Beware of people who say things like, “I’m the sort of person who likes to get things done.” They almost always make this remark when trying to impress an interviewer, colleague, or manager. The implication is that while all the losers around them are busy being losers, these are the stars of your organization. Often, though, they’re just jerks, or walking clichés at the very least.
The reality is that all of us like to accomplish things. That’s why I hate the term results-oriented to describe anyone.
Know what else I hate? Best practices. So you can imagine how I feel when I hear pundits, executives, and everyone else preach that a best practice for building a results-oriented workplace is to recognize employees who produce…results.
It’s a line that so many people repeat so many times that it’s easy to mistake it for a fact.
It’s actually an alternative fact, an opinion disfigured into a recommendation because it makes intuitive sense. If this seems intuitive to you, too, your intuition is fooling you.
Rewarded for Luck
A while back, I spoke to Michael Mauboussin, Credit Suisse’s head of global financial strategies and author of The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing. He explained something that you probably already feel in your gut but might be too panicky, egotistical, or deluded to admit: Many of your achievements—the same ones that earn you praise (or punishment)—are largely beyond your control. Mauboussin explained:
There’s a continuum of things that are pure luck on one end and pure skill on the other. When your outcomes are truly a reflection of the work that you’re doing, a results-oriented evaluation is not unreasonable, like in manufacturing, which is very skills-oriented. But things like launching a successful R&D project are inherently probabilistic, with a lot of randomness and luck to them. There are profound influences that are hard to anticipate.
And get this: The higher you are on the ladder, the greater the role that luck plays in your work. You know what else grows with each rung? Compensation. All of which means that a four-leaf clover increasingly determines what you earn in cash and recognition as you move up a hierarchy. Continue reading
Do you check your work email outside of work? Gallup says that you probably do. Maybe you’re excited to tell your colleague about a new Excel trick you learned. Perhaps you want to remove an item from your plate. (Listen up: Your plate will always be just as full no matter what you do.) Or maybe your boss or company has a policy—probably unstated—that you reply to messages while on the toilet, in the shower, and during your sleep.
It’s especially because of the last reason that France recently enacted a new law to “ensure respect for rest periods” and maintain “balance between work and family and personal life,” according to the French Ministry of Labor. The “right to disconnect” provision states that companies with more than 50 employees must create a system to prevent work emails from intruding on employees’ lives during nights, weekends, and vacations.
Fact vs Problem
Good intentions, for sure, but you know about the road to hell—it’s paved by governments and HR departments. It seems that French lawmakers are acting like misguided HR practitioners by trying to engineer the workplace through well-meaning but meaningless rules.
Too often, government and corporate leaders rush to pass new directives to solve what they see perceive—or misperceive—as problems. In this case, people are checking work emails at various times. That’s a fact, but is it a problem? Consider these Gallup findings:
- Seventy percent of Americans say that using a computer, tablet, or smartphone to work remotely outside of business hours has been a positive development.
- What’s more, 1/3 say that they check their work emails frequently.
- What’s even more, 17 percent of those people are likelier to report better overall lives compared to those who never check email outside of work.
- Still, many of them also say they have more stress.
So what does all this mean? Continue reading
“Why aren’t they coming?” a frustrated colleague asked me when employees were shunning the lunch-and-learns he’d been organizing. It’s a question common at many companies—and the answer is always simple and the same:
“Because the sessions are boring,” I replied. Who the hell wants to spend a midday break suffering through a stupid presentation about some lame subject that has nothing to do with nothing?
When done right, though, these can be great chances for colleagues to learn, interact with each other, and stuff their faces. It all begins with the most basic question:
Do we need to provide food?
God, yes! Would you invite someone to your home for dinner and serve a PowerPoint slide as the main course? If you want workers to attend, capitalize on everyone’s favorite four-letter F-word: Let them eat cake, or whatever, for free. (And hey, remember that some people don’t like murdered animals on their plates. And hey, hey, people also love raffles. Just sayin’.)
What topics should we feature?
I don’t know. But your employees do. Survey your people, but keep in mind that they will lie. If you ask, “Do you want to learn more about such-and-such department?”, people will reply “yes.” Don’t believe them. What they really want is to discover how the work of that department matters to them.
That’s because lunch-and-learns are not ultimately about the presentations. They’re about your audience. If you can’t draw relevant connections to how material will impact someone personally or professionally, or at least make it interesting, then put down your pencil.
For example, rather than describe the function of a department, focus instead on a problem worth brainstorming. Which would you rather attend: “Learn About What Staffing Does” or “Why Can’t We Get the Candidates We Want?”
The VP of such-and-such department thinks it would be great to—
Nobody cares. Trust me on this: If senior leadership is choosing topics, employees will attend only if voluntold. At one company, top management proudly touted a high participation rate after several hundred personnel joined a session on writing performance objectives.
The “success” of the assembly probably had nothing to do with the fact that division heads “strongly suggested” that their people participate. It’s not as if people would show up simply to show face, right? Continue reading