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Fun at Work – the Google Australia Way

OK…so it’s July and its heads down + bums up time for everyone who has a contribution to make to the dreaded End Of Financial Year – strange how the stress never gets any lower, even though we know it happens every year…???…!!!

But there is still no good reason to banish FUN from the work environment and I thought you might like the short video attached.

We all know about Google being a “fun” place to work, but, until recently most of the promo was about their US operations and we might have been forgiven for thinking that it was a one-off location or mindset…but the good news is that the same philosophy to having GREAT FUN while achieving GREAT THINGS is the norm here in Australia as well!

Now I acknowledge that some organisations would struggle to buy sandwiches for their people, let alone have a variety of cafes on site, but (and it’s a BIG BUT!!!) it’s not about how much you spend on staff amenities, it’s about how much you are perceived to value your team.

And if we’re honest about it, most of us could be more flexible with working hours. Many of us could spend more time making sure we hire the best people available and then let them get on doing the job you hired them to do.

Enjoy and please send us your suggestions on how you like to lighten things up in your workplace…
Alan Slater


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Saying NO is more important than you think…

Does this ring any bells…?

You finally get around to organising that weekend away with the family – you know, the one you’ve been promising for the last 100 weekends – when your boss comes to you on Thursday afternoon and says: “We’ve just found out that we’ve won that new contract! But we must have all the logistics in place by next Friday. You’re the only one here that can do that, Jack, but I’m afraid it’s going to mean you working this weekend”.

You start off on the right track… “I’ve got some family commitments this weekend…”, but then you pause…and the boss doesn’t fill the crucial silence…so you do…”but, I suppose I could re-arrange those…” and the deal is sealed with, “Thanks Jack – I knew I could rely on you!”

So why didn’t you say “no”? Was it because the whole team is depending on you? Maybe it’s because the annual reviews are due in the next couple of weeks and you really don’t want a black mark against your name at this time of year? Or do you just lack the assertiveness to spit it out? It could be something as simple as the fact that your family are easier to negotiate with than your boss – BUT, ask yourself who you would miss more if they weren’t around…???…!!!

I’m sure you could add your own examples here…but the main issue is very simple…

Saying, “Yes” when we really mean (and want to say!), “NO” is one of the biggest causes of extra work and associated stress.

The main problem is that we start the process from the wrong end. We start from, “What will people think of me? Will I lose their respect and damage our relationship.” That’s the “Guilt-Trip” worry.

Then there’s the fear of criticism that might undermine our confidence. Even worse, when we all crave being accepted and liked, there’s the fear of rejection. And deep down we feel that if we use our power of “no”, then we’ll be seen as aggressive.

All of these, of course, could be true – but how many are likely to be true?

My “MUST DO” hints on saying “No” confidently, respectfully and without guilt: -

  1. Never be afraid to think first or call for a time-out. People don’t want your kneejerk reaction. They want the reaction that you will follow through on.
  2. Don’t start from “no” – start from saying “yes” to yourself regarding those things you hold to be important – be that family, friends, activities you enjoy or commitments that you have made.
  3. Ensure that those things reflect your core values – those things that you hold as central to who you are and know where your line in the sand is!
  4. Work out some alternatives to just plain “no” – options for the other person to consider.
  5. If that doesn’t work, have a Plan B – but remember that line in the sand!
  6. Choose your battles wisely – some people just automatically say “no” because that’s their nature and then change their minds in seconds. Try not to become known as “The No Person!”
  7. In all situations (potential “yes” and potential “no”), ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen? And am I prepared to accept the consequences of my actions?”

The key to successfully saying “NO” is to make it as positive as you can and that’s not a skill that comes naturally to many people.

More of us easily say “yes” – most of us really struggle to say “No”

So if you’d like some help with that, please free to give me a call. I promise not to say “no”, unless it’s the weekend I’ve promised my family!!!

Or check out our Say “NO” Working Breakfast on our website.

Alan Slater

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Management Reality Check – Challenging the Truths and Rewriting the Rules

If just ONE more well-intentioned, but irritating CEO says to me that, “People are our most valuable asset” or one more HR Alan presenting at AmChamManager patronisingly says, “There’s no “I” in team” or, even worse, one more CFO says, “We are committed to transparency in the way we do business”, then I may have to resort to violence!

I’m not sure which came first – the “Rules” or the “clichés”, but I’m pretty sure that the best way forward is to bust some of those restricting and unnecessary rules.

In business there should be no sacred cows, no no-go areas and certainly no, “we’ve always done it this way” mentality – and yes those attitudes ARE still alive and kicking in 2011!

Let’s look at those we should keep and cherish and let’s boot out those that have NO place in our organisations – and let’s start with one of everyone’s favourites – “Employees are our most valuable asset”

The first and most obvious problem here is that, generally speaking, assets are things you own and you certainly don’t own employees. And don’t think that Contracts of Employment, Awards or any of that contractual obligation stuff actually helps with the “owning” thing! ALL employees are really sub-contractors that provide their services for a fee. Only for you it’s called a salary.

Now anyone who has managed for more than a day knows that some employees are better described as “liabilities”, rather than assets – but I believe that if we assumed that they’re are ALL liabilities, it would help us, as Managers, to look at how to get the best ROI.

So the first thing we need to do is to re-assess the real (as opposed to perceived) value of our employees and make the best decisions concerning them as if they were financial assets.

It was also interesting to note how quickly these “most valuable assets” were disposed of in the recent GFC…

Another favourite of ours is the “Work / Life Balance” – you know that perennial myth that we’ve all been chasing since we were old enough to realise that it might be an issue. Way too many issues to go into there in any detail, but here’s a few to get you thinking…

a)  Surely it’s in the wrong order? Surely it’s supposed to be a Life / Work balance, isn’t it?

b) The myth assumes, incorrectly in our view, that these are two separate entities. That work and life exist as independent bodies of time and experiences and that separation by “balance” is either desirable or necessary. But it is inevitable that there is a huge overlap between the two and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

c) The main issue here is that all the focus seems to be on either prioritising while you are at work and then doing the same, but less formally, while you at home. If however we actually sat down and prioritised our LIFE, including work AND home/family to fit our value system, then the balancing act would be superfluous and the guilt that we’re supposed to feel if we choose to work 60 hours per week would disappear.

d)  If I was being cynical, (as if!) I might argue that the term “workaholic” could be used to describe someone who uses their job to get some well-deserved time away from their loved ones…

e)  But, to be fair, not many people on their death-bed are heard to say, “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time at the office!”

OK, last one for now – “The More You Do, the Less Gets Done!”

This one is a particularly common issue with our clients and we think that it’s because the desired and, to a certain extent, esteemed “spirit of mateship” that exists in Australia actually gets in the way of good leadership. We seem to really struggle with the Mate vs. Manager or Boss vs. Buddy problem, to the point where it’s easier to do the job yourself and thus avoid the hard conversations that we really should be having.

If you can step back and then up and take the “balcony” view, rather than being on the stage, this will certainly help you to avoid some of the potential battles. (I’ve never liked the “helicopter view” and if you’ve ever been in one, you’ll know exactly why I don’t like it!)

And another thing that will particularly help the technician who’s been promoted to Supervisor / Manager – it is important to be mediocre in order to be brilliant! “What?” I hear you cry…let me explain. As a technician you probably excelled. But as a Manager you need to excel at Managing and it’s virtually impossible to do both. You may want to continue to excel at the technical stuff, but you sure don’t need to. You need to focus on the Managing and let everyone you work with deal with the technical issues. I know, I know…it’s hard because that was your comfort zone – but there’s a technical phrase for this – it’s called “Growing up!”

So just a few of the things that we need to do on a regular basis in order for the Management Realty Check to work! None of them are easy, but hey, whoever told you that life as a Manager was easy, was lying to you!


Alan Slater

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