The Boss Show Blog
Someday No One Will Really Care About Your Business
May 20, 2013
By Jim Hessler
I was just reading that the Alaska North Slope oilfields will largely play out in my lifetime. My father made good money working for one of the companies that built the Alyeska Pipeline. Some day the Alyeska Pipeline and the North Slope fields will be history. And so will your business.
But this doesn’t mean my father’s work was wasted. It means his work meant something other than he might have thought.
Business people spend a tremendous amount of their lives building and running their businesses. But it’s unlikely that anything substantial will remain from these businesses in another generation or two. With the rapid rate of technological change, we’re mostly working on some version of a dried out pipeline, a software program that will draw ridicule from the next generation of users, or a retail concept that will be driven from the scene by faster and smarter competitors.
Someday, sooner than you think, no one will really care about your business.
So what does our business really mean in the grand scheme of things? It should mean something more than the physical output of its machines, computers, or people. It should make some contribution to our culture, our families, and the world. It should make lives richer and happier. It should help build schools, and care for those in need. It should teach virtue and compassion, and other values that will pay forward to the lives of people 100 or 200 years from now.
When I drive through an older city, I see scant evidence of the businesses that paid the wages of the local population. What I’m more likely to see is evidence of the values and intentions of those businesses – whether or not they paid fair wages, picked up their trash, and paid their taxes. The businesses will be largely gone. The legacy of their products will be seen in museum displays. Their lasting legacy will be seen in the lives of people.
I didn’t learn from my father how to build an oil pipeline, but I learned a great deal that will be passed on through generations. That’s what Dad was really building, and that will last for a long time indeed.
The Flip Side of Quirks
May 16, 2013
by Steve Motenko
“Can’t we all get along?”
Ironically, Rodney King may ultimately be remembered more for publicly uttering that prophetic question than for getting the crap beaten out of him by LA cops – which is what got him in front of the microphones to ask the question.
And in a way, if we took the question seriously, we could resolve countless workplace dilemmas.
Here’s why: Most of what we find objectionable in the workplace can be framed as what Jim & I discussed in this week’s show: personality quirks. We deny them in ourselves, and we don’t tolerate them in others.
Maybe the end of denial would signal the beginning of tolerance. I dare you not to recognize yourself in at least one of the 10 Personality Quirks That Drive Coworkers Nuts from this week’s The Boss Show. If you don’t recognize yourself in any of them, you’re lying to yourself …
We try to offer a few tips for dealing with these quirks – whether they describe you or that horrible other person.
Starting here: we can accept coworkers’ (and our own!) quirks better if we can do one relatively simple thing: understand the motivation that underlies them.
Very few people are intentionally malicious. Most bad behavior can be attributed to good (or at least self-protective) motivations … overused. The Perfectionist craves quality and fears embarrassment. The Social Butterfly craves connection and fears isolation. The Multitasker craves accomplishment and contribution, and fears boredom and criticism.
Here’s my challenge for you, for your next day at work: Every time you feel challenged by a coworker’s “personality quirk,” ask yourself “What is the flip side of that trait? Where’s the positive motivation – or understandable anxiety – at the source of it?”
That question might net you some tolerance, and help you answer, in the affirmative, Rodney King’s famous question.
What Matters About Workplace Emotions
May 8, 2013
by Steve Motenko
We’re not supposed to show emotions in the workplace.
Bullcrap, I say.
Emotions in the workplace imply neither strength nor weakness. Emotions in the workplace are a given. Our feelings are intertwined with all our motivations, our dreams, our life satisfaction. Ignore them or suppress them, and life becomes flat and inauthentic.
In the workplace, what matters is not what emotions we experience. Specific emotions aren’t good or bad, right or wrong. Showing tears doesn’t mean we’re weak (though it’s often interpreted that way), and showing anger doesn’t mean we’re strong (though it’s often interpreted that way).
Only two things matter about workplace emotions: (1) What we can learn from them, and (2) How we deal with them.
Anger, fear, frustration, hurt — they all give us clues about what needs to change in our work experience, in our approach to our jobs, or in our relationships with co-workers. If we interpret their messages wisely, and we manage our behavior effectively in the presence of strong emotion, we become more successful. This is what great leaders do.
Martin Luther King was driven into his life’s profound work by the powerful emotions that came up when he was forced to move to the back of the bus as a high schooler. He got angry; really angry. What did he do with that anger? He could have become a serial murderer. Instead, he channeled it into behavior that made him an international hero.
I often counsel my coaching clients: In dealing with your own or a co-worker’s emotional display, don’t address the emotion. Address the motivation that underlies it. Only then will you begin to resolve conflicts – both inner and outer.
God Forbid — A Complaint!
March 25, 2013
By Jim Hessler
Just this week I’ve had three different clients say to me “I don’t want to be seen as a complainer.” The word ‘complain’ has such a negative connotation, as if complaining was a basic character flaw.
I think a person who never complains isn’t paying attention. Intelligent observers see the gap between what is and what could be. People who never complain seem lifeless and uninteresting to me. Relentlessly positive people are relentlessly annoying.
And it’s not as if we don’t have things to complain about. There’s the awful coffee at the business meetings, Bill’s monthly sales presentation which always makes me want to kick him in the groin, the balky computer, the dismissive boss, and the loud music at the restaurant. I could go on and on.
I don’t think things would ever get much better without some good old-fashioned complaining. No news definitely isn’t good news, especially in business cultures that deflect or discourage complaining.
Listening to a complaint can be tough. I’m likely to feel personally attacked even if it’s not warranted. I’m likely to feel annoyed by the person who points out how my carefully selected course of action isn’t working or my choice of snacks for the company meeting wasn’t well considered. I’m likely to feel slowed and distracted by complaints as I try to work my daily plan. I’m likely to think poorly of the complainer, and to label, fairly or unfairly, their behavior as victimhood, negativity, or just plain crappy attitude. In other words, my response might be to complain about the complaint.
Be careful not to dismiss complaints so quickly. Sometimes the complainer has something very important to say. It might be something our ego doesn’t want to hear, but it’s important nonetheless. Obviously there are people whose approach is persistently negative, and as coaches and friends we can sometimes guide these people towards a more positive mindset. But the complainer is just as often a person who’s really thinking about things, who sees the gaps, and who may be speaking for any number of others who are more hesitant to complain.
Coach yourself and your people to bring forward complaints in a professional and problem-solving manner, but don’t create an environment that’s hostile to complaints. As hard as it may be to listen, we must.
The Opportunity of A Job Interview
March 20, 2013
by Steve Motenko
So this guy’s in the middle of a job interview, and he takes a call on his cell. Not once; three times.
Our Boss Show listener who tells us this story wonders why the interviewer didn’t … um … “excuse” him from the interview after the first time, let alone the second.
A job interview is one of those rare, pivotal junctions in life. In the Gwyneth Paltrow movie “Sliding Doors,” the trajectory of her character’s life hinges on whether she catches a train. And we see it both ways, in parallel.
Imagine a similar fork at the moment of your next job interview. Depending on how you’ve prepared, how nervous you are, how authentic you are, how stupid you are, how creative you are, how connected you are — your entire future takes a different path ….
You can’t know what acing it or bombing it will lead to. You can’t know. All you can know is this: every moment in life is an opportunity to show up as your very best self – or not. Every moment is a choice. Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3. In a job interview, though, you have more control than usual over how the future will play out for you. Seize it, rise to it — your life demands it of you.
Jim & Steve yesterday released the first of a two-part Boss Show series on Job Interviews
“Lean In” – It’s What Everyone Should Do
March 11, 2013
by Steve Motenko
The problem with Sheryl Sandberg’s brand new book Lean In is not her “controversial” content, but the firestorm that’s risen around it.
In fact, I haven’t heard anything in the Facebook exec’s message that’s worthy of controversy. Worthy of note, certainly. Worthy of respect. Not worthy of controversy.
“Lean In” is not just a great book title; it’s a rule of thumb for life. For engagement. For grabbing life — all of it — and going for it. This comes easier to men than women in general, so it’s fitting for Sandberg to offer this advice to her gender – the gender that’s biologically programmed to be more the caretaker than the aggressor, biologically programmed to think more “we” than “I.” The gender that’s statistically proven to under-assert their own value.
And it applies to all of us: Lean in. Go for it. Follow your own dreams, claim your own path, recognize your value, and request an appropriate level of respect for it. It’s not about being aggressive; it’s about taking the risk to be assertive about what matters to you. A life without risks, she seems to be saying, is not a life well-lived.
Doesn’t matter whether that means asking for a promotion, asserting your point of view in a meeting, or being a stand for stay-at-home motherhood. Her point is, Be a stand. Period. For whatever calls you. As opposed to letting the world have its way with you.
The women’s movement has matured in the past couple of decades into the understanding that it’s okay for women to choose motherhood and family over career, if that’s what they’re called to do. And if they’re called to both, then our culture owes it to all of us to make room for both.
Sandberg hopes, as do I, that more women will take that stand for both family and career. In a world that’s long on aggression and short on caretaking, we need more women to “lean in” to leadership in business and political arenas.
It’s not about women becoming more like men in a world that doesn’t value femininity. It’s about all of us becoming more of who we are. It’s about living into – leaning into – our purpose, our calling, our contribution in our brief adventure on this planet.
Convincing Your Boss That S/he Sucks
March 7, 2013
by Steve Motenko
Problem with most bad bosses is that they don’t know they’re bad bosses. If you have one, you’re nodding your head, right?
Why don’t they know they’re bad bosses? Probably two reasons:
- They lack self-awareness / are in denial
- Their coworkers aren’t telling them
Telling your boss she’s a bad boss is not generally considered a brilliant career move. No wonder so many of us don’t do it.
Of course there are infinite ways to nuance messages to specifically address behaviors that aren’t working for the team – if your boss is open to it, and if you have the courage and the skill. You can develop that skill by listening to our podcast – we often give tips for effective communication in the workplace… Following us on Twitter too – we retweet lots o’ communication wisdom …
But the easier way – if your boss is really stuck in denial and isn’t open to feedback – might be to anonymously leave a thumb drive on your boss’s desk with an mp3 of this week’s The Boss Show – “How To Know You Suck As A Boss.” We cover some clues that would be hard for even the least self-aware boss to deny.
Sure, it’s a bit of a cowardly strategy. But if you’ve tried more direct approaches – or you’re seriously worried about losing your job – a thumb drive can be a powerful tool in the workplace.
Just make sure you wipe off the fingerprints.
Why Yahoo! is Shooting Its Own Foot
March 1, 2013
by Steve Motenko
My business partner Jim also blogged about the Yahoo telecommuting ban – see his post below. And we recorded a special, virtual, telecommuted edition of The Boss Show that you can listen to here.
Almost a quarter of us work from home. A quarter of us! And Marissa Mayer is saying, “Talk to the hand.”
In addition to my executive coaching practice and hosting The Boss Show, I manage several virtual teams as an executive for a small nonprofit. Some random thoughts about Mayer’s telecommuting ban at Yahoo!, which has raised a firestorm…
- Telecommuting policy is not one-size-fits-all. In some organizations and some departments, it simply won’t work. In others, it’s a virtual necessity (get it? virtual?). Anyone who says this is a black-and-white issue? – ignore them.
- That said — when an organization like Yahoo bans telecommuting outright, it shoots itself in the foot. With brilliant IT folks in high demand, Yahoo will lose some of the cream of the crop. They’ll easily find high-paying jobs with more flexible and trusting companies. Plus, Yahoo now closes the door on thousands of geniuses who don’t happen to live within commuting distance of Yahoo’s offices.
- Speaking of flexibility – telecommuting is a clear direction of the working world in the 21st Century. It’s a demand of Gen Y. It’s the wave of the future. Mayer’s decision is not delightfully “retro,” as some have said; it’s downright regressive.
- Yes, f2f is best. Body language, physical proximity, and break-room conversations carry subtle and powerful benefits to any team. And yes, with virtual workers you do need to be more diligent about regular communication – written, telephonic, video conferencing and sometimes mandatory in-person. But the recruitment and retention benefits of allowing appropriate telecommuting far outweigh the drawbacks.
- Managers of telecommuters must learn to trust, but verify. Trust requires:
- careful and competent hiring processes. You’ve got to make damn sure your telecommuting candidates are both self-disciplined and honest.
- leaders who naturally elicit trust from their employees — if leaders aren’t trustworthy and respectable, workers will take advantage, whether they’re working from home or under the boss’s nose.
- a set of skills – which must be learned – to effectively dismantle the significant obstacles to effective teamwork in a virtual world
Telecommuting is not ideal. And it’s here to stay; get used to it.
Yahoo! Now They Get To Work At The Office!
By Jim Hessler
My biz partner Steve also posted on the Yahoo telecommuting ban – see his post above. And we recorded a special, virtual, telecommuted edition of The Boss Show that you can listen to here.
Marissa Mayer has rocked the working world by announcing an upcoming policy change that will require at-home Yahoo workers to start working at the office.
I guess everyone now wants to express their opinion on the benefits and deficits of having an at-home workforce, and I’d love to be able to express a colorful opinion on this, but in the most vanilla way possible I have to respond by saying “it depends.”
I’m sure there are situations where this practice is working well. Apparently it’s not working at Yahoo, and in that sense I admire Mayer’s courage in leading change. But I would love to know what her level of understanding was before she made this decision. What do we really know, as employers and as employees, about the implications of working from home, disconnected physically from our team?
I’m a culture guy. I think the health of an organization rests on the quality of the relationships in that organization. Are these relationships challenging, stimulating, creative, high in trust, and high in accountability? How important is our physical presence in making these kinds of relationships possible? My impression is that something very important is lost when the majority of our communication is digital.
But I also love the idea of working at home and I’m doing it right now as I write this blog. And, I’m not clogging up a freeway or burning fossil fuel walking from my bedroom to my office. But what might I be missing? What hallway conversation, what visual cue, what opportunity to energize or connect might I have missed today?
So I ask myself, when working from home, can I get the work done? The answer for me is a resounding yes. But can I get the work done? I’m not so sure about that.
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I Think I’m Going To Keep Working
February 27, 2013
By Jim Hessler
I think I’m going to keep working!
Years ago the word ‘retirement’ was on everyone’s lips. Retirement planning – the goal of living a leisurely life with financial security and the time and resources to enjoy the good life. I don’t hear people talking about retirement much anymore.
Now I hear that 60% of working people expect to pursue some sort of second career after they retire from their current job. Fully a third of people don’t expect to retire at all.
Count me in. I think I’m going to keep working.
Some of this change in attitude towards retirement is a result of declining net worth and financial reality. Some of it is a reflection of employers’ hesitance or inability to fund pensions and other types of retirement programs. But I believe there are cultural issues at work here as well.
Retirement isn’t a fun concept for a lot of us. I am fortunate to have the kind of job that I can keep performing and getting better at well into my 70s or even beyond. I like the idea of remaining as a productive member of society, paying into the social safety nets of Social Security and Medicare while also appreciating the opportunity to draw out of them if I need to.
I may not want to work the long hours I’m working now when I’m in my 70s or 80s, but with life expectancies what they are today I don’t see it as healthy or productive for us as individuals or as a society to disconnect from the work force while we’re still healthy enough to work and while we’ve got so much to offer.
I think I’m going to keep working.