them in order for the team to succeed.

Leaders… Those among you who have a leadership title, or just you line workers who have the respect and admiration of your team.  THIS is the time to step up, and confront the person who is rocking the boat instead of rowing with the rest of the team.   Basically, make it more uncomfortable for them to NOT work than for them to work their butt off.  When they do turn around, don’t forget to praise them.  Positive reinforcement and optimism can be a force multiplier, allowing 10 people to accomplish the work of 15!

Speaking of guys…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.


Surf’s up… It’s just a job.

19 07 2016

“I sometimes struggle, because my job is like the antithesis of what surfing is all about.  Surfing is simple.  It’s real.” ~ Paul Walker

This quote is poignant for a few reasons.  Not only did Paul Walker die while playing in one of the fast and furious cars that made his career, but he also thought all the cars, hot actresses that he got paid to kiss, and otherwise being a movie star was WORK.  No matter how cool your job, if you have to show up at the right time, in the right uniform, when you want to sleep in – then it’s work, folks.  You get paid to do it, and have to do it even if you don’t feel like it.  The stuff you get paid for is work.  The stuff you use that money for is play.

Just a little perspective from beyond the grave.  No matter how bad your day is, it’s just a job.  When work gets you so worked up that your blood pressure spikes, your nose bleeds and/or you cry at the office, then you’re taking the job a little too seriously.  Relax, at the end of the day you get to go home, and PLAY.  Just do your best, hope nobody dies, recharge your batteries and deal with the reality that is the work-life balance as best you can, because, indeed, it IS just a job.  If you’re lucky, it’s a job you love, and feel rewarded doing it.  If you’re unlucky, just put your head down, and slog through the day as best you can (and maybe think about finding a job you don’t hate).  Spending your life doing work you hate makes for a short, unhappy life.   Life’s short enough.

Speaking of surfing (and a short life)…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

The carrot called privilege

20 06 2016

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

People often confuse rights with privileges.  Americans don’t have the right to happiness.  We have the right to the PURSUIT OF happiness.  That means that we have the right to work towards attaining happiness.  True happiness is a privilege, and privileges are things that you must work to retain.

Leaders, feel free to remind your teams of the difference when they feel like they deserve some privilege.  For example, we’ve had lots of requests from our team asking us to make telecommuting available to all employees.  While we allow telecommuting, we do so with the top performers, and with the understanding that if their performance slips, they’ll lose that privilege.  Under-performers are unlikely to improve their work without direct management nearby.  Explaining to employees who want to work from home that they must first work to improve their performance before enjoying the reward that comes with high performance might just be the carrot that they need to get better, as the stick (progressive discipline) is often not the best motivator.

Speaking of losing…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Thou shalt knot – leadership lessons

25 04 2016

“You should never wear a baseball cap when working in close quarters in the attic:  You never see that beam above you!” ~ Alex Trebek

Does anyone else out there have any trouble believing that Alex Trebek would: A: Ever wear a baseball hat and/or B: Go into an attic with low-hanging beams?  That said, let’s take this good lesson at face value.  I HAVE worn a baseball hat into an attic storage space, and done this very thing.  On one hand, the hat helps cushion the blow a little bit, so you’re less likely to bleed.  On the other hand, it increase the risk of a knot to your noggin.  This is one of those lessons that you can be told about, but you’ll not remember until you learn it in pain.

That’s the thing about many leadership lessons, too.  You can be told about them.  You can read a daily comic about them.  You can read all the leadership books in the world, and some lessons you will still have to learn the hard way:  Don’t treat your employees as friends.  Don’t get involved with co-workers.  Praise in public, criticize in private. Don’t come to work contagious.  Don’t gossip about your co-workers.   Don’t whine or yell.  Don’t back-stab.  We all know that these are common-sense rules of work, but how many of you know someone who has broken one or more of these commandments, and had to learn why the hard way?  Yeah, me too.


Speaking of beams…

Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Work – Life – Life Balance

12 04 2016

“Public Service must be more than just doing a job efficiently and honestly.  It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation.” ~Margaret Chase Smith

Bonus funny quote: “The secrets of success are a good wife and a steady job.  My wife told me.” ~Howard Nemerov

Work-Life Balance.  Let’s explore that for a bit, because it’s thrown around a lot.  First: Life – it’s 2/3rd or more of what we do.  Any job is just a job.  You do it to pay for your time at home.  Some people like to go home and “talk work” with their family, some leave it at the door when they get in the car/bus/train at the end of the day.  Others go home and work during down-time at home, even if that’s just checking their e-mail while watching TV.  But be sure there is a Life, as your needs require.  If you’re married, and hearing things like “all you ever do is work”, check yourself… or you may not be married for long.

Second: Work.  When you’re here, labor like you mean it.  Never forget our customers, and how they are part of someone else’s life.  That means the person you’re helping is someone’s spouse, parent, child, best friend, etc.  They are real people who are bravely calling us, usually (hopefully) while not at work.  They’re taking a slice of their chosen “life” to ask for help.  It’s that important to them.  Do them the courtesy of paying attention, making good recommendations, and treating them as a fellow human being.  Complete dedication to the client base is the only way to be sure you’re giving them your all.

Speaking of jobs…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Killing that little red dot

6 04 2016

“The massive migration from dumb phones to smart phones is a great opportunity for young companies to take advantage of.” ~ Adam Dell

It is true that companies enjoy the benefit of their leaders having smart phones in their pocket.  That persistent, irritating little red circle on the screen on my phone tells me when I have an e-mail or text waiting for me.  It’s almost impossible to ignore it when I’m idle in my off-hours.  I have to click the icon, read the e-mail, and MAKE THAT RED CIRCLE DIE.  That means that, by definition, we are accessible (and working) when anyone we work with has the gall to send a work-related e-mail when we’re off.

Leaders, leverage this technology judiciously, or it will take over your life.  I know that I can’t stop those fellow OCD of you from needing to kill the red dot.  But, when you’re on vacation, or you’ve put in your 45+ hour week, DON’T Reply.  If you can’t help yourself, read it, then forget it until you’re working.  Sure, you’ll get an “urgent” request that you occasionally can’t help but reply to (keep it to a sentence), but for the most part, try to leave the office at work.  Yes, I know I’m not practicing what I preach, sometimes, but it’s a goal to aspire to.  Most of our parents have told us to do as they say, not as they do, but you’ll do what you want to, adults.  Just know that just because I send an e-mail at midnight, or 5am, that doesn’t mean I expect an immediate response, nor should any other leader in an organization.  Business is for business hours.

Speaking of migration…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

The thing you do to pay for the stuff you do

8 03 2016

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.” ~Ellen Goodman

I hope this is an older quote, or a quote from someone who makes millions and millions at work.  How much is home life worth?  Weekends with the family, dinners around the table in the evening talking about how the day was.  That’s my kind of life.  Those who can telecommute occasionally, or even work out of the home have it even better!

Leaders, help your team members find that work-life balance.  I know we have some departments experimenting with telecommuting, so we’re making real progress.  Even if they have to be in the office every day to get the job done, don’t let them get so wrapped up in the job that they’re “working” (or stressing about work) even when they’re home.  Work is something that we do to pay for the stuff we do when we’re not working.  Maybe you’re even lucky enough to love your job.  But give perspective when you see that it’s needed.

Speaking of traffic…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.