Embrace the Madness

marchmadnessIf you don’t know that this week is the start of March Madness, then you are either really unplugged (yea for you) or you live on another planet.  For a bonafide basketball junkie like me, March Madness is absolute heaven.  Great games, Cinderella stories, huge upsets, busted brackets…what is not to love?

I’m betting not a lot of bosses love March Madness because productivity in the office plummets on Thursday and Friday.  According to this article…it’s close to 1.9 billion in lost wages for the 60 million Americans who will watch the games from their offices.

Look, I get it, that’s a lot of wages lost but you can’t stop Americans from doing what they are going to do…watch basketball and try to beat their co-workers in the office bracket pool.  It’s not called March Madness for nothing.

So what is a boss to do? In my opinion…roll with it.  Know that Thursday and Friday your team might be a little distracted and plan ahead by getting the most out of them M-W.  Use the tournament as a morale builder and offer to show games at lunchtime in the boardroom.  Make sure to be there yourself, (Boss Lady/Man), so the team sees that you are caught up in the madness as well.  If there’s an office bracket pool, play along even if you don’t know basketball.  (You’d be surprised how many of my friends choose teams based on the color of their jerseys and win)

The tournament really only lasts 3 weeks…and by the second and third week there are less games during work hours.  So really, it’s only this Thursday and Friday that your team will be absolutely worthless…2 days. Surely, any great team can weather a little distraction for two days.

Speaking of brackets, I filled out two:  I’ve got Duke winning in one and Arizona in the other…because nobody is PERFECT.

Snow Day Policy

snoopsnowWho doesn’t love a snow day? The world literally slows down for a bit and kids (and teachers) rejoice.

Do you rejoice as well or are you more stressed on a snow day?  For many, a snow day means a day working from home.  For others, it’s a stressful, agonizing day because their workplace either has no snow day policy, a policy that isn’t clearly defined or they work for someone who doesn’t believe in snow days.

I’ve worked in these situations and as a result, I always dreaded a snow day.  Every morning these thoughts go through your head…Is the office closed or opening late? What will I do with my son while I work? Can I drive my car on the bad roads? What if I wreck? It can become a very stressful and debilitating day for an employee. The workplace needs a clearly defined policy and no matter what, it needs to stick to that policy.

I’ve seen companies with really good snow day policies, for instance, one place had a policy that if the local school was closed then the office was closed.  This is great because not only is it very straightforward, but the employees who are also parents can rest assured they won’t have to deal with child care issues.  Other companies open later to allow traffic to flow and snow to melt, this is also good.  Regardless, have a policy that is clearly defined and be reasonable with your people.  Some people are terrified to drive on snow and ice so be understanding if they ask to work from home.  Some employees can’t wait to be the first ones out on the snow…good for them but don’t compare those employees against those who don’t like to drive, everyone is different.

I believe that if you instill a great culture in the work place every day, you won’t have to worry about snow days…not only are your employees probably happy and content but they will be more apt to actually do work from home and/or brave the elements to get in to the office.  This is what you want most of all, employees who want to work even on a snow day because the workplace culture is so good and trust me, this is what employees want as well.

Here’s a great article: The Adult Snow Day is Dying, and That’s Sad. 

Can You Find Love at Work?

Untitled designIn honor of the Hallmark holiday…let’s talk about love at work.  No, I’m not talking about hooking up with a co-worker! I’m talking about loving your work.

My keychain says “Love What You Do, Do What You Love” simple enough message but not always easy to accomplish. Maybe you don’t love everything about your job, only a few things…that’s ok.  Focus on those things about your job that you do love.

We’ve all been guilty of wasting hours of time griping about those aspects of our job that we absolutely despise.  Bad boss, lazy co-workers, less than stellar work environment, slow internet, inflexible hours, and asinine policies. (I’m sure together we could go on and on with this list.)  It’s not healthy to focus on the negative…even at work.

Take a few minutes and think about what you do love about your job.  Is it rewarding?  Do you have a friend in the office that you look forward to seeing everyday? Do you enjoy creating spreadsheets/reports/widgets/presentations etc?  Is your boss motivating and supportive? Is the office space inspiring and pleasant?  Whatever you love about your job, focus only on those things.  Let the negative thoughts go.

If you cannot find one single thing to love about your job…then it is time to find a new job.  We spend a lot of time at work so it’s very important to find something to love about work.  I know it’s not always easy, I know many people who work in horrific circumstances…but you must either find the silver lining or move on.  Maybe, it’s as simple as moving to a new department at your place of work.  Many times, a change of scenery can help tremendously.

Do you manage people?  Then ask yourself, do your employees love your management style or love the job they are doing?  Maybe as a manager you struggle to find things to love about your job, but you can directly affect whether or not your employees love their job and you.  Managers can be great buffers against negativity and inefficiencies…you just have to be willing to do so.  Here’s a great article on 10 Ways to Show Your Employees You Love Them. 

So when all the flowers, candy and balloons start showing up at the office on Friday…use that as a signal to list the things you love about your current job.  Are the things you love about your job enough to keep you happy and motivated? If the love outweighs the hate then you can probably make the best of the situation.  If not, then while you are in transition to find a new job, focus on those aspects you do love and make sure you take those with you to the next job.

Can’t find one single thing to love at work? Time to start looking for a new job to love.

Coach by Example


via Business Insider

Sunday, Coach Mike Krzyzewski won his 1,000th basketball game.  Incredible feat.  His after the game interview was pure Coach K, he took zero credit for himself and gave all the credit to his mentors and players. He is truly a class act and it’s no wonder why he’s been so successful as a college basketball coach.  Coach K has always commanded excellence at Duke because he has exemplified excellence as well.  I doubt he has ever asked any of his future or former players to do anything that he has not done himself.  He leads by example and takes incredibly good care of his players.

Since I am a basketball sports junkie, most of my management style comes from being on a team for many years and from coaching.  I believe that in the office just like the sports team, chemistry is essential.  If you have the wrong people on the court or on a project at the same time and they do not work well together…you will not score points on the court or in the office.  The coach/manager has to recognize chemistry and build a team with the best chemistry possible in order to succeed.

It is up to the coach/manager to build a good culture on the team and in the office.  If the coach/manager works hard to live that culture every day, the team will excel.  If the coach/manager treats culture as lip service the team will fail.  I have seen so many sports teams have amazing talent but not be reach their potential because the coach does not have a good policy/culture on discipline. The same is true in the office, if the manager allows a poor culture to be the norm, rock star employees will seek opportunities elsewhere, thus the team will fail.  Coaches and managers cannot ask their people to follow rules or policies that they are not willing to follow themselves.  This is usually a dictatorship management style and trust me, dictatorships get overthrown!

Attitude goes a long way when coaching or managing a team.  If the coach is negative in practice then the team will begin to believe they aren’t very good.  If a manager is negative in staff meetings then his team will stop bringing new ideas to the table for fear of negative feedback from the boss. Positive people live better lives…I am convinced of it.  In that interview, Coach K was positive about everything and everyone.  Duke didn’t play a perfect game but he talked about how they came back and how they fought until the end.  That’s positive speak, not negative.  It’s no wonder he’s the greatest college basketball coach of all time.

Finally, I love a coach with passion.  The coaches who jump up and down on the sideline, meet their players on the field and hug them…those are great coaches.  Everyone loves to be cheered for and recognized for great effort.  Managers can’t forget that its their job to cheer on the team and hand out atta girls/boys. When the team does well, celebrate, every time.  Players/employees want to play for people who are passionate. My good friend, Stephanie Buckley, always says, “be the fountain not the drain.” I love that statement and I think more coaches/managers could learn from it. Managing people does not have to be a drain for the manager or the employees.

What is your favorite management style?



What to Give Employees for Christmas

clarkIt’s the most wonderful time of the year…or so they say.  Not everyone thinks so and you may have employees who really struggle this time of year.  It’s a good time to show your employees how much you appreciate them and remember that just because it’s Christmas, not everyone is feeling jolly.  There are many reasons your people might be stressing this holiday season; end of year projects and deadlines, 4th quarter projections, budget crunches at home, family visits, finding enough time to holiday shop and guilt for taking vacation time.  Yep, it can be a really stressful time.  Here are few ways to help your employees enjoy the holiday season:

1. Give Cash: If you plan to give anything at all, yes a nice pen set is practical but people want cash…every.single.year.

2. Plan the holiday party during work hours: Your folks are busy, they don’t have time to attend a holiday party after hours at your house…be respectful of their time and plan a lunch during the week.

3. Be flexible with time off: Some people have to travel near and far and others just need extra time to cook the Christmas dinner, reward your employees with surprise afternoons off to help with the stress.

4. Keep it simple: Don’t make your employees decorate the office to the nth degree and your employees are busy checking their lists twice, don’t add more gift giving around the office.

5. Be sensitive: Not everyone on your staff may celebrate Christmas. Also for many, Christmas can be a sad time for those who have lost loved ones.  Don’t expect everyone in the office to sing Christmas carols with you.

I hope these tips will help make this year a low-key and stress-free holiday season in the work place.






What About Gen X?

agechartIf I read one more article about working with millennials, I might scream! I understand they’re important and moving up in the work force but what about Gen X? We are still here and trust me, we are not going anywhere. I work with and manage millennials and honestly I love them; they keep me young and innovative.  However, I (the Gen Xer) don’t want to be overlooked.

There are a lot of articles written about how to manage a millennial, how to work with them and what they want from the office culture.  Cool…sounds like the road will be well paved for Gen Y.  I have to wonder, who did that for Gen X? I don’t feel like anyone specifically prepared to manage us, or work with us and I sure don’t remember the culture changing to accommodate us.  Why all the hype now?

Do I sound bitter? Maybe I am.  I feel like Gen X is the overlooked generation when we are the generation that is about to take over many C-suite positions…if and when the boomers will retire. I feel like Gen X is about to be the squashed generation between Boomers who cannot afford to retire and Gen Y’s who are ready to lead.  Gen X is in a unique position because they have most likely worked for boomer’s who were slow to embrace technology and social media and behind them is a generation creating the technology and social media. This makes me believe that Gen X is in the right spot to lead but how will Gen Y feel about following?







Let’s Huddle



via Getty Images

Most every team sport huddles together several times in a game.  Players get in close, wrap their arms around each other and talk strategy, design a play or just take a breath.  It is one of the most important team actions in a game.  A player will tell you that a huddle is a moment away from the action, the cheering crowd and pressure of the game.  A coach will huddle up his players to give out accolades, criticism or to gauge how his players are doing.  A huddle is sacred, no one can break the huddle and the team bonds in a huddle.  Most every huddle has a leader whether it is the coach, quarterback, point guard, etc.  The leader who gives instruction, sets the tone for the game and also breaks the huddle.

At work, I would say the huddle has been replaced with the staff meeting. Co-workers sit around a table, exchange ideas, and discuss strategy.  The boss will use the staff meeting to execute plans, praise or criticize and get a read on their staff.  While a team will huddle 2-4 times a game, an office staff may only meet once a week.

What is said in a huddle or staff meeting can make the difference in the game or strategy.  A coach or boss who uses the huddle/meeting to praise and support their team will see positive results.  If the huddle/meeting talk is all negative, the team will respond negatively as well.

I think offices could use the ‘huddle’ more in their culture.  In addition to the weekly staff meeting, start a Friday ‘rah rah’ meeting where co-workers who can attend talk about what went well that week, celebrating the wins.  Throw in a few high fives or fist bumps and you have the making of great team bonding.

A huddle doesn’t have to be with a team of people it could be with only two people.  Managers should consider ‘huddling’ with their staff one on one more to get a genuine feel of how that person is doing.  Remember, not everyone can talk in a large huddle which means some folks don’t get a voice at all.  No matter how big or small your team is, don’t forget to huddle up once in a while and come up with new ideas or just take stock of how your team is doing.

Go Team! Break!


The Un-Meeting

via profitguide.com

via profitguide.com

Are you tired of sitting in long, boring meetings? So am I! What can we do about this? Day after day, meeting after meeting I sit and wonder… what would make this meeting better, more productive?  So here are a few of my ideas!

The Standing Meeting: Ok, hang with me here a second…if we stood up during our meetings I almost guarantee the folks speaking at the meeting would talk faster and more efficiently because they want to go sit down.  I believe standing meetings would make the meeting more social and more interactive.  If you can see each others body language better, you would get a better idea of what people really think in meetings.  (People can hide non-verbal clues under a boardroom table.)  Now, the stand up meeting isn’t for every meeting, only those 20 minutes or less meetings.  This type of meeting is great for Monday morning staff meetings or project update meetings. I particularly like this type of meeting because it reminds me of a huddle…so many great things are accomplished in a good huddle. Go Team!

3 Tips for Effective Stand Up Meetings

The Walking Meeting: Truly my new favorite type of meeting. It is just how it sounds…you walk and meet.  I’ve started meeting individually with my staff for 15 minutes a week and we walk around downtown.  Not only are we getting out of the office and in to the sunshine but we are also getting exercise.  What is equally great, I’ve discovered my staff talks more in depth on these walking meetings.  They seem to like the uninterrupted time with me and I like the change of scenery.  Next time someone pops in your office and wants to meet, ask them to walk with you…I think you will really like it.

Join POTUS and Zuckerberg, they like walking meetings! 

Meet Anywhere but the Office Meeting: Much like the walking meeting just get out of the boardroom! If your staff meets in the same room week after week, change it up and go somewhere new.  People dread meetings and if you throw them a curve ball by having the weekly meeting across the street or in the lobby, this will make your staff take notice and pay attention.  Meetings do not have to be around a table to be effective.  They could be around several tables or couches and coffee tables.  No matter the configuration, get your staff out of their meeting rut. Hit the local coffee shop and buy a round!

You Have to Start Meeting Like This

If you have more ideas for better meetings, please share.  I am always on the lookout for good meeting ideas.


Listen to Your Rock Stars

RockstarJust a few days ago, I was talking with a friend, ‘Joe’, about their job.  Joe is in sales and does quite well.  He is consistently the top sales person in his company and has already met his 2014 sales goal.  He is what I call a rock star!

During this conversation, Joe told me that he felt under appreciated at work and that he was so overwhelmed, he desperately needed to take a vacation but didn’t feel like he could leave the work behind to take time off.  I asked if there were other people in his company who could handle his accounts while he was on vacation and he said no.  He couldn’t afford to leave his accounts to someone else because he didn’t want to run the risk of upsetting a client.   Certainly understandable but by no means sustainable for Joe.   Another issue is that Joe needs help in the market that he’s built and the company doesn’t want to spend the money hiring someone else to help with the market.

Trust me, Joe needs a vacation and help in the market before he burns out.  I asked him if he’s mentioned to his boss that he’s feeling this way…surely his boss would want to do anything to keep him happy, seeing as how he brings in so much revenue for the company.  My friend said this: “The company doesn’t care about me.  If I stay or go, they will just hire someone else to replace me.”  Ouch.

Unfortunately, Joe is absolutely right, they will just hire someone else even though Joe is a top performer…doesn’t that mean anything to this company? Many times no, it doesn’t.

Do you know how much money it will cost this company to replace Joe?  Honestly, it’s tough to put a number on it.  There are articles that tell you how much you will spend to recruit a new employee, hire, train and ramp up a new employee but what about the relationships lost? Can a company determine the business the former employee was about to close the month they quit?  Or the business lost because the clients only liked working with the former employee.  Trust me when I tell you…this is a lot more money lost than Joe made and more money lost than it would take to hire help for Joe’s market.

Companies need to make sure they are taking care of their rock stars by treating them like rock stars.  I’m not talking about separating their M&Ms so only the red ones are in the bowl, or room temperature water from the Swiss Alps.  I’m talking about companies recognizing those employees who they can’t afford to lose and making sure they are happy and content. This is what a good office culture is all about, retaining great employees and saying good bye to low performers.  I loved reading this article by Eric Jackson, The Top 8 Reasons Your Best People Are About to Quit . All very good points and the first point fits Joe’s situation.

This isn’t tough to fix, sometimes it is as simple as sitting down with top performers and asking “Are you happy here at ‘X’ company? What can we do to make you happier?”  Many times the issue or perk a rock star wants, isn’t that big of a deal at all.  Joe, just wants to take the time off he’s earned without feeling like his accounts will fall apart while he’s on the beach and he wants the higher ups to acknowledge that he could use some help in his market. Even if the company can’t fix these two issues for Joe, listening to him might just prolong Joe’s urge to jump ship.

If you have employees working for you right now that you do not want to lose, sit down with them in the next few weeks and ask them if they are happy and really listen to the answers.  I think you might be happy you did.  If you are the employee feeling under appreciated, you may have to initiate a frank conversation with your boss about why you are not happy.