Archive for November, 2008

There’s Always Time For Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

As Turkey Day approaches, it seems like a good idea to stop and smell the stuffing.

Sure, economic pillars are crumbling all around us, consumer spending is at record lows, unemployment is at a 10 year high, your raise may turn into a layoff notice and your 401 K is worth less than a giblet…but, one should be optimistic and recognize those things around us that are worth giving thanks for:

  • Customer service numbers that actually connect you to a live, knowledgeable person that speaks English.
  • Kids that say “please” and “thank you.”
  • Friends that put away their Blackberrys while talking with you.
  • Spouses that lavish you with praise rather than criticism.
  • Bosses that stop, look you in the eyes and say “great job.”
  • Waiters that don’t ask you if you want the imported Vatican bottled water with your hamburger.
  • Supervisors that give you honest feedback during your end-of-year performance review.
  • Taxi drivers that bathe on a regular basis.
  • Colleagues that refuse to pass on the latest rumor that they have heard.
  • Meetings that stay on schedule and only deal with relevant topics.
  • Applicants that actually know the products and services your company provides.
  • HR managers that actually disclose what really is going on.
  • E-mail writers that don’t cc: half of North America every time they inhale.
  • Pens that don’t leak on your new, crisp white shirt.
  • Direct reports that volunteer to take on extra assignments.
  • Speakers that make their topic interesting and stimulating.
  • News outlets that report events without any leanings or bias.
  • Commercials that recognize that you really do have an IQ higher than a parrot.
  • Real cashmere sweaters.
  • Chicken wings from Duff’s in Buffalo.
  • Your team coming from behind to win.
  • A baby’s smile.
  • A movie with an ending that you just didn’t see coming.
  • People that you meet at a networking event who actually call back.
  • A quick and witty rejoinder.
  • A really comfortable pair of shoes.
  • A 1997 bottle of Solaia wine.
  • A pen that always writes smoothly.
  • A good friend that you can always count on.
  • A Blog that respects you.
  • Today’s Tip: This Thursday, stop and take a minute to tell those around you how much they mean to you and how glad you are to have them in your life. Then, while they are distracted and bathing in the glow of your praise, grab that big drumstick and the last piece of sweet potato pie.


    Recession, Repression & Reinvention: How To Survive The Upcoming Downsizings

    Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

    Can the daily economic news get any more depressing?

    As layoffs and bankruptcies start spreading like the plague, you need to properly prepare to protect yourself inside and outside of the building…because

    Yes, it can happen to you!

    Here are some tips:

  • Read as much as you can about your company every day (e.g., check the internet, the corporate website and chat rooms).
  • Become a far more attentive listener. Listen to the gossips and water cooler chat. Other people may see or hear things that you didn’t (just don’t take it all as the gospel).
  • Sometimes, upper level management foreshadows events with their behavior or their inflections. Note unusual meeting cancellations or groupings of leaders.
  • Start making a list of all of your successes (especially those that resulted in savings) as well as a list of additional duties that you could readily take on, if asked. You want to be able to show, on instantaneous demand, your past, current and future financial value.
  • Make a concerted effort to get your office straightened up, files in order and projects on schedule.
  • Avoid latenesses and absences as much as possible. You want to be seen and valued as much as possible.
  • Attempt to resolve any outstanding feuds with co-workers.
  • Volunteer to take on more work and responsibilities (when the Boss asks for help, your hand should be the first one up).
  • and while all of that is going on internally…

  • Get your old resume updated and in order.
  • Start scanning job websites (e.g., Monster, CareerBuilder, Hot Jobs, etc.).
  • Talk with a headhunter/recruiter.
  • Start (confidentially) applying for some appropriate and appealing positions.
  • Recognize that finding a new job takes about 9-12 months…so start now.
  • Start to inquire about possible opportunities and connections through your friends.
  • Make lawful copies of your work product and records and bring them home now. You may not get the chance later.

  • Today’s Tip: Don’t be naive. In this economy, you need to be aggressive inside and outside of your workplace. Maximize your value to your Boss, your colleagues and to the company…while preparing for a safe landing (elsewhere) just in case you have to hit the “Ejector Seat” button (or if someone hits it for you).

    The Buck Stops Here (assuming that you have a buck): Dealing with your employees during tough economic times

    Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

    The stock market is down, houses are in foreclosure, companies are laying off thousands or in bankruptcy and your quarterly numbers look like an airplane that just lost its wings..and its engine.


    With all of that going on, December only 3 weeks away and raises, performance reviews and bonuses on the immediate horizon–what’s a Boss to do?

    How do you deal with associates during such tense & economically challenging times?

    Here are some thoughts:

  • Recognize that the grapevine has been going full throttle (with rumors ranging from the pending sale to aliens to mutterings that the office will be bulldozed to make room for condos)…so you need to clear the air, limit the speculation and get people on the right track.
  • Handle layoffs discretely and with dignity.
  • Make you office’s Holiday celebration consistent with the tenor of the other messages that you are delivering (e.g., avoid holding a black tie dinner with shrimp cocktails in the same month that you will be firing 50% of your staff).
  • Desperately search for a “good news” spin. Small bonuses are better than none; no raises are better than pay cuts and wage reductions are better than terminations.
  • Avoid conspicuous spending (redecorating your office now won’t win you any new friends).
  • Encourage “pot-luck” lunches to save money and build morale.
  • Offer financial incentives to employees whom can generate significant cost-savings ideas.
  • Avoid bragging about any new or conspicuous expenditures.
  • Reward employees daily with little things like gold stars, happy face stickers or a piece of candy (they will truly appreciate being recognized and continue to vie for your approval).
  • Instead of a more formally catered meeting or lunch out, bring in some pizzas.
  • Give your workers a choice in what they may have to give up (e.g., free coffee vs. buying their own bottled water).
  • Encourage the office to make bulk supply purchases from a big box warehouse.
  • Encourage everyone to contact their vendors and extract some cost reductions (you could even make it a contest).
  • Acknowledge anyone that is contributing and performing above expectations (even if you just say “atta boy/girl”).
  • Allow your workers more time to vent with you and each other.
  • Be a really good and empathetic listener.
  • Don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve. Nervousness and fear are toxic and contagious.
  • Recognize that even your most innocent comments will be analyzed and dissected by your team, so think twice before you blurt something.
  • Today’s Tip: Tough financial times cannot be ignored by leaders. Associates can get easily rattled and distracted. Speak prudently, listen well and be creative. Employees will always appreciate acknowledgment, compliments, sensitivity and candor. In challenging economic times, you, as the Boss, need to serve as role model, parent, therapist and motivator.

    Stressed employees don’t need you to bet your bottom dollar…just give them your two cents.

    Penny for your thoughts?

    A Chicken In Every Pot and A Presidential Bon Mot: How To Speak & Act Like The Ultimate Chief Executive

    Monday, November 3rd, 2008

    As tomorrow is Election day, I thought that it would be good to write about something “Presidential.”

    As you are well aware by now, McCain and Obama have very different speaking styles. One tries to be “Joe the Plumber” folksie, my friend while the other likes to be the grand orator and agent of change.

    Both styles have their place (irrespective of your personal politics).

    The key is to pick a style that works well with your personality and position.

    So, in the rare event that you ever seek the highest public office (and with tongue firmly in cheek), here’s how even you can sound and act Presidential:

  • Always carry a podium with you. You never know when someone will ask you about the state of the union.
  • Even when ordering from a fast food drive-through, use a tele-prompter. One missed word and that cheeseburger could become a baked potato with broccoli.
  • Blame all mistakes on your Vice President–that’s what they are in office for.
  • Prior to being sworn in, you can consider your oven, dishwasher and toaster to be your kitchen “cabinet.
  • When your spouse yells at you for sleeping late on Saturday, you can inform them that you are exercising your “Executive Privilege.”
  • Always encourage your female interns to bring their dresses to the dry cleaner.
  • Fire any translator that suggests that the Ambassador to Lichtenstein just delivered a UN address wherein he declared war on all sweat socks and under-garments.
  • Always begin any international negotiation with a high five, some silly string and 3 uses of the word “dude.”
  • Prior to spending Thanksgiving with your in-laws, send in “peace-keepers” to survey the surroundings and terrain.
  • Whenever defrosting anything in your microwave, avoid shouting “I just nuked it.”
  • Don’t ever review your family’s budget in a chinese restaurant. They will resent you when you try to cut out the “pork.”

    Today’s Tip: To be Presidential, you have to sound and act Presidential: Use grandiose phrases, catchy slogans and always check the mirror to see that you have no hanging chads.