Company Christmas Parties – DEFCON 4

“Colonel Conley, Take us to DEFCON 3 and get SAC on the line…”

If you were still a kid in the 80’s, “War Games” is a movie you probably still fondly remember (if not, you’re dead to me, but that’s beside the point.) Matthew Broderick plays “David Lightman,” the geeky teenager who manages to accidentally hack into NORAD and start a full-fledged panic by the US Military, almost to the point of an unprovoked nuclear missile launch. The movie requires quite a bit of suspended reality, but it was pretty entertaining back in the day.

The real star of the movie is General Beringer, played masterfully by boiler-plate Texan Barry Corbin ~ when he’s not shoving a a wad of Red Man into his cheek, he’s dispensing nuggets of cinematic gold (“Dammit, I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it would do any good!” ) while deliberating on how to properly respond to the potential of starting World War 3.

According to the scale we’re taught in the movie, “DEFCON 5” is peace on Earth, DEFCON 1 is goodnight Earth ~ a huge neon board indicates the state of affairs at any given time . It’s a pretty solid and simple idea really…perhaps companies should use a similar board:

  • DEFCON 5 ~ (Not sure, someone else will have to tell me what that looks like)
  • DEFCON 4 ~ National Sales Meetings*, Office Christmas Parties, sub-standard Quarterly Report #1, outsourcing existing job functions, harassment claims, sudden influx of well-dressed “guests” attending closed-door meetings, ADA claims, increased use of the word “deposition”…
  • DEFCON 3 –  Mergers (on the acquirer side), private scandal, consecutive sub-standard Quarterly Reports, workplace violence incident, patent expiration, loss of key talent to key competitor…
  • DEFCON 2 – Layoffs, “right-sizing,” down-sizing, mergers (on the acquired side), product recalls, public scandal, bankruptcy claims, Jim Cramer downgrading you to “Risky,” lead story on Nancy Grace
  • DEFCON 1 – Probably unnecessary, as anything this serious will probably announce itself, if ya know what I mean….(see Enron, Arthur Anderson, et al)

It would certainly help Human Resources to have an indicator at the front entry, give us a little prep time for what lies ahead? Looking at the abbreviated list of events listed above, you can quickly target those areas where you may be able to make a difference – for the other events, chances are we’re sharing the same life raft with the rest of the employee population.

What did I miss?

(*National Sales Meetings – Take hundreds of sales people from around the country, put them in a hotel for a week, add “hospitality suites” and late evening dinners, allow to simmer, and…….”work baby!”)




"remember that Vegas meeting last year?
“remember that Vegas meeting last year?






Now, wouldn’t you rather play a nice game of chess?

“Wait & DO” – Part Deaux

The first installment was fairly remarkable if I do say so m’self.

This post? Wow, are you in for a treat—I’ve got taglines.

One of my favorite concepts from Dr. Pritchett’s Hacking Uncertainty is the directive to “Open Yourself to Uncertainty;” that’s a fairly broad statement to assist you in your goal of becoming more tolerant of ambiguity… but what does it mean?

Simple. You wait and DO.

While some people “wait and see” before committing to action, you choose to “wait and do.”

Assuming you’ve embraced the directive in Part 1, you should be getting more comfortable with the idea of changing your routines (if only in small doses). Now, when you find yourself facing change, you have a decision to make, as opposed to a reaction. You can “wait” in the sense of reserving judgment on your opinion of the change. But instead of staying in neutral (which is, in reality, a passive form of resistance,) you can give yourself permission to support the change in your actions. In this way, you are giving uncertainty the benefit of the doubt and still look at yourself in the morning.

Sounds a lot like “fake it ’til you make it,” doesn’t it? Then I said it right. Do your work, save your opinion for another day. The energy you use in supporting the change, even if only in appearance, will positively impact those around you. Then, at some point, hopefully (but not critically)  your emotional state will catch up to your physical state.

Until then, just keep “doing,” because the voting booth is closed.

Thinking Never Helped Anyone

Okay, that’s not entirely true, I’m sure there are a few examples of thinking that actually worked out very well for people.

"Really? Like whom?"
“Really? Like whom?”

But, for the sake of this piece, humor me.

One of my great joys in life is coaching Little League baseball…with two sons, 12 and 9, I’ve been lucky enough to have over a dozen seasons to be on the diamond with little guys wanting to learn the great game. And, if you spend that much time on the field, you will observe any number of coaching styles…including the OVER-coaching style.

Drives me crazy.

Elementary school kids receiving an over-abundance of advice from Dads, Moms, uncles, older siblings, and coaches. These poor kids stand at the plate or on the mound with their ears wide open, trying to assimilate “tips” from every self-proclaimed expert in the park. With YouTube in the mix, everybody with internet access has an unlimited supply of “helpful” tips to share with their kid (and your kid.)

Usually, the reaction is predictable; Over-thought, mechanical, tight, and tentative ~ none of which help an athlete – or an employee (see? work tie-in right there baby!).

Several years ago, one of the kids on our team was having paralysis on the mound. It got to the point where he was literally frozen, trying to remember the encyclopedia of information that had been given to him on “superior” Pitching. You could see him mouthing the words, trying to get everything just right ~ his feet, his grip, his posture, his arm slot, his follow-through…frozen.

So, on my visit to the mound, I had a pretty simple message for my Pitcher: “Hit him.”

Player, now UN-frozen: “WHAT????”

Hit him. Right in the butt, plunk him. And make sure you throw it hard enough to hurt.”

Player, now REALLY awake: “But Coach, I can’t do that!”

“Okay…try it once, then you can start throwing to the mitt. Just nail him one time.”

I walked back to the dugout, took a seat, and nodded at him…this was going to either be transcendent, or I was going to have a real problem on my hands.

First pitch, “WHACK!,” right on the rump. The Pitcher saw the batter wince, then take his base…at that point, he looked at me and started laughing – all he had to do was throw the damn ball.

Strikes, balls, hits, walks – who cares? Throw the ball, don’t “Pitch” the ball.

Taking his mind off of 2,000 other things, he had focused on ONE thing – the batter’s butt. It’s that easy. Now, think of the mitt. It’s that easy. Given the same opportunity with your employees, give them the ability to hit a few batters, reach back and throw the ball. Narrow the focus, minimize the number of messages, and make the game FUN. Soon enough, your team members will develop their own style, which may or may not be the way YouTube explains it…

Thinking only makes it worse.

[Note* I expect this kid to thank me in his post-game interview one day, right after Mom and Jesus.]





Call Me “Doctor” HR

“You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal thyself’…” – Luke 4:23

Nothing paints a picture like Proverbs.

Having “served” 20 years in the corporate world, 15 of those in Human Resources, I’ve seen my fair share of hypocrisy. Or is that too harsh? Isn’t it just the way of the world that we are all better at advising than we are at doing (there are a passel of cobbler’s children with an opinion on this)? At the very least, we open ourselves to the cry of “hypocrite!” when we venture into the role of giving advice.

Just ask my kids….

"Tell it to the judge, Pops."
“Tell it to the judge, Pops.”

But now, it’s that time of year…decisions on merit ratings, compensation awards, incentive grants – all will be on the table for discussion. And in HR, we stand on the rooftops trumpeting the value of performance management and meaningful differentiation…but how do those concepts play in our own backyard?

Looking at the annual performance review process of the HR organizations in my past, If I were to grade the overall performance in making those “tough” decisions? I’d say C-minus, maybe D-plus? I’m sure many of you can point to a better experience, just as I’m sure a number of you are nodding your head in agreement – when it comes to taking our own advice, we can really suck.

So why even bring this up?

1. Your clients need to know – It’s okay to admit that yes, we have the same challenges when making those tough decisions. Humanizing HR is never a bad idea.

2. Stick to your guns Even if we aren’t “perfect,” you can’t argue with the validity of the concept. Don’t let the disconnect in the message sway you from sharing solid advice.

3. Keep Working – We can never lose sight of improving our own practices…that allows us to keep our heads held high when advising others – In that way, we, as esteemed “Doctors,” will continue to heal ourselves.