Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Avvo Joins the Party

You know how a good host is supposed to introduce people who might have something in common and then wander off to help others? Well, I probably missed a great opportunity to be a good host and it seems that Avvo and Lawyerpalooza folks found each other anyway even without my help.

Tall Person - AKA Rock God with The Big Lubersky (sadly, not playing this year) - let me know recently that Avvo will support Lawyerpalooza 6, coming up Thursday evening, April 24. Rumor has it that there could be Avvo-styled ratings cards for the judges to hold up to score the bands. How perfect is that - the website that lets you rate attorneys helping to rate attorney rock bands!

Then, I turn around a short day or two later and hear from an excited Avvo person, "Hey, did you know there's a Lawyerpalooza where lawyers play rock music in a battle of the bands!?"

D'oh! Yes, I am feeling a bit sheepish that I didn't facilitate that connection earlier! Everything seems to be humming along smoothly now though anyway so no harm, no foul I guess. Just... well... oops.

Anyway, I plan not to worry about it too much come Thursday, when I turn into a professional groupie. As those who know me already understand, I'm likely to be moving pretty slowly on Friday morning, with all the dancing I'll be doing in support of underfunded Seattle school music programs. I keep fairly active, but when you dance all evening and don't ever sit down, that can take a bit of a toll.

If you're there, come keep me company on (or near) the dance floor or at least say 'hi'. You don't even have to dance if you don't want to, though it's way more fun if you do. And don't forget to bring cash for the bar and "Chicago voting" (vote early and often) for your favorite band(s). Food is provided by Avvo.

What helps you get over the small stuff and remember "it's all good"?

Crazy On You

Sometimes it's nice to know that I'm not the only one plagued with jingle nightmares - in my case, in a very literal sense. I actually woke up hearing the Subway $5 foot long jingle, and then couldn't get back to sleep! Even reading the story about it was enough to get the jingle stuck in my head for half the day.

The story did help though. It doesn't guarantee that I'm not crazy, just confirms that I'm not alone. That's good enough for me today.

What thoughts are overstaying their welcome?

Monday, April 21, 2008

I Know What You're Watching

We watch far more television in our house that I care to admit or really have time for - the adults anyway. I usually blame it on the general interest that drew us to or grew from our time in television. Lately, I've been spending more and more time surfing or doing other work while watching and I've noticed an interesting convergence between television and the internet. I know what you're watching and last night, it was Kipling.

Maybe you've noticed this too. I know what you're watching because I have the Google Hot Trends gadget on my personalized search page (which, btw, I've finally further personalized with the Tornado theme) and when we all watch TV in the evening, we apparently all surf the web to look up stuff related to what we're watching. While all of you were looking up Rudyard Kipling, his son, Jack, and the poem, we were trying to figure out why Kim Cattrall was playing the wife and mother, Carrie. I won the bet that she was an American.

Whenever I find names on the 'hot sheet', invariably they're names of American Idol contestants the night that they got voted off or Simon said something particularly interesting about them. It was interesting to see so many of the top spots related to the Kipling movie, a public television offering that apparently received way more attention than I'd have guessed it might.

As much as TV rules at night, in the morning it's all current events. Last week it was the midwest earthquake and the New Madrid fault system. This morning, the Kiplings and My Boy Jack are old news and all but Rudyard himself have been pushed off the top ten by Bill Maher, the Boston Marathon (go Brian and Carol!), and what I can only guess is an early morning porn rush. Not sure what that was about - that one was strange.

It's this sort of convergence that makes me curious to see what the future will bring in terms of entertainment and information and blending the two. If you have comments or predictions, I'm interested. Go ahead and share your thoughts.

How does your thinking affect your actions?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Why It Matters

There are two things I appreciate about Brad's post on disgusting sexism. One is the focus on what's in it for business and for men - not just what's in it for women. That's just a smart approach for a whole lot of reasons.

Along those lines, I submit the following supporting arguments, one oriented toward competitiveness in business and one toward what's in it for the guys so they understand where there might be some benefit amidst the perceived threats:

  1. During my flight training, I was in the top five of my class. In fact, half of the top ten were women and we only had ten women out of 100 in the class. When debating the subject (way back when it was almost pure fiction) of women pilots in the military, I always contended that if similar statistics were to apply across the board (and because of the type of program I was in, there was no reason to think they wouldn't), why in the world would you put ten guys into ten very expensive planes if it meant passing over five women who were better?

    In other words, if you had a top-notch female pilot and a mediocre male pilot, why would you put him in the plane and have her fly the desk? I'm sure it doesn't take above-average critical thinking skills to apply this argument to IT.

  2. As more men strive for some kind of work/life balance of their own, more involvement with kids or aging parents, want more money, more flexible time, etc to start businesses and venture capital funds and that sort of thing, how do you suppose that happens? One good way for it to happen in the context of couples and families is for improved gender pay equity.

    If there are two adults in a household, one male and one female, and she's able to make as much money as he can, then they BOTH have more choices about who does what, for how much of the day, and for how long. As long as he makes significantly more money than she does, the financial equation will almost always push him out the door. And if there are more than two children, that same equation will lock the door with her inside and him stuck on the outside. Personally, I prefer that everyone have more choices.
The second thing that I appreciate is pointing out just how backward societal thinking still is sometimes. It is beyond me how people of both genders still see women (as a group) as different, a threat, or in any way unfit for the wide variety of work that we do. Comments like those made by Brad's email guy make it clear why it's still important to pay attention to the matter and not assume that it's already solved.

Notice I don't say enacting any special laws or providing any special privileges.

What I don't appreciate is whining. I find it interesting that even while this guy accuses an entire gender of complaining, his post is effectively one big 'poor me' and I'm not even clear why he cares that much or feels the way he does!

Go ahead - comment. It's a big subject and I can handle the truth, whatever kind you have to offer.

What's important enough to make you want to speak up?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

So Easy, Even a Fifth Grader Can Get It

Call him idealistic, but even Short Person 'gets' compassion at a fundamental and practical level. My own experience with compassion in the workplace is that it works far better than the alternatives and it's not just some 'more flies with honey than vinegar' platitude from your grandmother.

First of all, whether in the form of pyramid, circle, or chain, screaming just doesn't work very well. It raises blood pressure - yours and theirs - and it tends to not bring out the best in people. Measure 'best' however you like. Productivity and quality both suffer, as does any kind of loyalty.

I have had more than my share of toxic, and even bullying bosses in the past. We used to say it was 'normal' or 'just the way they are'. These days, we're starting to notice a difference between 'tough' bosses and bosses who are bullies or simply too toxic to have to tolerate.

What it comes down to is that tough bosses ensure work gets done. Toxic bosses claim that's what they're doing but they're actually impeding effective work. As far as I can tell, the difference is the existence or lack of compassion. As a result, some of the toughest bosses I've ever had are the ones that have earned my greatest respect and loyalty and I'm sure others feel the same way.

In any case, it's a hot topic. Search on bully bosses or toxic bosses, and you'll come up with more material than you can read in a single sitting. And in Canada, it's going beyond talk - we're now starting to see some legal liability for bullying in the workplace.

The more I read, the more I come back to the notion that compassion makes the difference between tough and toxic. High expectations and the ability to understand where someone else is coming from are not mutually exclusive capabilities.

Still, there seems to be many who somehow believe that success not only justifies toxic behavior - that being a jerk is, in fact, actually a prerequisite for success. Watching the outcome of the first season of Celebrity Apprentice leads me to believe that Piers Morgan and Donald Trump fall into that category. I take it as proof of shifting standards for good leadership that both of Trump's kids seem to think otherwise.

I agree with Ivanka Trump when she calls into question Piers Morgan's tactics during the Celebrity Apprentice finale. Her argument was that it shouldn't be necessary to be a jerk in order to be successful. Donald Jr. had his say too, pushing Piers to answer for his behavior, implying there are dimensions to success beyond just making money.

Throughout it all, Piers' sole defense was that he brought in the most money - never answering either the question of whether he might still have brought in that much money without alienating the people working with him or the question of whether his methods might have reflected badly on the charity his work was meant to support.

In fact that whole boardroom meeting can be boiled down to three basic points:

  1. Being an a$$hole is not (or shouldn't be) a requirement for success
    Corollary - It is (or should be) possible to be successful without being an a$$hole
  2. There is more to success than making money
  3. Making money does not justify bad behavior
Just because The Donald ultimately ignored every one of these points in choosing Piers over Trace as the Celebrity Apprentice winner doesn't mean it was the right choice to make. I personally can't recommend using his logic to justify poor behavior in the real world, even if it did make for great TV.

What I can recommend is a book called The No A$$hole Rule - Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't by Bob Sutton, which also provides great information on the true costs to the organization that I've only hinted at here. Or you could just try incorporating a bit more compassion at work. Surely if a fifth grader can comprehend the importance of compassion, so can the rest of us.

If you have thoughts or questions about toxic work environments because of bosses behaving badly or co-workers masquerading as jerks, please leave a comment. This is one of those areas where we're still struggling to find a new normal, which means there is a lot more gray than black and white. We'll need a lot of discussion to fully understand and shape that new normal.

How can compassion support and advance success?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Found It!

For quite some time now, I've been asking Jobster for a widget that would let me display job postings on my website and blog that might be of interest to all three people who visit. It seems my friend Nathan at nPost has beat them to it, creating a widget that displays jobs at startups.

To see it in action, check out the sidebar over on the right. I like it, this is exactly what I was looking for - a way to connect geeks with jobs that might interest them and help entrepreneurs find great talent.

Hopefully it will help you find what you're looking for. Of course, if you don't know yet what that is - or you think you might need help succeeding in your new role - I'm certainly available to work with you to sort that out too!

What work keeps you engaged?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Brain Re-routed

In researching yet more issues with my appliances, I ran across an absolute gem today called Shift Happens.

When I'm not battling appliances and unintentionally crusading for better customer service, this is the world that I live in and why I work with the people that I do. Thanks to the folks at Bring Good Things to Life for both the heads up on the video and also for information and moral support in dealing with the company that brought us flaming dishwashers and exploding oven doors.

Here's a tip - even if you've got good service most of the time, stuff still has to work and people have to feel fairly treated.

What gets you back on track again?