Random Thoughts on Life and Work

November 18, 2015

Care About Your Impact

Filed under: Non-Profit,Strategy,Work — Darren Mullenix @ 8:52 am
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Seth Godin’s blog post for today was too good to not share.

I have worked with organizations that fall on both sides of the spectrum described in his post. And from what I have seen, those organizations that get it – the organizations that value the work their people do over the adherence to a set of prescribed actions – have a far more engaged and healthier team.

While some of the responsibility is on us to choose our tribe wisely, it is also a principle that organizations can use to impact their culture and drive the end result. As a leader, which set of instructions do you give to your team? Individually, what set of instructions do we tend to gravitate towards? One comes with continuing challenges. The other becomes rote.

I don’t need to say much more. Check it out here. Think about it.


April 22, 2015

Soccer and The Game of Work

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 12:18 pm
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I have the joy (okay, some might not consider it that) of being a soccer referee for youth club games and high school games. I grew up playing soccer and had some great experiences playing through my college days. My oldest daughter plays at the college level and will soon be wrapping up her playing career. So, you can see I’ve been around the game a long time. I’ve noticed how the game of soccer provides a picture against which our work can be compared.

  1. Soccer is boring. Okay, by nature and experience I disagree with this but many people say they find it to be less than exciting. (Frankly I find baseball far more boring.) How close does this description come to your work? Do you find it boring, tedious, or monotonous? I heard a TV personality say the other day that soccer was a game of boredom interspersed with brief moments of excitement. Maybe this is you at work? I would contend that soccer, and work, is what you want to make of it. If you aren’t being fulfilled because the rules are too restrictive, find a new spot where you can thrive.
  2. Soccer is about teamwork within designated roles. If you can’t develop a working relationship with your teammates, you won’t last long and the team doesn’t function at its optimum. Same with work. It is often difficult for the new staff member to slide into the new position. It is up to the manager/leader to ensure that happens as fast and as smoothly as possible. Witness teams who add new players at the professional level. There is often a period of time before that new team member is integrated into the starting 11 and contributing well. If they don’t integrate well, they are released to a different team.
  3. In soccer, there is an ebb and flow to the strategic importance of each role. At times the player in the center of the field will be key while at other times it will be an outside wing player. Top players will move about the field to adapt to conditions and the team needs at the time. If your work team has developed this kind of fluidity and recognition, I would hazard a guess that your team is working at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness. If not, maybe it is time to consider some alternatives to your structure and processes.
  4. In soccer, players have opportunities to take the lead with the ball and then pass it off to a teammate in a better position to move the ball strategically. In work, we have the opportunity to move the project forward, accomplish our role and then pass it on to the next person to accomplish their piece. At the same time, we take responsibility for the continued success of the project by moving into a supporting role, ready to be called on again to engage with the play.
  5. In soccer, when the team loses the ball, the focus shifts to defense and getting the ball back. But it is a team effort, not a solo effort on the part of the player who lost the ball. At work, if we lose the account, miss a deadline, or fail to accomplish the task in some way, how does the team respond? Is it an opportSoccerTeamunity to learn a new process or an opportunity to immediately blame an individual member? Focusing on the means to recovery keeps the team together and builds a morale that is hard to beat.

There are any number of additional examples that can be added to this list. Working hard to develop a cohesive team plays dividends both on and off the field. Feel free to comment and add any ideas you might have.

August 19, 2014

Looking for Work? Here’s What You Can Expect

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 11:33 am
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Nothing! What did you expect – the job was just going to be handed to you? Sorry, doesn’t work that way.

On the other hand, here is some of the communication you might get from organizations as a result of your application submission:

  • Nothing
  • An automated email – We have received your application. If there is a match, we will be in touch
    • Then nothing, or
    • A phone call or email to schedule further action
  • An automated email – Thank you for applying. Please go to this web address to complete some more information
    • A web survey that has little to do with the job and a lot to do with behavior – all of which is “gameable” if someone just thinks about it
    • Then nothing or
    • A phone call or email to schedule further action
    • Sometimes an email saying there was not a strong enough match
  • A postcard response from a mailed in application
  • An email requesting the completion of a standardized, impersonal video “questionnaire”

And the list goes on and on in terms of style and communication methods. I’d like to think there is a better way. A much better way. We know organizations receive a large number of applications for open positions. Many of the applicants will have no match to the required skill set. Many others will have at least some match. It doesn’t take much to humanize the process and make the organization look good and make the individual feel good about him/herself. Let me throw out some thoughts:

  1. Reply to EVERY applicant. Even the automated email is better than nothing and confirms to the applicant that the information has been received.
  2. If an applicant is not going to be selected for further action – send another email. In today’s world of HR database systems, it shouldn’t be difficult to flag individual applicants for a response.
  3. If the job posting has a deadline, don’t wait for the deadline to start your response process – you might lose the applicant to another organization. If the submission isn’t even close to what  the organization needs, put them in the reply pile and send the closure email immediately.
  4. If the organization does insist on waiting until the job posting closure date, keep applicants informed that the process is continuing. Again, this shouldn’t be difficult to automate. At least it is something that the applicant receives.

Don’t be the organization that develops an arrogance that says, “Everyone wants to work here so we can treat applicants however badly we want to.”

We can do better at following the “golden rule” and treat people with dignity and respect.

August 2, 2013

Job Apathy

Filed under: Charity,Management,Work — Darren Mullenix @ 1:22 pm
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Great article today on FastCompany.com by Roberta Matuson titled “Do Your Employees Have A Sense of Purpose.”  While those that work in non-profits might think they are exempt from this due to the “cause”, I would suggest that you not jump to that conclusion quite so quickly.

One of the things that I see repeatedly is the reliance on developing the perfect job description for a new position. After all, the desire is to attract the employee with a position that is challenging and fulfilling. But maybe we have missed the boat. I like the idea of crafting a “results description” instead of a job description. By releasing an employee to accomplish a task in the method that is efficient and effective without handcuffing them to a particular method, we allow that individual to flourish, take risks, and have a sense of ownership. With results expectations clearly defined, the employee can be released to “go for it”.

In organizations with a heavy top-down approach, unexceptional service can become the rule. After a number of attempts to accomplish a task or attempts to initiate projects that are not within the scope of duties are crushed, ignored, or criticized, it is no wonder that apathy results.

So here’s the challenge – as you look at growth and new positions, or as you re-evaluate existing positions, consider how you are going to describe the position to a prospective employee. Are you going to describe the way you want the job done or the result you want to see? Do you have the structure and metrics in place to back it up?

August 24, 2012

It’s Not Just A Calling – It’s A Job

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 9:30 am
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For some reason, there are non-profit leaders who believe that the cause they serve is the reason you should work there. And because of the cause, the staff are there to serve, no matter what the conditions. Why? Shouldn’t the job itself be enjoyable? Is there a need to be a jerk and make working conditions difficult?

Why can’t you have your cake and eat it too? Be a leader that treats people right, manages with integrity, and recognizes personal shortcomings and you will have staff that will go to the ends of the earth for the cause – and for you. And along the way you might find your organization runs more efficiently and with less staff turnover.

Just a thought.

March 6, 2012

When Dreams Die

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 9:55 am
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When dreams die, it is painful. The sense of loss of direction, the feeling of failure, and the soul searching question of “why” are all felt strongly. And yet . . .

Out of the ashes comes the new. It may take a while to be defined. It may not seem logical. It’s probably not all that exciting initially. But in the end, it’s right. It is where you are supposed to be.

Dreams are great. They provide a framework for direction and motivation. But we are human. And we don’t always dream in the right direction. If we always had the right dream, there would never be any nightmares while we sleep.

In work life, dreams can be broken at the organizational level (bankruptcy, closure, market shifts, etc) or they can be broken at the individual level (project collapse, marketing plan failure, promotion not given). Sometimes the organizational impacts the individual.

How do you tell when a failure or setback requires a new direction or just more/harder work on the same project? Failure can be a learning tool. It can bring about a sharpening of the senses. But sometimes it is terribly difficult to tell the difference between the need for a sharper focus on an existing project vs the need to abandon the project all together.

Not all dreams are worth pursuing at all costs. Finding that point, that clear indicator of the death of a dream, is the challenge.

December 21, 2011

Tolerance – Or Rather The Lack Of

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 3:39 pm
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This morning as I was driving in to work I came to a realization; I’m bored. There’s nothing challenging me at the moment. I might go so far as to say my brain is getting flabby. I can feel it turning to mush. So with some introspection, I realized that I need to make some changes in the way that I work. I have been allowing myself to coast rather than engage.

I don’t normally set new year resolutions. However, in light of my current frame of thought, I figure it is time to set a target. So rather than a resolution, how about a pledge? Here is my pledge for 2012:

I pledge to be intolerant.

Part of the process of coasting through life is becoming tolerant of things as they occur. It happens slowly and insidiously. It becomes easier to just accept good rather than work towards the best.

With that in mind, here are five things I will be intolerant of:

  1. The status quo when it makes no sense.
  2. Choices that are made because the alternative is too scary.
  3. People who speak or act without thinking about the consequences to others.
  4. Software that doesn’t do what I need it to do.
  5. Inefficient structures.

Who’s with me?

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