Thursday, 20 March 2014

Writers, not Actors

I took some clients to see John Cleese's one-man show, "Last Time to See Me Before I Die", a few months back.  You remember him - tall, lanky, straight-faced funny guy from Monty Python.  He told a story of how Monty Python stayed together as a comedy troupe in an industry where others had fallen apart.  He didn't deny there was the occasional argument, very vehement arguments between them about the material (which is funnier - a goat or a sheep?  His firm assertion and the final say in a 20 minute argument was that when used as a chandelier, with lights in it's hooves and mouth, clearly the goat was going to get more laughs.)

Cleese suggested that the reason the team was so tight and produced such good results was because they were a group of writers.  They got together to write a sketch, and never deviated from the script during performance.  Only after hammering out the script did they decide who would play which parts, and always for the sake of the material.  Sometimes that meant a small part, or no role at all.  Other times it might mean a very large, starring role.  Characters and roles were agreed upon according to what would serve the end goal - great comedy.  They were writers first.

If the Pythons argued about anything, it was the material.  Cleese says he has seen shows and troupes fail because instead of a group of writers coming together to write and perform, they have been a group of actors coming together, each with his own agenda, to perform that which they wrote.  Egos ruled in the actors' group.

Which team are you part of?  Are you actors thinking only of your own contribution and recognition, or writers working together in the direction of a common goal?

I know which team on which I'd rather be.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Checking Out

I have long maintained that once an employee begins seriously looking for a new job, he or she has already resigned from his current position.   Once the employee has posted an application and accepted an interview with another company, he already works there.  At the very least, he no longer works for his current company.  All that remains is for the new employer to make it official.

There's no fault in that - today's career path in anything but a straight trajectory.  My old boss used to say, "you've got to move to improve."  It's OK for people to quit.  They just shouldn't drag down the team on their long, slow departure.

I have seen the pattern repeated time and time again.  People show signs of checking out long before they actually leave.  They come in late, they avoid team activities, they miss deadlines and exhibit many other behaviours that are unexpectedly out of character, or widely divergent from the employee you once knew.  They appear to be disengaged.  It is a rare person who can keep his head in the game until the final hour.

Biz Magazine, published by Town Media, in their 2014 Q1 issue published these "tips and tricks" to spotting a "job hopper" within your own organization:

  • A noticeable change in attitude (formerly enthusiastic, now indifferent)
  • Long lunch breaks and frequent absences (no longer invested, going on job interviews)
  • Missed deadlines and increased errors (lost interest)
  • More professional attire (dressing up for a job interview at lunch)
  • A drop in productivity (gradually disconnecting from the job)
The astute manager recognizes these signs and acts with respect in the best interest of his customers and his company and frankly, the departing employee himself.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Who's My Bad Boss?

Had one.  Been one.  Hopefully in remission.  Working on it.

I look at all bad situations; a bad boss, difficult subordinate relationships, a challenging board; as growth situations.  That, however, requires an indefatigable positive attitude; an anticipation of success despite all evidence to the contrary.

Beyond the resume building aspect of surviving a bad work relationship I like keep it in perspective by factoring in "The Sitcom Factor."

It works like this.  When I'm at my wits end with someone I remind myself that if this was a sitcom and not real life we'd need a character like bad boss (or difficult employee, or angry customer, or demanding stakeholder) to move the plot along.

And then I go to a metaphorical commercial and take a break from the drama.

Here's a link to an article about bad bosses.  Read this: