Tag Archive for hr

You Don’t Have to Wear Skinny Jeans

I want you to try something. Walk around your department or organization, and ask people how creative they are. Say something like “Would you say you’re not as creative as most people, just as creative as most people, or more creative than most people?” 

And then watch them squirm.

It’s an interesting question to hear people answer, both in terms of how they answer the question and why they answer the question the way they do. Most seem to fidget, at least momentarily, or look off into the distance as if the answer were inscribed on some distant wall and they were trying to make it out.

After the pause, you’ll get one of the three options listed in the original question. In their minds, they’re either not as creative as most people, just as creative as most people, or more creative than most people.

The follow-up question, then, is “Why do you think that?”

This is where it seems to get more difficult for folks to answer. The reason for this–at least partly–is that people have all these strange notions in their heads about what “creativity” or “being creative” is. Some people equate creativity with wearing skinny jeans, having unkempt hair, and producing some sort of art, be it on a sheet of music or a piece of canvas. In many minds, that’s a picture of what a creative person is and looks like.

Others have a broader view of creativity. They see creativity as being able to occur on a grand scale or a not-so-grand scale. They see it in pieces of art, and they see it in cleverly constructed spreadsheets. They see it in beautifully-crafted original music, and they note it in how organizations treat and relate to their people.

You see, the thing we’ve got to get our teams and organizations to understand is that most people are creative in some way, shape, or form and to some degree. Most people, given the right environment and tools, can be creative in that they can think of new ways to do things, or time after time find ways to make things that are already good, better.

So one key for leaders, then, is to find ways to create environments for people that allow them to exercise that creativity. Create venues for them to explore their creativity–whatever that looks like for them–and make your team and organization better.

The other key–and this one is likely a prerequisite–is helping your team and organization understand that creativity is about more than wearing skinny jeans. It looks different from person to person, both in its degree and its expression.

As organizations and leaders, it’s incumbent upon us to find ways to unlock the creativity in people, and help them discover things about themselves that they may not yet see.

The Bottom Line Isn’t the Bottom Line

BOTTOM_LINESome of the world’s foremost intellects have told us by way of their arts and mediums that money is the end all of this existence of ours. And even those who might argue that and say that it’s not the end all still often end up making decisions as if it is the sole motivating factor in the world.

bottomlineAnd heck — maybe it is for you. Maybe for you the bottom line is the bottom line. Screw humans and their needs. You’re going to do whatever is most “efficient” and “profitable” and all that jazz. I mean, that’s the point of being in business, right? Making money? So forget about human needs, forget about contributing in some way to human development and happiness. They can get that feel-good crap from Oprah. Work is…well…work. Now hold that thought.

This isn’t some foreign concept. It’s not like folks who buy into this are all cold-hearted bastards. Think about it — Meja told us it was all about the money (dum-dum-did-dee-dum-dum). R Kelly opines that it’s money that makes the world go ’round (probably get pretty dizzy in that closet).

It changes everything, says Daryl Hall. Abba had some (not very) deep thoughts on the matter. In their lyrical masterpiece Money Can’t Buy, Blink 182 provides a compelling framework within which we can construct a robust philosophical position on the role of money in our lives and society. Ace of Bass suggests a stroll through the red light district as something that might provide ideas for what money could be spent on. For the sake of clarity, this is entirely dissimilar from the blue light specials at K-Mart.

biggieThe Beatles disagreed with their Ace of Bass counterparts, however, saying that money could not, in fact, buy them love. Poor Cyndi Lauper — bless her heart — believed that money changes everything. Then there was that god-awful, terribly long song from the Wallflowers about money. I would pay to never hear it again. Nate Dogg, often a companion of one Warren G, decided from a young age that he was going to make his money. Chumbawumba rambled incoherently about having all the friends money could buy. Or something. Run DMC’s advice was simple: Take the money and run. Cher serenaded us with her ideas about what it will be like when all the money’s gone. And who could forget the ageless adage Biggie Biggie Biggie can’t you see, Sometimes your words just hypnotize me, And I just love your flashy ways, Guess that’s why they broke, and you’re so paid.

Bottom line is that it’s all about the money.

If you watch and listen to an organization for a hot minute, you’ll start to notice what their bottom line is. The ones that have absolutely started pissing me off lately are the ones that will say with a straight face that their people are their most important asset (or something along those lines) while treating those very important assets like $*!*.

Now they’ll argue that they don’t treat them poorly, mind you. And in some ways, they’re right. They’re usually not yelling and swearing at their folks whilst whipping them with an Indiana Jones style whip when they foul something up.

But they start making stupid decisions. Someone whose bottom line is simply the bottom line will think to himself, Hmmmm. Self, it seems the quickest way for us to cut cost and become “more efficient” would be to cut staff. Do more with less. That sort of thing. And so that’s what they’ll do. They’ll wear it like a badge of honor when they should perhaps be considering it more akin to a scarlet letter.

We serve more customers per employee than almost anyone else in our peer group! Our ratios show that we’re more efficient than 97.8% of our peer group!

What you’ll notice is conspicuously absent from those organizations’ big fancy reports is anything having to do with how all of that is affecting the humans at the organization. Oh sure, you cut the staff at your location from 12 to four, so you’re super efficient there. There’s also at least a chance that your four are feeling overwhelmed, overworked, under-appreciated, and so on. They’re not excited to come in and tackle the day together as a team; they’re just hoping to survive it. Branches that used to be bastions of fun slowly have the spirit stomped out of them in the name of efficiency or ROI or ROA or some other grouping of letters that’s supposed to sound so impressive that we forget all about the fact that these are human beings we’re dealing with here. Humans. Moms. Dads. Students. People with families.Bills to pay. Lives outside work.

scarface-9054thNo one’s saying that the bottom line doesn’t matter. I’m just saying there has to be more to it than that. It’s not the lone factor in our decisions. If profit was the lone consideration, we’d all be our own versions of Tony Montana or Vito Corleone (if given the choice, you should clearly choose the latter).

Leaders Do. Together.

mlkCountless organizations out there right now, while perhaps even appearing healthy and stable to those on the outside looking in, are dying on the inside. Morale is down. Infighting and politics are on the rise. Trust is lacking. Inefficiency isn’t. In short, it’s a hot mess.

So what’s to be done? Well, that would certainly depend on the group or organization, and what the specific symptoms are, but I think there’s at least one common denominator. These organizations need leaders, whether they have the fancy title or not, to step into the fray and become initiators of change.

When those leaders — again, whether they have a title or not — begin to shift together, use their influence together, talk together, dream together, strategize together, and, well, you get the idea; when those things happen, a group or organization will start to see change. And it will be the best kind of change, because it’s organic, felt-in-the-heart change, not some overwrought corporate mandate that comes down from above.

But here’s the kicker. It really has to be a group effort. What would happen in an organization if managers, execs, and other leaders went after something together? What if an organization’s 20 or 30 or however many managers and execs rolled up their sleeves, locked arms, and said they were going to make something happen. Not try to make something happen. Make it happen. As a wise, albeit odd-looking, smallish, green philosopher/jedi once said: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Culture change? Way easier if it’s more than a couple of managers and/or execs here and there. Man, the cumulative influence of an organization’s leaders banding together in meaningful ways can’t be overstated.

So if you’re a leader within a group or organization, whether officially recognized as one or not, start the shift. Lead. Encourage others to do the same. Get together with them. Talk about it. Recruit others to join you. Make a difference. What are you waiting for?