April Fool’s Day. One of my favorite days of the year. Usually I’ll find some nasty heart-stopping little gag to play (usually on my boss because it keeps him on his toes but now that I don’t have a boss, I guess I’m only fooling myself…). This year, I’m dedicating April Fool’s Day to calling out some of the foolish behavior we see and tolerate every day in our cozy little cubicles. While these aren’t the worst behaviors, they do make work a little less tolerable unless you can find the absurdity in said behaviors.
That being said, I’d ask everyone do their part to end the foolishness. Call it out. Kill it. Please.
So here are the foolish behaviors that made this year’s list:
1. Staff meetings
3. Stupid frameworks and acronyms
4. Stealing talent from another manager
So without further ado, let’s examine each of these practices so we may better eradicate them from the face of business…
1. Staff Meetings – I cannot tell you how many hours of my life have been destroyed sitting around a conference table talking about all the work that’s going on without anyone realizing the irony of the fact that we weren’t getting any work done whilst sitting in the meeting. Staff meetings, for the most part, have devolved into prolonged, agonizing posturing sessions where people compete to see how far they can get their nose up the posterior of the meeting’s presiding officer. People wax loquacious and talk about every little detail of everything they’re working on regardless of whether they need to let everyone know or whether anyone even cares about it. Even worse is when “the team” decides to continue the meeting over dinner (which does nothing more than ruin a good meal).
The solution: manage by exception. Talk about either what you need input/decision on or significant events that will impact another team members then shut up. Please. Just because it’s important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to everyone else in the room. If it doesn’t change someones world, don’t talk about it.
And unfortunately it’s not enough for you to behave well and manage by exception because others might not. If they don’t, either politely prod them to do so in the meeting or catch them offline afterward and explain the new “fewer words” paradigm. As Pythagoras said: “Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.” He also said “A squared + B squared = C squared” but that’s not really relevant here.
2. Sycophants – I love this word. “Sycophant (n.) – a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.” We all know this person. They’ve walked straight out of an episode of The Office (think Dwight Schrute). If the boss stops short, this individual will suffer a broken neck. They’re nauseating. These are the people who parrot every phrase they hear their leader speak. Some of them even go so far as to dress like their boss. Nothing’s worse than seeing the boss walk by promptly followed by Mini-Me. These individuals prolong meetings well beyond their natural lifespan. Just take the boss’ airtime and multiply it by two. That’s because the sycophant will merely parrot everything the boss just said.
How do you stop them? I wish I knew. If you figure it out, call me. The only solutions I can think of result in me wearing an orange jumpsuit. Clearly they are all April Fools. The only practical solution I’ve heard that makes a dent in the stupidity is to pointedly ask the sycophant after a parroted phrase “how is that any different from what he just said?” They won’t have a reply. Trust me.
3. Stupid frameworks and acronyms – As a former Army guy, I’m down with the acronyms. They have their purpose in life and can be a useful business shorthand. But sometimes they go too far. They get used for everything. Even worse, they get used for stupid things. My favorite is a framework for customer service. The acronym contains a “T” for “Teach the Customer” and an “E” for “Educate the Customer.” Ummm okay. Where I was Taughtucated, those words kinda meant the same thing… Stupid framework.
Solution: call it out. If a framework is a framework for the sake of having a framework, please make it go away. If the concept is simple enough and doesn’t require a mnemonic device, explain the concept and drop the acronym. People are smarter than they’re usually given credit for (except the sycophants who are usually morons).
4. Stealing talent from another manager – I know I’ve talked about being a net exporter of talent in “Build Your Team: Get Rid Of Them!” That does not, however, give someone the right to filch your talent without letting you know ahead of time. You’ve undoubtedly seen this happen. Some manager sees someone on your team who is very talented and they surreptitiously have clandestine conversations with them in an effort to lure them to the dark side of the force. The only time you find out is when your associate tells you they’re taking another role in Sneaky Pete’s organization. Nothing erodes morale and breaks down trust in an organization more than going behind someone’s back.
The solution: if you want to hire someone from someone’s team, approach their manager first and ask if it’s okay to present an opportunity to their associate. Be prepared – they might say no. If they do, their short term gain of hanging on to their associate will soon be outweighed by the longer term morale drop and attrition they’ll see on their team. If they say yes, you’re all good. Additionally, if another manager “backdoors” you, pull them aside and let them know the “proper” way to approach your associates (and be sure to say “yes” every time they ask otherwise they’ll keep going behind your back).
So those are 2008’s April Foolish behaviors from where I sit. You do your part and I’ll do mine. Together, we can all make a difference.
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC