Labor Day

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Through a sea of glistening blue (jeans), you spot a current of croissants and crullers rippling through the break room. Confetti streams the walls in tribute to Ralph from HR’s birthday and hints of nutmeg and cinnamon perfume the room. The mailboxes, disguised as Christmas stockings, contain beckoning paychecks and invitations to a weekend cocktail party celebrating the impressive numbers released from finance earlier in the week. A rare laughter swells out of Ethan Marcus’s office where a group is gathered watching viral YouTube gems. It must be Friday.

This phantasmagorical scene may be deep-fried in hyperbole but it still conveys an essential point of organizational culture: Fridays are different. Office norms loosen and a euphoric air envelops a once stale workplace. As a proactive, engaged leader, the challenge then becomes how to accommodate and engage in this culture shock, while simultaneously advancing an agenda that can’t break for Falafel Friday.

So how do you remain chill without exhausting air conditioning resources and freezing your agenda? A politically savvy leader knows how to infuse some productivity into the celebratory croissants. With your coalition partners congregated and their guards down, you have a unique opportunity to solidify the relationships that will ultimately mobilize your agenda. While your colleagues may burrow into their silos on Monday through Thursday, Friday pops these bubbles and allows information to waft around with the nutmeg already saturating the air.

Today is the shooting star of organizational phenomena; it’s a casual Friday preceding a long Labor Day weekend. My office is a ghost town and I think I saw a lonely hay bale blow by my desk 15 minutes ago. I have a creeping suspicion that my calendar is off and I’ve accidentally come into work on a Saturday or, more troubling, that I missed the meteorologists warnings to evacuate the area.

Nevertheless, I’m not squandering a perfectly fertile labor day. While I munch on abandoned pastries, I chat with coworkers and gain casual background on this office and my current campaigns. Without the pressured angst that pervades other labor days, I gain privileged insight into my organization. Meanwhile, I break to blog about this to the anonymous masses quietly celebrating their Labor Day Fridays in other office nooks and crannies. I hope this message reaches you in time before your day dissolves into a haze of lazy celebrations. If not, no worries. There’s always Monday.

Pic Credit: amirjina

Anticipation Creep: “Renovation Creep” Pre-Review

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As a card carrying member of Generation Y, I have no need to enter an art gallery. My card, by the way, is a coffee card as my generation saturates bottomless mugs with über-caffeinated espresso beans and inhales the joe like sweet ambrosia from the sweat of Zeus. Even if someone in my cohort did enter an art gallery, it would likely be to refill their coffee or, at best, would be a virtual art gallery accessed from the safety of their Google portal.

Tomorrow night I am going where only the most ironic hipsters of my generation have ventured before: a bona fide art gallery. And before you raise objections, I am not going for extra credit, for money, or to impress a significant other. No, instead I am going on an appointment-only tour of Chicago’s Antena project space to see their current installation Renovation Creep (search archives when link goes out of date).

A collaboration of three artists, Daniel Bruttig, Joe Cassan, and Erin Thurlow, Renovation Creep is described as, “simultaneously material and ephemeral,” while illustrating the, “haunted, transitory nature of urban apartment dwelling” (AntenaPilsen.com). With sections devoted to “History,” “Palimpsest,” “Patina,” and “Labyrinth,” (I think) the installation intervenes into our notions of urban consciousness and architectural anthropology.

Now two things about this post are problematic. One, I haven’t yet been to this art gallery so I am not experientially equipped to offer an evaluation. Second, my vocabulary does not include half the words in the description of the installation and leaves me running to the dictionary to decode terms like “Palimpsest” and “Patina”. So why am I assuming this pretentions hipster pretense with a pre-review? It’s because I want to animate that moment of anticipation that we too often neglect.

As I anticipate my gallery experience tomorrow, I conjure images of choreographed urban decay and fabricated apartment furnishings. I imagine the intimidating literacy of my tour guide and the transparency of my artistic ignorance. I imagine how the installation will surprise me with its intricacy while disappointing me with its artifice. Finally, I imagine going home and entering my urban home with a new recognition of the apartment as a historical labyrinth.

All these predictions may prove pathetically off. I may completely misunderstand the exhibit and walk through like a lost child desperately searching for familiarity in a foreign shopping mall. Maybe my tour guide will be a frat brother with a keen interest in art. Or maybe I’ll never even make it to the art gallery and instead rush home to my Google. At minimum I hope this last outcome does not pan out.

My point is that we need to collectively spend more time in an anticipatory paradigm. Let’s make assumptions and recognize them. Let’s write them down. Then let’s enter an experience and allow ourselves to be challenged and to see where the chips fall. Let’s ultimately learn to test ourselves. It’s an exercise that will shift our assumptions and inspire our ultimate assessments.

Of course, you can write this off as the misguided ramblings of a fledgling blogger. Maybe that’s what I anticipate. But at least I did. We’ll see in your comments and in my review in the coming days.

Bobblehead

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It goes by many names. Nodder, wobbler, bobbler, bobbing doll, or, more commonly, bobblehead doll. The one name, though, that is rarely applied to these amusing spring-connected collectible toys is “leader”. While popular culture and The Office, specifically, advance the bobblehead industry by creating toys bearing the likeness of organizational leaders, many leaders would resist this association. The representation of a proactive leader with a flimsy and inflated head that nods ad nauseam with mechanical approval is not what most managers want sitting on their desk. Yet, as much as much as the politically competent leader may cringe at this symbol of reflexive apathy, it unfortunately hits too close to home for many pinheaded executives.

Often on this blog, we touch upon this notion of leadership styles and the distinction between facilitative and directive management. As we argue, facilitative leaders adopt an empowering laissez-faire approach that allows coalition partners to autonomously advance a shared agenda. These leaders are not (usually) negligent but instead favor a more hands off approach. Arianna Huffington is likely a facilitative leader as she creates an empire but then empowers writers and contributors to mobilize the organization and advance a common agenda.

Directive leaders are then the foil for their facilitative colleagues. They favor a very hands-on approach and carefully prescribe and choreograph assignments for coalition partners. Just as facilitative leaders are not necessarily lazy, directive leaders are not automatically paranoid or dominating. They simply favor a stricter management scheme and design campaigns that accommodate or necessitate such an approach. Sarah Palin’s current SarahPAC is more directively managed as Palin carefully choreographs her staff actions and maintains strict regulation of her public and private campaign elements.

Both facilitative and directive approaches are valid and effective depending on the organization, agenda, and coalition players.

So back to the bobblehead and the emergence of a third, detrimental leadership approach. The bobblehead leadership approach is a poisonous fusion of facilitative and directive styles. The bobbler leader may dictate specific elements of the agenda or may empower colleagues to define these elements themselves but, in both contexts, this leader quickly succumbs to a yes-(wo)man approach.

The wobbler evades difficult choices by simply offering his weak but dependable approval for all campaign elements. The nodder remains silent in meetings, but she always defaults into consent when an opinion is solicited. Ultimately, the bobbing approach is one of apathy and fear that produces a vacuous, feeble campaign.

So sit at your desk and chuckle as your bobblehead offers its unconditional, detached support for all your ideas. But eventually you need to spring into action and get your head in the game.

Pic Credit: brianjmatis

Pragmatic Fun

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Some people say I have an unhealthy (but vigorous) obsession with antonyms. While my friends (and enemies, no doubt) whittle away their mornings (and evenings) scanning their Macs and PCs for videos of gullible cats and paranoid puppies, I skim and scrutinize online antonym lists. Many would consider my behavior the opposite of sane, but occasionally I stumble upon some colorful or inspiring pairing. Last night, I stumbled upon a unique coupling: pragmatic fun.

I’m perfectly aware that the average excitement explorer would likely spurn a pragmatist like a steakhouse rejects vegan patrons. Pragmatism and fun certainly share an oil-water complex and, as a unit, would be a strong candidate for oxymoron induction. Yet I reject both of these labels and believe that proactive, politically competent leaders forge an unlikely bond between these discordant words.

Conventional wisdom says that the pragmatist is gripped by a rationalism that spoils any reasonable attempt at fun. Amusement parks are rarely arenas of efficiency and streamlined direct deposit systems are not particularly exciting. The same logic would then follow that an aspiring leader should check their sense of humor at the door and submit to a career of pragmatic monotony; unfortunately there are ample case studies to illustrate this assumption. Few would accuse Mark Zuckerberg of being fun and Rod Blagojevich, in spite of Celebrity Apprentice, was not exactly rational. Yet conventional wisdom foolishly forgets that organizations are full of people and personalities.

A proactive leader understands that organizations don’t function like the alienated machines cast in Modern Times or The Matrix. To sustain a motivated and mobilized coalition you must engage your peers. Consider a skydiving president like George H.W. Bush or an eccentric mogul like Virgin CEO Richard Branson. Even pragmatic leaders like Bob Dole or Arianna Huffington find ways to create entertaining organization without resorting to transparent pageantry.

In your organization, you need to find a sincere way to reconcile competing pragmatic and fun impulses. Don’t resort to a canned Michael Scott style pep session but find ways to infuse pleasure into your workplace. Put down the human resource guide to humanity and actually talk to your peers. Every organization houses unique coalitions with unique interest. One organization’s pizza parties could be another’s Origami Club. The key is to be adaptable and engaged. It’s the first step toward marrying pragmatism and fun in your organization and divorcing yourself from the corporate drone stereotype.

I hope I’m right and pragmatic fun supports your leadership agenda. I’d certainly hate to be left.

I’ll Give Back My Social Security…

By | Creativity, Features, Ideas | 3 Comments

Under three conditions I will give back all or part of my Social Security payments.

Many of my colleagues and I who are children of the Baby Boom have no intention of retiring anytime soon. Now, if that’s a secret then I’m not quite sure where you’ve all been living.

Some of us are continuing to work since we have no choice–we were devastated by the 2008 financial crisis. For those of us who were able to weather the storm, we continue to work because it’s our passion. We are, economically speaking, in good shape.

I’m in the latter category.

Lo and behold, I’m on the cusp of receiving my first Social Security check. That, plus my salary, will make for a comfortable lifestyle. But as a child of the 60s give-back and the sense of social responsibility are subliminally buried in the recesses of my collective unconscious.

Here’s the deal. I’m willing to contribute part and maybe even all of my Social Security benefits to the government under the following three conditions:

1. The government provides me with a checklist of agencies and programs to which I can allocate my Social Security payments–a portfolio if you will. For example, I should be able to divvy up my contribution thusly: 15% for education; 20% for Veteran Affairs; 24% for the Environmental Protection Agency and so on. The bottom line is that it’s my choice where the funds go.

2. I get a tax deduction for every dollar I choose to donate.

3. Every year I can reevaluate and make alterations in my contribution schedule for the following year.

Volunteeristic giving is where Republican personal choice meets the Democratic collective responsibility.

What I’m proposing is a volunteeristic system that will allow each of us who can afford it to choose whether or not we want to use some of our Social Security payments to help those governmental agencies and governmental missions that are particularity dear to each of us.

They may even have to compete for our dollars…wouldn’t that be wonderfully democratic.

Photo credit: Andrew Morrell

4 Important Leadership Lessons From World of Warcraft

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Creativity, Leadership On the Edge, Managerial Competence, Proactive Leaders | 2 Comments

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a computer game that allows players to band together to complete missions and defeat shared enemies.

Groups of players, or guilds, operate within a semi-rigid hierarchy. There’s a leader who makes strategic calls, there’s a warrior whose responsible for winning hard fights, a healer who ensures everyone is alive, and so on.

Frequently guild members get together and organize raiding parties. It’s dangerous work,  but it pays great dividends. Successful raids equal more experience, loot, and weapons upgrades.

However, getting raids right is something WoW guild leaders have a hard time doing. There’s not only complex strategy to consider, but the varied skills and personalities of other people in the guild.

I’ve never played WoW before and I only know this much because of Jocelyn’s interesting and well-written  blog entitled: Effective Habits of World Class Guilds. In her blog she proposes four key things every guild leader should remember when they want to conduct successful raids.

I’d argue that her four rules would help leaders in all industries.

I didn’t understand a lot of the WoW lingo, but I did understand the underlying leadership lessons.

Below, I’ve done my best to translate Jocelyn’s four Wow guild leadership rules into language non-gamers can understand.

1. Do Your Homework & Predict Problems

Jocelyn has done her homework and she realizes that a lot of raids don’t do well because certain players don’t attack effectively. I won’t get into her explanation, but she states emphatically that “raid leaders should request” that certain team members be wary of common problems and be positioned to cut them off before they ruin the whole raid.

All leaders should have team members briefed of potential problems and should plan accordingly.

2. Keep it Simple, Without the Ego

In a raid you can use symbols, flares, or markers to indicate your progression and your actions. A lot of guild leaders and members don’t deign to use them because doing so make them look an amateur player. Not so, Jocelyn argues. Markers are key to keeping a guild organized and guild leaders shouldn’t be egotistical and avoid them because they may be perceived as a “crutch.”

Leaders need to put ego aside and pursue simple strategies that work. Just because something is complicated, doesn’t mean it’s better.

3. Don’t Rely on Talented Rookies

Guild leaders, Jocelyn maintains, shouldn’t ever put a new guild member into the center of the action. Even if the new guild member is talented, putting them in “the most critical” spot in the game can ruin a raid. People, even talented players, can make mistakes. New members need to train before they can take on key roles in important raids.

Leaders shouldn’t assume new hires can be instant saviors. They need time to learn how to work with everyone–no matter how talented they are.

4. Be Brave & Don’t Apologize

Guild leaders have to organize a group of people online for long periods of time. This can be complicated, especially as some people have errands, jobs, etc. Jocelyn argues that guild leaders should give breaks–but be very clear as to when they are. Next, she says guild leaders should cut people who can only take part in half of a raid. She says it’s difficult because it steps on people’s feelings, but it’s necessary to keep the guild focused and punctual. This is important because a punctual, tightly-run, guild will attract new and stronger players who are mature.

Leaders have to make tough calls if they want to get something done. It’s hard to herd cats, but by setting a clear schedule and sticking to it ensures that good work will get done.

Leadership According to Clint Eastwood

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Clint Eastwood: Modern-Day John Wayne, an icon in American cinema, Dirty Harry himself. Clint Eastwood: Pragmatic leader? Yes, it’s true the man who made his bones as the king of the Spaghetti Western in the 1960s has evolved into one of the most celebrated auteurs of our time.  Although a film director must answer to a producer and, quite often the studio, once the cast and crew begin shooting, the director becomes CEO of the film set.

 A new book by Michael Henry Wilson, Eastwood on Eastwood, presents a series of conversations between Eastwood and Wilson over a period of 30 years. Unlike other books on Eastwood, Wilson doesn’t concern himself with Eastwood’s private life or political beliefs, but rather his work as actor and director. Eastwood’s onset demeanor is far from the archetypical temperamental, perfectionist, dictatorial tortured genius, but rather that of an efficient and pragmatic leader, who operates based on knowledge of what he knows of the medium and instinct.  

As Wilson says of Eastwood in relation to noted perfectionist, Martin Scorsese, “Marty uses every fiber of his soul… Clint is much more detached.” In other words, Eastwood remains cool, calm and collected in the high pressure, high stress atmosphere of a film shoot. He is able to channel his inner-Dirty Harry as it were. Eastwood is famous for doing as few takes as possible.  He hires a competent, highly-skilled crew and trusts that those who he hires are capable of executing in the jobs they were hired to do. Here are the top Clint Eastwood Leadership quotes. Hopefully, one or two of these will help “make your day.”

-“A good man always knows his limitations.” –Quote from the film, Magnum Force, 1973

-“I don’t believe in pessimism. If something doesn’t come up the way you want, forge ahead. If you think it’s going to rain, it will.”

-“After directing awhile, you get an instinct about it, but you have to be able to trust your own feelings. Invariably, two-thirds of the way through a film, you say, ‘Jeezus, is this a pile of crap! What did I ever see in it in the first place?’ You have to shut off your brain and forge ahead, because by that time you’re getting so brainwashed. Once I commit myself to a film I commit myself to that ending, whatever the motivations and conclusions are.”

-“As we grow old, we must discipline ourselves to continue expanding, broadening, learning, keeping our minds active and open.”

-“…I like to direct the same way that I like to be directed.”

-“Most people like the magic of having it take a long time and be difficult . . . but I like to move along, I like to keep the actors feeling like they`re going somewhere, I like the feeling of coming home after every day and feeling like you`ve done something and you`ve progressed somewhere. And to go in and do one shot after lunch and another one maybe at six o`clock and then go home is not my idea of something to do.”

 

4 Funny Business Cartoons from Randy Glasbergen

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Creativity | 5 Comments

Here at the Bacharach Blog we spend a lot of time scouring the internet looking for funny leadership and business cartoons (it counts as work here so we don’t get in trouble). When it comes to the funniest and most popular cartoons, at the moment no one can top Randy Glasbergen (Actually we mean that literally because if you type “Business Cartoons” into Google, Randy’s site is #1). Go check out Randy’s vast collection of funnies but just make sure your boss isn’t close by because you will laugh out loud. Oh and while your there, maybe pick something up so Randy can keep us laughing for years to come!

Without further ado, here are a few of Randy’s gems!

 

Artist Spotlight: Maya Bloch

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For next few weeks we will be shining our Artist Spotlight on the talented painter Maya Bloch. We will be focusing on both her older paintings and works from her latest collection ‘hello stranger’ which was featured on Huffington Post

Artist Spotlight: Moving agendas ahead, taking charge, and leading occurs in corporate boardrooms and in the world of art. On this blog we will feature artists who are trying to move their own agenda, their own vision, and their own view of the world ahead.