Monthly Archives: November 2014

Innovation and The Lego Movie

I’d been putting off seeing this film but finally watched it with my family on Thanksgiving.  By mid-film, most my family had drifted out of the room, which left me and my 26-year-old son, who just happens to be a filmmaker.

Despite the movie being a full-on visual assault and conceived for those with snapshot attention spans, I couldn’t stop thinking about the film’s message about innovation and what it really means.

In the movie, the president is named Mr. Business.  And he’s hell bent (spoiler alert) on having everything stay the same, so much so he’s built a machine that will spray superglue over the entire city.  Meanwhile, an ordinary, instruction-following worker joins a group of master builders to save the world.

The master builders know that not everything is “awesome.”  And they have contempt for the workers who follow the rules and can’t think without their instructions.  The master builders can build anything from anything.  And they’re not afraid to break the rules.  That said, they’re difficult to work with, judgmental and arrogant.  They want to throw out “the old” with the bathwater.

Modern workplaces can be very similar.  Sometimes you have a group of people who follow the rules and can be counted on to complete daily tasks in an ordinary and reliable fashion.  And then you have another group spearheading wild disconnected change without getting buy-in or basing the change on practical needs and resources.

At the end of the movie, the regular Joe saves the world.  He doesn’t do it through some crazy unusable contraption; he does it by taking something ordinary and useful and making it extraordinary…making it special.

At work, the two groups must learn from each other.  Without the rule-followers, a business’s foundation wouldn’t exist.  Without the “master builders,” the business would stagnate.  When working together, everything truly is awesome. 







The R in HR Doesn’t Stand for Rah-Rah

hr director handle it

Every year—right around the holidays, actually—some HR buzzword starts to irritate me.  The rock in my loafer this year is the word “engagement.”  This is because so many seem to confuse it with the word “appreciation.”  And when you confuse the two, the result is wasted time and money.

Engaging employees is on everyone’s mind these days.  But it seems to me no one has stopped to ask themselves what this means in a practical sense.  In reality, if I’m engaged in work, it means I am interested in what I’m doing and consider it valuable.  So the formula is simple.  Give your employees interesting work that’s valuable, and they will be engaged.  Unfortunately, some HR departments have decided that what employees really need to be engaged are all sorts of rah-rah events, contests, and give-aways.  To me, that’s like paying my daughter to get high marks in school, which I refuse to do because I want her to actually enjoy learning and find it interesting and valuable to her life.  That is, I want her to be fully engaged in the work at hand rather than muddling through it in misery in order to get her reward.  We’re humans, after all, not animals being trained to do tricks.

Sure, rah-rah events are fun and fantastic for teambuilding, as well as encouraging loyalty.  But we cannot expect employee appreciation events to encourage engagement.   Engagement involves indentifying skill sets, offering trajectory and movement, and communicating and connecting value in even the most mundane tasks.  This takes thought and time, as well as hands-on leadership.  It certainly goes beyond a town hall meeting with free hot dogs or lunches with the boss.

For a Work-Life Balance, We Need More than a Time Change

I have given plenty of advice over the years about finding and maintaining a work-life balance.  After having a much needed extra hour sleep, with my brain feeling somewhat refreshed, I’ve decided that my advice was leaving something important out of equation.

See, I’ve always associated this whole balance thing with how much time you spend at work and how much time you spend at “life.”  Life could include family, friends, hobbies, relaxing or simply doing all the things you enjoy.  But I’m realizing now that we need to balance more than just time.

I will use myself as a case study.  I left work about 5:15p.m. on Friday, thought about work on my hour-long commute home, took a break to eat dinner with my family, answered some emails, started thinking about work again during a DVD we were supposed to be watching, and then went to bed thinking about work until I fell asleep.  Then on Saturday, I woke up considering solutions to a few work-related problems, was completely distracted while trying to have a conversation with my daughter, and had to consciously expunge my mind of all work-related issues while trying to enjoy an outing with my husband.  Even though I avoided checking my work emails, I wasn’t successful in halting my thoughts.

So, no, I didn’t actually work this weekend.  I didn’t have any phone calls or crises.  I didn’t go into the office or even work from home.  But I might as well have been.  Now that it’s Sunday afternoon, I’m scolding myself.  I am failing this whole work-life balance thing, so it’s time to adjust the scales in my head.  I need to commit to compartmentalizing my thoughts and valuing the life part of this balancing act.  After all, work will greet me in person tomorrow, so no need to think about it now.  Actually, I think I’ll have a cup of coffee, walk my dog in this wonderful crisp autumn weather, and then find something fun to binge watch on Netflix.  Incidentally, it won’t be Undercover Boss or The Office.   IMG_2288