Tag Archive for teamwork

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).

10 Coworkers You Want to Kick in the Keister

keisterkickThere is no such thing as a perfect workplace. No. Such. Thing. Every organization’s got its own quirks and oddities. Just for kicks, here are some of the folks you’ll see around just about any organization. Please resist the urge to shout out your colleagues’ names as you read.

1. The Smooth Operators

These folks, they know exactly what to say and how to say it. They’re often fantastic with customers and act just the way they’re supposed to around certain people. But around others, they’re cynical, arrogant jackasses. But smooth cynical, arrogant jackasses.

2. The Beggars

Like they’re begging you to fire them. They do just enough not to get canned, but are so subversive and are such an awful influence on others. Often though, beggars put on a friendly air, but with just enough sarcasm that you know they’re being sarcastic.

jersey-shore-season-313. The No-Talent Ass Clowns

Somehow these jokers have survived in your organization for years on nothing but their ability to make folks chuckle from time to time. They put out just enough barely-mediocre work to keep their boss at bay, but they’re such a burden to any team they’re on because they’re not really interested in performing at a high level, improving their own performance, and so on.

4. The Ultracrepidarians

You know the type. They’re the ones who love to give advice and criticism about anything and everything, which isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself; but these guys do it from a position of acting like they know everything about everything. (And yes, Ultracrepidarian is a real word. Hat tip to those kids who made fun of me when I was but a wee lad. It sent me to the dictionary and thesaurus so I’d never be unarmed in a battle of wits ever again.)

5. The Curmudgeons

These cranky crabs are always having bad days and believe the only way to make theirs better is to make yours worse. So they do.

6. The Slangwhangers

My seven British readers will enjoy this one. These are those loud, obnoxious people who you just want to kick in the shin so at least they will have adequate reason for sounding as loud and annoying as a donkey in heat. (Don’t ask.)

7. The Popinjays

The pretentious ones. They’re so vain they probably think this post is about them.

8. The Malfeasants

They’re always breaking rules and doing things they’re not supposed to be doing. No matter how tight or loose your guidelines are, these guys are always pushing it anyway. Got a five-minute grace period before you officially count someone as late for work? Yeah, they’re coming in at six after.

9. The Wikipediots

Everything. They know everything. Well, they know everything about three and a half minutes into a conversation they’re sitting in on. In those three minutes they’ve looked up the topic on Wikipedia and memorized what they perceive to be the main points, as well as some more obscure facts to give the impression that they understand the finer nuances of whatever you’re discussing. Just for kicks sometime, start talking about a word that isn’t a word and ask them what they think about it. Watch them squirm, check their phone, then squirm some more.

complaining10. The Fuss-Buckets

They find something to complain about with everything, and I mean everything. It may sound something like this:

Relaxed dress code? Great. But I still can’t wear my tankini? How lame.

Or this:

I think you can have fun at work too, but there’s a time for work and a time for fun.

Or this:

With all that laughing it’s a wonder they get anything done…

So look, if you’re one of these, don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re certainly not alone. We’re all human and we’ve all got our “stuff.” As teammates and leaders, it’s on us to help everyone from the Smooth Operators to the Fuss-Buckets grow and mature and develop, remembering that we’re far from perfect ourselves.


11 Ways to Crush Your Team’s Creativity

monty-python-footWe clamor for it, but don’t see much of it, or at least not as much as we’d like. And really, if we were pressed further, I don’t know that many of us would even know what we’re actually wanting.

It’s the ever-elusive but always romantic notion of creativity. It is the unicorn. It is the thing that will make the angels in heaven (if you believe in such things) sing or the nothingness that is beyond now continue to do and be nothing (if you believe in such things).

We — myself included — talk so much about creativity, and yet when we look around most organizations, it’s not like we’re having to tell them to pump the brakes (thanks, David Wilhelm) on the creativity. We have good intentions; I really believe that. I know we do at Mazuma, and I know we have some wicked creative Mazumans there. Our AVP of Technology, Christian, who I mentioned in this post, and I were talking just yesterday about some things we think we could do to foster more creativity.

But upon further contemplation, rumination, and even some pontificating, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a fool’s errand. Yes indeed. It’s bunk. Unicorn doodoo. Rubbish. Crap. BS. Or just regular S.

backstreet-boysI think many of us are far closer to being able to eliminate all the creativity talk from the vernacular at our organizations than being able to see actual creativity flourish in any meaningful way within our organizations. So let’s just crush it. As some lyrical geniuses once serenaded us, “Quit playing games with my heart.” Let’s not play games with creativity’s heart. Let’s break it instead.

Here’s how I propose we do that. (PS. Eat it, Backstreet Boys)

1. Provide your team no feasible time to exercise creative effort.

You know what I mean, right? I mean, don’t stop saying you want them to be creative, but make sure they don’t actually have any time to do that. Their days need to be so jam-packed with other stuff that the most creative thing they’re doing is figuring out how to fit in a restroom break.

2. Provide them no outlet for their creative energy.

It’s important that the team not have any outlet for their creativity. There shouldn’t be anywhere to go to exert creative energy, and there shouldn’t be any particular business problems for which you want them to create solutions.

3. Don’t give them time to think.

Related to #1 above, time to think is terrible, because that’s often where good ideas come from, especially if more than one person has time to think at the same time. And God forbid they’re together when they do it. Then you’ll have this whole mess with them coming up with ideas, you saying no, them coming back with another idea, you saying no, etc.

12381a9acbc88cf25558485a4b8d4bc64. Don’t challenge them to be creative.

For heaven’s (if you believe in such things) sake, do not under any circumstances challenge a clump of humans to be creative. There’s something in people that seems to come alive when provoked by a challenge. They’re able to muster creativity that even they may not have known they had. Clearly we don’t want that. Plus, if you challenge them to be creative, it could be misconstrued as you supporting creativity in a tangible way; and we’ve already established that we do not desire that.

5. Don’t give them “permission” to try things.

Always encourage them to play it safe. Now, don’t come right out and say, Don’t be creative and try new things. Be more subtle. When someone tries something and it doesn’t work, crush them (subtly). When someone throws out an idea that seems off the wall, literally throw that person off the wall. The latter isn’t as subtle either, but will still get the point across. That point is that it’s not safe to try new things.

dead-twitter-bird-20110107-0939006. Block social media.

You simply cannot have them being exposed to thoughts and ideas from all over the world. You never know when one of those pesky ideas will latch itself onto your employee’s brain stem with such determination that he or she won’t be able to rest until he or she has made that idea happen.

You also don’t want them communicating with so many different sorts of people. Who knows who these people are? How can you be sure they’re only straight-laced business folks like you need your employees to be? There are undoubtedly bad influences lurking behind every tweet. Like artists, for example.

7. Be sure to schedule their entire day full of meetings and/or tasks.

Remember, free time is wasted time. If people have time to sit still for even a few minutes other than to cram food down their throats (preferably while still working), their minds might be freed to actually think. Thinking is to be avoided at all costs. I know I try to avoid it.

8. In other words, do not set aside time for people to think and collaborate.

To be clear: You don’t want employees to have the time or space or permission to tackle problems together. One person’s creativity is often contagious, and believe me — that’s the last thing you need. Call the CDC if you suspect an outbreak.

JustSayNo19. Make “No” the default answer to new ideas.

It’s just simpler this way. You don’t have to think about the ideas; and the employees learn first not to get their hopes up, and eventually not to offer ideas at all. We would consider this a win.

10. Don’t acknowledge creative ideas that work for the organization.

Look, sometimes things get away from us and in spite of our best efforts, some crazy idea sneaks through and wouldn’t you be darned — it worked. Damage control time. The best thing to do — a best practice, if you will — is to ignore it altogether. Just act like you experienced the success through the regular course of business. You see, if you start pointing out when people’s creativity creates positive outcomes for the organization, you run the risk of them mistaking that for you actually encouraging creativity, which would be awful of course.

11. Don’t encourage the oddballs.

Remember when your parents said that whole “Don’t laugh; it only encourages him” thing? (Or was it only mine that said that to everyone else after I did something funny/mischievous?) Same principle applies here. If there are people within your organization who are a little different or quirky or creative or unorthodox, do not — I repeat, do not — encourage them. In fact, frown at them whenever they look in your general direction. Like literally frown.

If you can do these things, you stand a pretty good chance of crushing creativity on your team and within your organization. Just make sure you don’t try anything new to crush the creativity. Only tried and true creativity-crushing methods are appropriate.