Posted on May 20, 2013 by Keith
What’s the best work situation you’ve ever had and why was it so? Was it working for yourself, a start-up, or a big corporation? I got a chance to ask myself that question again Saturday night when a number of us who worked together 20+ years ago at ABC Sports got together. Most of us hadn’t seen one another in at least a decade but like most reunions of closely knit groups, it felt as if we’d just spoken last week.
Let me explain why this was the best work situation I’ve ever been in and offer some suggestions how you might try to replicate it wherever you are. What’s interesting to me is that what I’m going to say was echoed by every single one of us in the room in terms of what we experienced and how we felt. None of us are kids any more and yet we all agreed this was the best period of time we ever spent over our professional lives.
- The boss was very much in charge. That seems like a prescription for heavy-handed disaster, but in this case it means he gave us all clear, firm direction.
- The boss allowed us to figure out how to accomplish the goals. He was smart enough to recognize that many roads travel to the same place and we needed to take those which we could navigate effectively.
- There were no staff meetings or other “process” items wasting our time. Oh sure, once a quarter or so we’d get together to go over stuff but the emphasis was on results, not process.
- There was the equivalent of a very productive staff meeting every morning. Because of the next point, the senior staff would end up in someone’s office every morning an hour before work officially began going over what we were doing, opportunities for action, rumors, and anything else. It was the equivalent of a 5 hour weekly meeting and many times more productive.
- The executive team liked one another as people and respected one another as professionals. We socialized outside of work and some of the team I still count among my closest friends.
- Finally, the boss cleared away all the corporate stuff to allow us to do our collective thing. He fought for budgets, he made sure we were paid well, he took the heat when something didn’t go as planned. Like a good parent, he wasn’t afraid to let us know when we’d screwed up (BOY did he let us know) but we never doubted that he supported us and we never felt like we’d get fired at any minute.
That’s the prescription if you’re the one building the work environment. Assemble a great team, give them clear direction, provide resources, and get out of the way while staying connected. It’s 20 years later now and I think most of this team would go back to work together in a minute if the opportunity arose. Many of us agreed we didn’t realize at the time how special an environment we had but we sure do now.
What do you think? Ever been in this sort of work environment? Is this about what you had?
Filed under: Growing up, Reality checks | Tagged: business, business thinking, Employment, managment, Senior management, teamwork, Work | 2 Comments »
Posted on May 17, 2013 by Keith
For our Foodie Friday Fun this week, let’s start with a movie. Oh sure, there have been plenty of foodie movies over the years (Big Night is my favorite) but I want to start with the 1982 Michael Keaton classic Night Shift. I know – not really a foodie movie but in it Keaton offers up a food-oriented line that I thought of yesterday:
What if you mix the mayonnaise in the can, WITH the tunafish? Or… hold it! Chuck! I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish, and FEED ‘em mayonnaise! Oh this is great.
What prompted the thought was someone mentioning that they’d recently tried smoked salmon vodka. My immediate response probably mirrored yours: YECH! Then I thought about it for a second. How often have you gone to a nice wedding or similar function and there’s been chilled vodka put out alongside the platter of salmon? The two really do go together when you step back and think about it. Or take the idea of making doughnuts in a muffin tin. They’re not muffins and they’re certainly not doughnuts but is there a way to get the texture and flavor of a donut in the easier to make form of a muffin? There is, and someone figured out exactly how. Which is the business point.
Tuna and mayonnaise, salmon and vodka – normal combinations presented in a different way of thinking (I’d tweak the tuna notion a bit but he’s on the right track). Often in business we’re presented with ideas that seem ridiculous on the first pass but when you stop thinking “bad idea” and start thinking “interesting notion – what does it need to be a great idea” you just might end up with a better mousetrap.
Pushing ourselves to think differently is the only way we grow our businesses People get bored quickly these days and if you’re not innovating you get left behind. While I’m not sure that smoked salmon vodka is going to be my drink of choice, the thinking behind it is very much what I like to order up. You?
Filed under: food, Helpful Hints | Tagged: business, business thinking, Food, Foodie, innovation, Strategic management | Leave a Comment »
Posted on May 15, 2013 by Keith
We haven’t done music here on the screed in a while so how about we take on modal music? For those of you without the benefit of music theory classes, modes are types of musical scales that create very specific sounds. Not much of an explanation, but if you play a “C” major scale (all the white keys on a piano) while playing in the key of “D” rather than using a typical “D” scale, you’re playing modally. If you know the Metallica song “Sandman” you’re hearing modal music. Same thing with Led Zep‘s “Dancing Days.” To your ear they’re not exactly in a major key or a minor key and they create a very specific sound, and no, it’s not just heavy metal bands that use it.
Interesting, but what’s it doing here on a business blog?
As I see it, we should all think about playing modally in our businesses. Ask yourself what happens if you continue to play a certain way but do so in a different environment: a “C” scale in the key of “D” has a business equivalent of transforming content cross-platform for example. It can also involve how one creates a specific feeling that might not be as straightforward as, say, a major or minor scale. In other words, maybe we need to spend less time thinking linearly and a lot more time thinking modally.
Modes aren’t just musical either. There are modal verbs in English which we use when we want to express our intentions and attitudes, talk about necessity and possibility, or make offers, requests, or suggestions. ”Can, may, will, would” and others are all examples. They’re “helper” words. ”Can you shut the door?” is a good example and points out that modals often bring confusion along with them. I raise this because while we’re adjusting our musical modal thinking we can bring about the sort of confusing jumble that modal verbs can cause (in the previous example, you don’t know if the speaker is asking for someone to close the door of if they have the ability to do so). When we start to do business in different ways, staying focused on clarity needs to go along with the effort.
You know it when a business is playing modally. You take notice of their marketing because it sounds different and yet is very clear. The real question is how do we all get to that place? Thoughts?
Filed under: Thinking Aloud | Tagged: business, business thinking, managing, Modal verb, Music | Leave a Comment »