The Power of Humor

June 2, 2006

Friday’s thought: “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”– Oscar Wilde

Well, I don’t know if they’d actually kill you – but I do know that a little humor makes virtually any interaction easier. After all, most of what we do in business (and life) isn’t really “life and death.” When you’re getting all riled up, stop and think, “Will anybody care about this in five years? Or even five months?” As Wilde also said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

Back in the day, when I was managing large groups of people, I found I got my best results when I used a light touch and encouraged laughter. (It’s also good to be able to laugh at yourself; we all need that perspective.)

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Immigration & You

April 28, 2006

Recently, I had the greatest experience with INS—while conducting a routine Criminal Background check, I discovered the social security card provided by newly hired employee actually belonged to someone else. The new employee also …provideed an immigrations card as proof of employment rights.

So, I called INS and found out that….the social security card and the immigration's card were frauds.  The INS investigator came out, not with any intend in hurting the company but in the role of an educator and learn I did…

 I-9 documents must be provided within 3 days of hire…

If you hire immigrants, that's great – but keep in mind that the I-9 requires you see two forms of approved ID and the ID must be original, not photocopies…

The person validating the documents, must sign and date the I-9 form…

Certain forms of ID have expiration dates, immigration cards (green cards) for one, you must keep track of the renewal dates and re-verify…

I-9's are not filed in the personnel file, they must be kept in a separate file or notebook…

If you keep copies of the documents, keep those separate as well…

To the degree you can, watch addresses, in the incident described above, the new employee that presented us with fraudulent documents, lived at an address where several other immigrants lived, the INS gentleman verified that every piece of documentation we had on 5 employees were fraudulent—I wiped out a full labor pool in one feel swoop!! 

The good news, INS helped us and commented on our process and record-keeping and that the documents were excellent copies and that few of us would known they were frauds.

Are you making it difficult?

April 18, 2006

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.
– Peter Drucker

Sure, sometimes we think we’re helping but we’re really preventing the other person from learning, growing and – um – doing their job. I know how hard it is to step back and give people room to work (and possibly fail) – been there, done that.

But, ultimately your team has to fly on its own, if they’re ever really going to be a team. This means they have to work out conflicts, solve problems without coming to you first. And, you’ve gotta get out of their way and let them do it.

Anyway, that’s my food for thought for this Monday.


Duh! Loyalty to Employees

March 31, 2006

Dunce Last night I attended a fun gathering of the AIBA (Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance) where I won, as is my habit of late, the door prize. This month it was a for a two-hour consultation with local brand maven, Mary Ellen Merrigan. Mary Ellen is well known around these parts for her great work, including entrepreneurial education at WESTT Corp.

Great timing, as she said I was on her call list. And, as we were laughing at the meeting, this “marketing stuff” is so much easier for our clients than for ourselves. (I think I have a “brand” but do I really have a blind spot? Am I being brilliant or just bloviating? This stuff is like sweating blood sometimes.)

One of the things she included with my prize certificate was a “Loyalty Audit” which is two pages of common sense (which is all too uncommon.)

My “duh!” realization as I was reading it: Loyalty to Employees. I talk a lot about customer loyalty as well as valuing employees. But, I never (duh) put the two together in one thought or process. So, here you go, direct from Mary Ellen to you:

1. My direct reports have regularly scheduled reporting meetings with me during which time I give them my undivided attention.

2. I am accessible to employees on a regular basis; from time to time I walk around the facility with no specific agenda.

3. My company has an internal update system that is not required to go through me. (i.e. newsletter brief for employees, etc.)

4. I have a public reward/performance-recognition program for my employees.

I’d add that good ol’ fashioned things like a sincere thank you or a quick handwritten “attaboy” here and there works wonders for employee loyalty. That, and don’t think of them as “heads” to be counted or cut – they’re human beings.

Related Posts: Bad Boss = Bad Worker, America’s Pink Slip Addiction


America’s Pink Slip Addiction

March 29, 2006

The Book The Disposable American validates what I (and many others) have long thought and wrote about. The addiction to headcount cuts as a way to improve business results is – well – crazy.

Wall Street actually applauds CEOs for announcing headcount cuts, even (especially) when those heads have been producing profitable results. And, analysts snip and snap at CEOs that have the audacity to care about the people who work for them (Costco’s CEO is just one example.) Is it really worth an extra nickel a share to demoralize the surviving heads? Even if the company doesn’t care about its people – here’s a hard cold bottom line fact: Headcount cuts also reduces the number of people out there that can buy the company’s product. Even if they get another job, it’s frequently not at the same pay level as they previously had. (A lot of those “new jobs” we hear about are in the lower-paid service sector. Wal-mart greeters and such. Tough to go from $50,000 a year to $18,000 and still buy that new house, SUV or iPod, folks.)

Just a bit from the NYT article about the book:

The layoff, Mr. Uchitelle argues, has transformed the nation. At least 30 million full-time American employees have gotten pink slips since the Labor Department belatedly started to count them in 1984. But add in the early retirees, the “quits” who saw the layoffs coming, and the number is much higher — a whole ghost nation trekking into what for most will be lower-wage work. This is the Dust Bowl in our Golden Bowl, and to Mr. Uchitelle, layoffs in one way are worse than the unemployment of the 1930’s. At least then, most of the jobless came back to better-paid, more secure jobs. Those laid off in our time almost never will.

Mr. Uchitelle effectively wrecks the claim that all this downsizing makes the country more productive, more competitive, more flexible. He is willing to admit that downsizing can be necessary. “The global economy is not to be denied,” he writes. But to lay off is now like a business school tic, whether it makes any sense or not. With fewer employees, many companies begin to crumble. Innovation also suffers. “Rather than try to outstrip foreign competitors in innovation, a costly and risky process, we gave up in product after product,” Mr. Uchitelle writes. As he points out, many of the business stars now are companies, like Southwest Airlines, that have refused to downsize at all. A growing number of economists argue that layoffs cause more problems than they solve.

‘nuf said.


Bad Boss = Bad Worker

March 16, 2006

A recent study by the American Managment Association found that, ” Pressure to Meet Unrealistic Business Objectives and Deadlines Is Leading Factor for Unethical Corporate Behavior” (The desire to further one’s career and to protect one’s livelihood are ranked second and third, respectively, as leading factors.)

According to the AMA/HRI survey, working in an environment with cynicism or diminished morale, improper training about, or ignorance that, acts are unethical, and the lack of consequences when caught are the next leading factors likely to cause unethical behavior. These factors are followed by the need to follow the boss’s orders, peer pressure/desire to be a team player, desire to steal from or harm the organization and, paradoxically, wanting to help the organization survive…The survey also found that the single most important ethical leadership behavior is keeping promises, followed by encouraging open communication, keeping employees informed and supporting employees who uphold ethical standards. If an organization has leaders who simply don’t “walk the talk” when it comes to ethics, there’s little hope of maintaining a strong ethical culture.

Sad that this continues to be “new news” isn’t it? We can natter on all day about written codes and more laws, but the bottom line is we can neither mandate morality nor legislate behavior.

So, if you’ve got an “employee problem” – maybe you need to look at the company first.


The personal piece in planning

March 9, 2006

Here’s another frequent blind spot for you: Forgetting your personal goals and needs when doing strategic and business planning.

People often get so focused on the “the bottom line” “results” and “stakeholder value” that they forget that they (the owners, leaders, managers, planners, implementers) have personal needs and goals too.

No, I’m not getting all “new-agey” on you. But if you’re not happy with your business or job – you’re not going to be doing your best either – which isn’t good for anybody.

So, here’s a quick five-minute reality check:

1. Write down three things that make you happy (and energized). Don’t think about it – just do it.
2. Write down three things (no more) that you want to personally accomplish.
3. Now, compare this to your business/organization goals. Is there a disconnect? Does it make you tired just looking at the business/organization goals? If so, then you need to do some more thinking about what’s best for both you and your business.